Alcohol Purchase Surveys

Alcohol Purchase Surveys (APS) are conducted using trained youthful-looking adults (age 21 or older) who enter local alcohol retailers to attempt to purchase alcohol, but unlike with Compliance Checks - no alcohol is purchased during APS.  The young-looking adult potential buyer ("the buyer") does not complete the alcohol purchase or present an ID, but does note if their ID was requested and if the seller would have willing to complete the alcohol purchase even though the seller could not verify the buyer was 21 or older.


People who care about young people are aware of the serious problems caused by underage alcohol use.  APS are an environmental strategy used to prevent illegal sales to minors, thereby reducing alcohol retail access to youth.  APS assist community prevention efforts, and can provide the following benefits:

  1. Assess community needs and help identify retail outlets more likely to sell to underage youth;
  2. Raise community awareness and build support for reducing sales to minors;
  3. Inform merchants that they are being monitored, and motivate noncompliant outlets to change practices (better training servers/sellers, increasing in-store signage like the 6 Steps to Checking ID Register Labels by FACE Project, implementing a business policy to check everyone's ID in a party vs. just the person paying for the alcohol, etc.) while recognizing compliant retailers;
  4. Inform local law enforcement and the KY ABC to better target Compliance Check or other enforcement operations like checking for state required ABC signage on not selling to minors under 21 and the Surgeon General's Alcohol during Pregnancy Warning;
  5. Help monitor the impact of prevention strategies; and
  6. To increase support from the public and public officials for policy changes and for more generous allocation of resources to underage drinking prevention and enforcement.


  1. OJJDP Guide - Review the OJJDP Guide to Conducting Alcohol Purchase Surveys before beginning the APS Project for information on.... 
    • Characteristics of buyers
    • Recruiting buyers and training
    • Validating youthful experience
    • Involving law enforcement and escorts
    • Conducting APS for data collection only
    • Purchased Surveys to inform future enforcement operations
    • Data collection
    • .... AND MUCH MORE
  2. Determine Retailers - Decide to survey all local alcohol retail outlets or to collect a representative sample of alcohol outlets, and make a schedule of when and what order to visit alcohol establishments considering travel time.  You may search local outlets on the KY ABC website at
  3. Recruit Youth - Recruit and train youthful looking adult buyers (ages 21-23 suggested, must be at least 21 years old) and escorts.  Escorts are used to drive, make observations, and supervise buyers involved in APS.  Be sure to role play the purchase attempt with different scenarios including potential questions they might be asked during the APS.  See the OJJDP Guide for more information.
  4. Law Enforcement Involvement - Determine how you will involve law enforcement - unlike Compliance Checks, law enforcement are not required to be present during APS.
  5. Safety - Consult the OJJDP Guide for Conducting APS for safety guidelines.
  6. Environmental Scan - Determine if you will conduct an Environmental Scan inside each establishment along with the APS.  Environmental Scans might check for in-store state required ABC signage prohibiting sales to minors or with the Surgeon General Warning, or for in-store alcohol displays or advertising targeting minors or promoting risky alcohol consumption like alcohol and energy drink mixing by having both drinks positioned side by side.
  7. Dress/ Attire
    • Buyers will dress as they normally would, and not have their ID on them or a method of payment.
    • Take a photo of the buyer before they enter the establishment.
    • Instruct escorts not to wear uniforms or visible forms of identification.
  8. Teams - Assigned to teams of 2 to 4 persons, including both buyer/s and escort/s.  Teams should be racially and culturally matched to neighborhoods they are surveying. 
    • Each team packet will include: data collection form, instructions for completing the form, protocol for conducting the purchase surveys, a list of retail outlets to be inspected/surveyed, and a list of individuals to contact with cell phone numbers if a problem arises in the field.
  9. Timing of APS
    • Avoid school hours.  
    • Holidays are good times along with Friday or Saturday afternoons and evening or Sunday afternoons if local regulations allow Sunday sales. 
    • If a retail site or area is perceived unsafe by buyer/s or escort/s, they should not conduct the APS.
  10. Buyer Guidelines during the APS
    • Instruct the buyer not complete the APS if someone they know is present inside the store.
    • The buyer will select an alcohol product favored by youth avoiding expensive products, and may select an additional item like chips or snack food.
    • If the clerk asked for ID, the youth says they don’t have it with them right now (they are not to carry their ID, so this is an honest answer). 
    • If the clerk proceeds with the sale despite not having the ID or does not request the ID, the youth says they forgot their money or credit card, or doesn’t have enough money, and then leaves.
  11. Information to Collect - The team records what happens during at each retailer.  See the OJJDP Guide, page 21
  12. Following the Survey/s
    • Send informational letters to outlets telling them they were surveyed and either warning them were or were not compliant.  Compliant for purposes of this survey indicates the clerk requested ID, and refused the sale if buyer's age could not be verified. 
    • Share information with law enforcement to aid in targeting Compliance Checks.  
    • Use information to evaluate the impact of prevention strategies, and to inform the public and/or public officials.