Punched Drunk: Alcohol, Surveillance and the LCBO, 1927-1975

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


The Purchase Process

Purchases at LCBO stores between 1927 and the early 1970's were quite different than they are today. Unlike the current self serve approach, purchasers were not allowed to browse, and all liquor was held in the back of the store (like the current setup at Ontario’s beer stores). To make a purchase the purchaser was required to fill in a purchase order form (and if it was before 1962 they would also have to show their liquor permit and have past purchases reviewed).

Making a Purchase – To make a purchase the LCBO required a very detailed and regulated process. Specifically, the LCBO employed a strict set of procedures and technologies as a means of ensuring that they would be able to track and control all sales. (Read More)

Purchase Order Form – When people went to the LCBO to purchase liquor they were required to fill out a purchase order form. These forms recorded the purchaser’s name, address, signature and permit number and were used by the LCBO to track both individual consumption and the sales records of their employees. (Read More)

“Endorsed” and “Filled” Stamps – The LCBO used a series of individually numbered stamps to identify their staff and used these stamps (along with the Purchase Order Form) as a means of linking the actions of particular employees to specific purchases. (Read More)

Reviewing Purchases – Since the LCBO was given the task of “knowing exactly who is drinking and how much” (Ferguson 1926), store employees, LCBO inspectors and Permit Department employees at Head Office in Toronto were all active in reviewing purchases in order to detect any abuses of the permit privilege. (Read More)

Purchase Records and Police – In addition to the LCBO internal reviews of purchases records, Purchase Order Forms very quickly started to be used by the police and judicial system as a means of establishing evidence of liquor purchases and purchase histories. (Read More)