Permanent Markers

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I was in Visalia, California after spending the day at the Sequoia National Park. I’d just pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, planning to spend the night there before heading out into the wilderness. I needed some office supplies, so I went in to make some purchases.

I found the items I needed, then made an impulse decision to buy of a three-pack of Sharpie markers for $1.64. Sharpies always come in handy, right?

I brought the purchases up to the counter. The cashier rang up my binder and my transparent plastic sheet protectors to go in the binder. When she rang up the Sharpies, I saw that the cash register asked the cashier to verify that I was over 18. She didn’t card me; I guess all my grey hair told her I was over 18.

I said to the cashier (who looked like she was barely out of her teens), You have to be 18 to buy Sharpies?

She very seriously said yes.

I started laughing and told her that was the silliest thing I’d ever heard.

She very seriously told me that they don’t sell permanent markers to minors.

I continued to laugh and asked, What about Marks-a-Lots?

She said, What’s that?

I said, That’s a brand of marker.

She repeated that they don’t sell permanent markers to minors.

I wish I hadn’t been so tired. If I had been on my toes, I’d have asked her a few questions. Is that a Wal-Mart corporate policy or the  policy of this individual store? Can local Wal-Marts decide what they will and won’t sell to people of various ages? Did the town of Visalia ask Wal-Mart not to sell permanent markers to minors? Is there a law in Visalia that minors can’t have permanent markers? Is it illegal for me to distribute to permanent markers to minors in Visalia, California?

At a Wal-Mart in Austin, Texas, I had to put my name on a list when I bought spray paint to cover rusty spots on my van. That was weird and invasive enough, but marker discrimination based on age? Ridiculous!

I decided to pose my questions to the Wal-Mart corporate office. This is the message I sent through the Wal-Mart.com contact page:

HI,
I was in the Wal-Mart on Mooney Avenue in Visalia, California last night. I was buying Sharpie markers. I noticed the cash register asked the cashier to verify that I was 18 so I could purchase the Sharpies. (I’m 44.) When I questioned her, the cashier said they don’t sell permanent markers to minors.

I have a few questions. Is that a Wal-Mart corporate policy or the  policy of this individual store? Can local Wal-Marts decide what they will and won’t sell to people of various ages? Did the town of Visalia ask Wal-Mart not to sell permanent markers to minors? Is there a law in Visalia that minors can’t have permanent markers? Is it illegal for me to distribute permanent markers to minors in Visalia, California? (I have no plans to distribute permanent markers to minors, but I just thought I should know my status in the event the situation arises.) What sort of markers can a person under the age of 18 purchase at this Wal-Mart store?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Wal-Mart has never answered my questions.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I’ve never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again.

I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist.

Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it.

I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk.

This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

3 Responses »

  1. Permanent markers have been regulated in California, as well as other cities and states, for quite some time, due to the usage of them for graffiti and gang-tagging (California Penal Code § 594.1 – effective January 1, 2003). It isn’t a Wal-mart (or any other retail outlet) issue.

    And the answer to your question “Is it illegal for me to distribute to permanent markers to minors in Visalia, California?” is yes:

    594.1. (a) (1) It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation, except a parent or legal guardian, to sell or give or in any way furnish to another person, who is in fact under the age of 18 years, any etching cream or aerosol container of paint that is capable of defacing property without first obtaining bona fide evidence of majority and identity.

    And the violation and penalty is:
    (f) Violation of any provision of this section is a misdemeanor. Upon conviction of any person under this section, the court may, in addition to any other punishment imposed, if the jurisdiction has adopted a graffiti abatement program as defined in subdivision (f) of Section 594, order the defendant, and his or her parents or guardians if the defendant is a minor, to keep the damaged property or another specified property in the community free of graffiti, as follows:

    (1) For a first conviction under this section, for 90 days.

    (2) If the defendant has a prior conviction under this section, for 180 days.

    (3) If the defendant has two or more prior convictions under this section, for 240 days.

    Participation of a parent or guardian is not required under this subdivision if the court deems this participation to be detrimental to the defendant, or if the parent or guardian is a single parent who must care for young children.

    (g) The court may order any person ordered to perform community service or graffiti removal pursuant to subdivision (e) or (f) to undergo counseling.

    California takes its graffiti seriously.

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