TikTok Teens Are Dressing Up as Face-Masked Old People to Buy Booze

Seems to work way better than the old two-kids-in-a-trenchcoat trick.

On March 21, 1919, as the United States was enduring the third wave of a major flu pandemic, the Chicago Herald-Examiner's front page featured stories about the Hungarian-Romanian War; a 16-year-old inheriting $20 million from his uncle, and a local woman who died "from fright" when the store she was shopping in was held up by four "bandits." And one headline bragged in all-caps: "'FLU JULIA' LYONS CAUGHT." The 23-year-old woman had spent several months dressing up as a nurse to gain entry to the homes of flu patients, where she would help herself to their jewelry, clothing, and valuables, and steal their cash when they sent her to the pharmacy.


Just over 100 years later, the world is desperately fighting its way through the (presumed) first wave of another pandemic, and Gen Z is taking this time to run their own scams. Except instead of pretending to be front-line workers and stealing strangers' shoes, they're dressing up like their own grandmothers so they can buy 12-packs of Truly Hard Seltzer. (A slightly more victimless crime, tbh.)

According to The New York Post, several recent TikToks have shown presumably underage teens giving themselves old-age makeovers, putting on wigs or scarves, and wearing face masks so they looked old enough to buy alcohol (and possibly old enough to get the Senior Discount at Wendy's, although no one seems to have tried that yet). In a now-private video, one user went all in on being elderly, and used a walker—complete with grandma-approved tennis balls on the legs—when she went into a California store to buy booze. The cashier, she wrote, "was worried she wouldn’t b[e] able to carry [the bottles] herself.”

Since everyone is wearing face masks right now, all underage shoppers have to do is nail 'rejected Golden Girl' on the top halves of their faces. The current face-covering requirements really lower the barrier to entry for this one: Several years ago, a YouTuber disguised himself as an old man so he could score a bottle of flavored Svedka—but his prank also involved a $575 Composite Effects "Codger" mask.

Some locations are aware of how face masks can be used to skirt (or just run right through) ID requirements at liquor stores, and they've planned accordingly. The Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage and Lottery Operations has already confirmed that customers could be asked to lower or remove their face coverings when buying alcohol, and the same goes for booze shoppers in Prince Edward Island, Canada. And early in the pandemic, an Illinois woman complained to the local news when a gas station cashier wouldn't let her buy wine while wearing a mask.

So your mileage may vary—NOT THAT WE ARE IN ANY WAY CONDONING THIS. Just don't pretend to be a nurse, under any circumstances. Still a big yikes on that one.