ELKTON — Learning how to read your customers and be polite but firm is the goal of TIPS training in Cecil County, taught for 28 years by Linda Meffley.

”I’ve probably trained 10,000 people,” Meffley said during a break in a recent session held at Pat’s Select Pizza Grill on South Bridge Street in Elkton.

TIPS, or Training for Intervention ProcedureS, is required for anyone who is a manager or bartender of a business selling alcoholic beverages in the county. Many servers are also required to take the training and become certified, a designation that lasts four years. Meffley told the class to always keep their card on them at work.

For now the $40 cost is covered by Drug Free Cecil and the Maryland Strategic Prevention Framework. Beth Creek, executive director of Youth Empowerment Source in Elkton and co-coordinator for MSPF, said a grant is covering the cost as part of a goal to eliminate underage drinking.

”This is a grant that the county has held since 2010,” Creek said, adding the funding source ends next year.

She said the grant also is helping address a policy change requiring the TIPS training and also lends support to enforcement. All this takes $35,000 of the $125,000 in the grant.

”We started funding TIPS two years ago,” Creek said, noting that with the cost covered she said many restaurants, bars and taverns send their entire staff, not just those legally required to become certified. “We are thrilled with that.”

Such was the case during the recent session, which included a full classroom representing a handful of businesses. After watching a series of videos, the students ran through scenarios on their own to try the methods learned. This included how to spot a drunk customer and how to diffuse a situation with a combative person. There were also videos showing how too respectfully refuse to serve or sell if the customer is inebriated or underage, or appears to be buying for someone underage.

”Watch what they are buying, watch what they are wearing,” Meffley told the class. “If you card them they get mad ... or they march straight in the store to the vodka.”

She reminded the class that while an 18-year-old can work in an establishment selling alcohol, he or she should not be working at checkout.

”Let them stock shelves,” Meffley said.

Running through the violations, Meffley warned that a license can be suspended for a weekend, a week or longer.

”One time a retailer got suspended for three months,” she said. “And then there’s revocation, which means you cannot get one in your name again.”

Individuals can be fined $100 and up for violations.

”Ask yourself if one decision is worth your job, your coworker’s job, the owner’s license,” Meffley said.

She encouraged her class to practice using the responses offered in the videos such as “I cannot legally sell to you” or “Who can I call for you?” She urged them to avoid being confrontational or judgmental.

”Don’t raise your voice, then you lose control of the situation,” she said. “Always be respectful.”

Meffley offers the training numerous times each year, and anyone interested in taking the course can call her at 443-350-6958.

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