CHAMPAIGN — Got a clogged drain? A dirty bathroom?
Come Jan. 1, you'll need to bring a picture ID and be prepared to wait longer at the cash register if you plan to buy certain harsh chemical products to take care of those nasty little chores, among them some drain openers, ammonia and toilet bowl cleaners.
A state law taking effect in the new year will require retailers to check photo IDs of customers buying certain caustic and corrosive chemical products — plus log the customer's name, address, time and date of the transaction, brand and name of the product being purchased, and its weight.
The new law — Public Act 097-0565 — originated with two attacks on women with sulfuric acid, and is a less restrictive version of a Chicago ordinance requiring customers to sign a register for the purchase of any product containing any amount of caustic or corrosive acid, according to Tanya Triche, senior counsel for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
The law also nullifies the current Chicago ordinance and prevents any other local jurisdiction from passing an ordinance that would override the state law, she said.
Some retailers are disgruntled about something they see as a pointless new task for them.
It's bound to slow down check-out lanes and offend customers, says Jerry Reynolds, president of Kirby Foods, a Champaign-based grocery store chain.
"It's more big government trying to fix everything wrong with society," he said. "This is overkill."
Jim Higgins, owner of the Tuscola Home Center/Do It Best hardware store in Tuscola, said he was just notified about the change Dec. 15, and got a list of the products affected only on Thursday.
His home office will flag affected products so that when they're scanned at the cash register, the cashier will know they require customer registration, Higgins said. But he doesn't see the point of having to do this.
"It isn't the end of the world, but we've had so little time to act," Higgins said. "And the worst thing is, we're doing something that's meaningless. If we outlawed everything or had to keep track of everything that someone was harmed with, think about it. There are laws against throwing acid on people. That ought to be good enough."
Triche said the new registration process covers products that meet two tests: They must be regulated by the Federal Caustic Poison Act and contain a warning label that states the product "causes severe burns."
For example, your basic drain opener for a simple clog isn't necessarily included, she said.
"If you've got a tough clog and you've got to shift to a tough product, that product will be covered," she said.
Some of the covered products on a partial list Reynolds received from the Illinois Food Retailers Association included:
— Several size containers of Rooto drain openers and cleaners and ammonia products.
—Three sizes of Liquid Fire drain opener.
— Some Sunbelt and Sunnyside muratic acid products.
— 32-ounce Vanisol and 24-ounce Sno Bol toilet cleaners.
Batteries are exempt from the registration log requirement.
Triche said the law will affect grocers but is likely to take the biggest toll on hardware stores and retailers that carry stronger chemical products.
The retail association worked to narrow the scope of the law, she said.
"Our take is, these are products that people use every day for purposes without incident," Triche said.
The organization also contends that while what happened to the two victims of chemical attacks was tragic, there was never proof the offenders obtained the chemicals through a retail sale.
And criminal penalties are more likely to deter such incidents than a registration process that inconveniences consumers and adds time and expense for retailers, Triche said.
"It's going to be a serious inconvenience for customers," she added.
Dale Herrstrom, assistant manager at the Do It Best Hardware store at 107 W. Springfield Ave., C, said he doesn't look for the law to cause any significant expense at that store.
"The concern will probably be with the customer, wondering why they're asking for this information," he said.
All in all, he adds, "it's "just part of business. There's always things coming up."