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12.20.2009

How to AVOID Selling Wine in Pennsylvania

plcb_kiosk.jpgSo if you had a bunch of grocery stores, and those grocery stores sold wine, but you didn't really want people to buy any wine, what would you do?

One of the things you might consider doing would be to lock all the wine away in cabinets, so that people couldn't touch the bottles. You'd want to make sure folks couldn't, say, turn the bottles around and read the back label or anything.

You might force people to peer through the front door of this cabinet to try to read the name of the wine they think they might want to buy, and force them to remember it until they walk down to the end of cabinet where they are forced to swipe their credit card in order to buy the bottle. That is, if they don't have to stand on line waiting to us the machine, which is, of course, the only way to buy a bottle of wine.

And then if you wanted to add insult to injury, you might make sure that people could ONLY pay by credit card, and give them a touch-screen kiosk, with a lousy user interface that forces them to browse through inscrutable categories of wine or many pages of search results to find the wine they're looking for. Then you'd provide them with really crappy information about each wine.

And finally, you'd install a breathalyzer and force everyone who wanted to buy a bottle to use the breathalyzer, and then to swipe their government issued ID just to make sure they weren't drunk AND under-age.

Think I'm joking? Welcome to Pennsylvania, and the bizarre alternate universe of the Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board. You want to buy wine in grocery stores, you're going to have to convince a passive aggressive computer to open the pod bay doors, first.

This new, state-of-the-art wine sales kiosk is rolling out to more than 100 supermarkets around the state, in what to me looks like an attempt to make sure that no one ever buys wine in a Pennsylvania supermarket ever again.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for stopping underage drinking, and I support laws that prevent the sale of alcohol to visibly drunk patrons. But this system is a whole lot of evils rolled up into one. From the big brother breathalyzer that prevents you from buying a bottle if you measure 0.05 BAC (2 glasses of wine for someone who weighs 160 lbs, and .03 under the definition of "impairment" in PA -- don't share a bottle and then walk down the street to get more!) to the locking of the bottles behind plate glass and the clumsiness of a kiosk interface.

Read about this new system in all its glory. Then go join Free The Grapes or donate to the SWRA.

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