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12.22.2010

Open the Pod Bay Doors! Pennsylvania Wine Kiosks Go Rogue

Just about a year ago, I wrote about the wretched solution to selling wine in grocery stores that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was foisting on its residents. You remember, right? The kiosks that locked all the wine away behind closed doors so you couldn't touch it, to say, see the back label? The horrible touch screen user interface that forced you to click and click and click. The fact that the machine wouldn't take cash, only credit cards. The video camera mounted in it that monitored you. The fact that you had to swipe your drivers license AND take a breathalyzer test just to buy a frikkin bottle of wine.

plcb_kiosk.jpg

Well, apparently all that 21st Century technology has been acting a little strange lately. It's hard to pin down exactly what's going wrong, but the computer seems to have taken on a bit of a mind of its own.

The machines appear to be functioning normally, but in the rare event that you manage to actually jump through all the hoops required, they just won't give you any wine. Says someone from the Liquor Control Board in a news article about the issue: "That may be because a turnstile doesn't turn, the door doesn't unlock, the computer screen freezes up. It could be any one of those issues, but it has to do with people not getting the product." Apparently there was "too much power surging through the resistors."

Now all the kiosks have been disabled until after the New Year. Want to buy some wine in a grocery store? The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is pleased to announce their latest innovation in Liquor Control. Instead of being a royal pain in the ass to buy wine, they've gone ahead and made it impossible. Happy Holidays.

Can you say "debacle" boys and girls? Start with an asinine idea, then spend way too much money on completely unnecessary and consumer-unfriendly technology to enable it, make sure that technology is as complex as possible, and then watch it all come grinding to a halt because of some troublesome resistors?

Of course, it's all going to be OK, because the machines are still under warranty.

I can only say, "Thank frikking heavens" someone in the government actually realizes what a colossal @#%@$%^ this is and is planning to investigate. The state's Auditor General is looking into the problem.

But forget accountants for a minute. What the poor people of Pennsylvania need is a legislative revolution that privatizes alcohol sales and wipes the state-run, crony monopoly off the map. And for the first time, it seems like that might really be a possibility, according to one report I've read, the incoming Republican governor and legislature are working on a plan to do just that.

To which I can only say, "hallelujah." Christmas is a time for hope, so let's all do just that.

And here's hoping that if you live in Pennsylvania, you've got some other way to buy some wine for the holidays besides a passive aggressive computer terminal.

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