So, in December 2009 the Government body who issue the alcohol licenses decided to pilot two wine kiosks across grocery stores in the state. And the launch last week did not receive a warm welcome for many local citizens or opposing Government and Union bodies.
Implemented by The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) two of the wine kiosks began operating at local grocery stores in Dauphin and Cumberland counties.
Over the next 30-45 days the beta test machines will be closely monitored and if all goes well, PLCB Chairman P.J Stapleton said they will start the rollout of 98 more machines statewide, giving wine drinkers in Pittburgh the chance to buy a bottle or two from a vending machine by autumn 2010.
The 40-square-foot machines will operate from 9am to 9pm, Monday through to Saturday. More than 53 types of wine stored at 62 degrees will be available to purchase from the kiosk system. Prices will range from $10-$20 a bottle.
Users are asked to swipe their drivers license and then look at a high definition camera to allow a worker at a call centre to verify identity of the purchaser. Once approved, the customer has to blow on a screen housing a Breathalyzer. If a breath of alcohol level of .02 or higher is detected, the consumer will be unable to make the purchase.
The kiosks touch screen also guides shoppers through the wine selection process and offers food pairing tips.
All the machines are to be placed in grocery stores but the final list of locations has not been confirmed.
Stapleton said, “Consumers are yearning for additional consumer convenience. Customers are going to local supermarkets to pick up a couple of great steaks and bring them home for dinner and now they can bring home a cabernet to have with them.”
At present, Pennsylvania is the only state using such kiosk systems.
Their are many people who have been outraged by the kiosk, including the union that represents the state store employees. The Independent State Store Union spokesperson, Ed Cloonan, said, “Cigarettes are banned from being sold in vending machines in Pennsylvania supermarkets and yet Americans’ number one drug of choice will now be vended only in Pennsylvania by the PLCB.”
Cloonan has coined the wine kiosks ‘Rube Goldbery-like contraptions.’ In retaliation to the kiosks, The Independent State Store Union has filed suit in Commonwealth Court to stop the placement of wine vending machines in grocery stores. “Alcohol is not a Red Box DVD – it is the most abused drug in every town, city and state in the USA,” says David Wanamaker, Vice President of ISSU.
And it’s not just the Union that are unhappy.
|Wine dispenser open for business at Wegmans|
At the blog The Wine Culture Project, the kiosk has been singled out as the ‘worst wine idea of the year.’ Writer John Kafarski laments what it will do to the wine buying experience, turning the product into ‘nothing more than soda in a vending machine.’ Shoppers will be unable to look at a bottle, hold it in their hands and read the labels before committing to the purchase.
One person had a major issue with the breathalyser function, not only that you are putting your mouth up close to something that other people are also breathing into, and it’s not being cleaned between uses, but the fact that there is need for this function for the kiosk to work within regulations in the first place.
“I think that it is incredibly restrictive,” said Neal Ward, sommelier at The English Grill in Louisville, Ky, a AAA Four Diamond restaurant with a wine cellar that is considered to be one of the best in the Midwest. “You have to prove that you are not drinking in order to buy a bottle of wine? Come on, that smacks of Big Brother. I don’t see where forcing a person to take a breathalyser test serves any purpose other than to frustrate the consumer.”
According to the PLC press release, the breathalyser is set to the state’s zero tolerance level of .02 blood alcohol – so in other words, if a shopper has had a beer with dinner, he would be unable to complete the purchase.