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Indiana Wine Shipping Redux:  The Folly of the Poorly Constructed Op-Ed

I already said my peace on the new Indiana wine shipping law, but since the recent ruling is getting industry-wide notice, I can’t help but channel my inner frictionless-economy fighter by highlighting two opposing op-ed pieces from our local fishwrap, the Indianapolis Star.

The first op-ed is, obviously, the voice of reason and that of consumer choice, it’s also written by somebody that writes for a living, which will become more important as you look at the next op-ed.  It says in part:

Headline: Decision to end ban goes down like fine wine

Our position: Allowing out-of-state wine sales is a boon for Hoosier consumers.
State law doesn’t force catalog retailers to sell their goods through mall outlets instead of shipping them straight to their customers. Nor should it impose such a ban on wines.

Yet until last month Indiana maintained a Depression-era policy barring out-of-state vineyards from selling wines directly to customers. Not only did the law restrict the choices of wine-drinking Hoosiers, it allowed wholesalers to use state government to protect their profits.

Amen.

The second op-ed piece is from Lisa Hutcheson, the Director of Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking, and it’s appended in full, incl. the headline that reads, “Ruling Opens alcohol floodgates”:  My annotations are sprinkled throughout.

The recent decision by U.S. District Judge John Tinder to remove the requirement that Indiana customers must complete a “face-to-face” transaction before any wine can be purchased over the Internet, or delivered directly to the consumer, is very discouraging. In effect, this creates open access and availability of alcohol to everyone, including minors.

Good Grape comment:  Not so—common carrier shipments include a signature requirement, especially FedEx.  Other web sites have an age verification system in place.  And, of course, credit worthiness and having a credit card is definitely, at the least, an under age 18 safeguard.  Net-net, this is an unqualified, uninformed thought.
“But minors don’t drink wine!” A look at the 2006 North Central High School yearbook or a Google search of the term “wine bong” seems to indicate otherwise.

Good Grape comment: Context always makes a story more interesting.  What about the 2006 North Central High School yearbook should I care about?  Re:  Googling “wine bong.”  This is a red herring.  Do we know for fact that said wine in said bong was purchased via the Internet?  Do we know that “bonging wine” is even done by kids under the age of 21, is there identification in the video?  In addition, do we think these kids live at home with their parents at which point the parents might want to take some responsibility if their kid has a bong of any sort?  If this is at college, on a college campus, and you think you can stop underage drinking by prohibiting online wine sales, than Godspeed lady because you’re going to need more help than I can offer you.

The issue in this case isn’t whether or not minors drink wine. The issue is that, by allowing unfettered access to wine via the Internet or direct shipment to the consumer, access to all alcohol will be increased.
Good Grape Comment:  This is so ridiculous that I have to break-in inline.  Say what?  Access to all alcohol will increase?  Come again?  Explain what the heck this means and how you arrived at that matter-of-fact statement.  The floodgates officially have been opened. Good Grape Comment:  For the love of Pete, this is probably the same woman that thinks her husband is cheating if he watches “Real Sex” on HBO.  When beer, wine and liquor are purchased at “brick-and-mortar” outlets, there are, hopefully, safeguards and policies in place to ensure that minors can’t purchase. One of the most effective policies to reduce youth access to alcohol is checking identification. As any responsible clerk will attest, effectively checking an ID can be challenging, especially with the use of borrowed and fake IDs.

Good Grape comment:  This paragraph makes no sense whatsoever and wouldn’t pass the red pen from an eight grade English teacher and as such I’m not going to deign to respond any further than I already have. 

Technology is great, but no person in California can verify that someone in Indiana is of legal age, even after he puts in the “right” birth date on an ordering screen. It seems, amid the arguments about the constitutionality of wine shipment to the consumer, we are forgetting that our young people have inalienable rights as well—and one of those is to live in environments that do not accept or encourage underage drinking.

Good Grape comment:  Again, in addition to this also not making any sense, this isn’t true because there is the ability to embed ID verification safeguards—requiring a signature, as most common carriers do, is a pretty good start.  Secondarily, a winery passively having the ability to sell to a legal customer that wants to buy their wine is in no way encouraging underage drinking.  Sheesh.  Who is this woman?

Will this decision encourage or promote underage drinking? Time will tell. I just hope for our sake and the sake of our young people that we haven’t sacrificed their health and safety for our own convenience.

Good Grape comment: Well, what a toothless and feckless way to end the op-ed.  “Time will tell??”  I thought she spent the previous four paragraphs leading to a point that might sell her message.  Not so.  This is like the person at the party that tells a joke to strangers and then completely goofs the punchline leaving five people staring ponderously at their feet as all of the air escapes the room; the listeners simultaneously break for the bathroom or a drink refresh, glad to have escaped the aloof, pregnant pause and accomodating polite guffaws.

Overall, I have to say that cogent thought is apparently not in large supply with some of our public servants.  At least the examples that Tom Wark illustrates from wholesalers and others are mildly well-argued if you’re on that side of the aisle.  This is just weak and illogical.

My bottom-line is this:  The clear fact remains that teenagers, who predominantly don’t have credit cards, are not buying $50 bottles of Cabernet from wineries online, paying additional shipping, waiting three days for it to be delivered, signing for it from FedEx and getting drunk on Friday night. 

If this is the case, and in fact kids are buying expensive wine online from winery web sites and somebody can prove this to me, I will buy you all of the wine you want as recompense.  I just simply don’t think it’s happening.  Why buy wine online when you can buy a quarter ounce of dope from the kid with the locker next to you and the big brother of your friend will buy you beer. 

The argument from other fearmongers that most wineries won’t ship because a consumer might buy one more case then the 24 cases allowed in a year is enough of a laugher (honestly, who thinks somebody in this state, who has never had the ability to have wine shipped before, is going to buy 24 cases of wine?  24 cases—almost half a pallet of wine)  and now with this kids buying wine canard I’m just worn out—maybe this is what politics is—wearing one side down with B.S. until the other side gives in. 

It’s enough to make a reasonably normal and sane person hit the bottle.  I’m pretty sure we have a Director of something that has a program for that.  I wonder if they can write?



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Comments

On 09/11, Paul Mabray wrote:

Jeff - I am in tears laughing at your great insights and counters to the absurdity of Internet sales of WINE promoting underage drinking.  Great job.
P

On 09/11, M. Zane Grey wrote:

The 24-case limit may be an absurd law, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t prevent wineries from shipping directly to Indiana consumers.

As an example, have a look at this letter from Cakebread Cellars’ director of compliance in the current issue of the Grapevine Cottage newsletter.

On 05/01, jeanters wrote:

Use your mobile QR codes everywhere you can, They are links to mobile devices, but cheap ray bans clubmaster  the can be used in print advertising too, Any kind of advertising that your business produces should have your mobile QR code on it, even your business cards.Use your mobile QR codes everywhere you can, They are links to mobile devices, but the can be used in print advertising too, ray ban sunglasses cheap  Any kind of advertising that your business produces should have your mobile QR code on it, even your business cards.


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