The Wegmans supermarket chain has had it with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's ridiculous "wine kiosks," a vivid symbol of the state monopoly's inept attempt to ward off privatization by operating more like a private business. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Wegmans has asked the PLCB to take back its machines, which dispense a limited selection of wines at limited locations and times to customers who present ID, look into a camera monitored by a state employee, breathe into a blood-alcohol meter, and swipe a credit card. As the Inquirer notes, the machines are notorious for failing to deliver the promised vino, and last year all 32 of them were taken offline for repairs "smack in the middle of the Christmas holiday booze rush." Wegmans, which has 10 of the kiosks (a third of the total) in its stores, explains its decision this way:
We had hoped that our customers would find the kiosks to be a valuable addition to their shopping experience, but that proved not to be the case....The kiosks have not realized their potential, and in some ways have been detrimental to our stores.
A PLCB spokeswoman nevertheless insists (presumably with a straight face) that "our focus is the customer" and "we want to make sure we are doing things that people will embrace." As I argued in a column a few months ago, the focus of state-run liquor monopolies is decidedly not the customer, not only because they face no competition but because their whole reason for existing is to make buying alcoholic beverages more of a pain the ass than it needs to be. Hence these bizarre wine contraptions, which the PLCB presents as a consumer-friendly innovation but which are incomprehensible outside a system in which the government insists on getting between adults and their booze.
The wine kiosk fiasco can only strengthen support for privatization, which is backed by Gov. Tom Corbett and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny).
In January I noted Wegmans' end run around Pennsylvania's idiotic restrictions on beer sales.
[Thanks to Max Minkoff for the tip.]