I was surprised to see wine vending kiosks being trialled in the US given all of the barriers to self service dealing with products like alcohol, but apparently Simple Brands are implementing a solution in Pennsylvania. There have been related solutions like the wine tasting counter at Metro AG, and there are self serve wine vending systems in at least one bar in Japan, but it is surprising to see this sort of solution so close to home, and further to see a state run liquor board use them to extend their reach to venues beyond the state stores themselves, versus a state where liquor is not required to be sold in a state store.
Considering recent attempts at legislation in California to ban alcohol sales at self-checkouts which was defeated, you can expect this sort of solution to be controversial.
Any discussions around self service with liquor control organizations in Canada is likely to meet with incredible skepticism and caution, given Canada’s penchant for government control over alcohol. There is quite simply a great deal of risk in providing ‘unsupervised’ access, and understandably, no organization or individual for that matter, wants to erroneously provide alcohol to an underage or inebriated person given the potential dire consequences of such an error.
While self-checkout systems are supervised and require an intervention by a live attendant to verify age and sobriety, the wine vending system uses technology to do it. Customers must scan in identification and provide a quick breath of air into a breath analyzer to validate that the client is not inebriated. There are also cameras mounted on the system for an additional precaution – cameras which appear to allow a centrally located call centre associate to monitor purchases and clients visually.
Experience dictates a potential backlash around privacy, given that a drivers license or other ID has to be swiped at the same time as a purchase is made. Add a breathalyzer to that mix, and it might turn some people off. I would also be interested to see how the bottles are released for sale. The door opens remotely with a purchase, but it’s not clear how the shelves secure the individual bottles.
Vending has worked for beer in the Czech Republic and in Japan, but those countries are generally far more liberal in their alcohol laws than in North America. If it can be done for pizza , ice cream, french fries, medical marijuana and cars, it can be done for wine.
(I was joking about the cars.)