"Why can't we be friends? Why can't we be friends…"

by Katie Pizzuto on March 9, 2010

in Beer Shipping

We’ve played this game before, so let’s have a second go-around on “Let’s Pretend…”

Imagine for one moment that you’re a huge, turd-color-themed shipping company. I won’t say which, but the initials rhyme with Brewsy Mess. Every day, your drivers make a stop in Boise and pick up dozens of packages of beer that are heading out to consumers’ homes…a good thing because people are thirsty. And you pick up this beer from a storefront that says “beer”, where they have shelves lined with beer, because your customer explicitly asked you to set up an account to ship…you guessed it…beer. But in your haste to make money, you forget to set up a silly little beer & wine contract with them. Regardless, they like you, cuz you deliver the goods, and they were pretty sure you liked them cuz heavy boxes make for big bank accounts. Everything seems cool, everybody’s happy, nobody’s thirsty, and then BAM…you develop endo-glutiocitis—something has crawled up your ass and put you in an intolerable mood.  “Oh, this is beer we’ve been shipping from a company called Brewforia?” you say.

So you do the responsible thing, pick up a phone from the proctologist’s office, call Boise, and tell Brewforia you won’t deliver their beers anymore. That’s it…No contract…Bite me. Wine? Fine. Beer? No fucking way. We can, we just won’t. Why? Because those sneaky bastards deceived you into thinking you were shipping something other than beer from a beer store with lots of beer. Because you have something up your ass. Just because. “But,” Brewforia cries, “you’ve been delivering these suds for a year and a half now, what gives?” A silly error, you retort! You only handle beer deliveries between licensed businesses. You must have looked at all those packages over the last 3 months and thought “Tom, Dick and Harry” were business names. It took you 3 months to figure out you were shipping to consumers…a forgivable oversight given you had something slowly crawling up your ass. “But,” Brewforia cries again, “if I can only ship beer to a licensed business, why are you shipping beer to consumers for other online businesses?” A chin scratcher to say the least.

Your equally fashionable shipping buddies, FedEx, who apparently also caught the endo-glutiocitis, refuse to ship beer to consumers as well, even if a state allows it, yet they continue to dole out wine. Hand in hand, you go merrily about your lives, both continuing to allow hundreds of other online retailers to operate in violation of your own policy. Why? Well, after all, how can you possibly know what sites like Bierkraft and Bottle Trek are selling and shipping? You’re not a genius, for christ’s sake.

Facts:

  1. Both FedEx and UPS websites explicitly state that they prohibit shipment of beer to consumers, but take no issue with wine.
  2. Both FedEx and UPS violate their own rules regularly by shipping beer direct to consumers anyway.

Opinions:

  1. Boycotting FedEx and/or UPS will most likely NOT get them to lift their double standard on shipping wine vs. shipping beer.
  2. Boycotting FedEx and/or UPS will most likely scare them into an outright ban of any beer shipping, resulting in boycotters shooting themselves directly in the foot and hitting good businesses where it hurts at the same time.

This blog is nothing if not a platform for unapologetic opinion, but shooting our mouths off without considering repercussions is reckless. Is it a bullshit double standard that these companies will ship wine but not beer? Of course. Is it a clusterfuck of a mess that they claim they don’t ship beer, but then do so anyway? You bet. But emailing an angry letter or Tweeting the ever-loving hell out of the matter will most likely cause a backlash that will have UPS and FedEx cutting their noses off to spite their faces—no more beer shipping, period. So I’d ask that you get mad, then calm down and go about figuring out how to get them to “reconsider” their current stance on beer shipment. Remember what mom says about honey and vinegar? Right…they make a delicious salad dressing.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erin March 9, 2010

I wonder if they are aware about all of the booze they’ve been shipping me?

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2 Joe March 9, 2010

I’m sure it has something to do with the higher alcohol level in most wine than most beer, and something about tying pet giraffes to lamp posts within city limits between the hours of 11 PM and 5 AM (at least this is how I’m sure state government policy works).

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3 Jim March 9, 2010

This seems so random, Katie, as some beer retailers seem to have contracts in place that make shipping to consumers a piece of cake, while others like Brewforia have tried to do everything right and are getting nowhere.

A simpler way to say it is Brewforia is getting screwed by a corporate bureaucracy and it sucks. Those who are shipping without issue wisely refuse to touch this topic with a 12 foot pole.

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4 BeerPoet March 9, 2010

No one wants other online beer retailers to lose what shipping they currently enjoy from UPS and/or FedEx. I’m sure they all understand their shipping priveledges (and they are privileges) could come to an end at any time UPS or FedEx chooses to stop it. Just comes as an unfortunate shock to consumers who order beer online when it suddenly stops because of shipping company policies that make no sense. And they learn those company policies apply to all direct-to-customer shipping of beer by all online retailers.

And I get your point about not rocking the boat. But it wasn’t that long ago that wine didn’t have direct-to-consumer shipping privileges either. What changed shipping companies’ minds on the shipment of wine? Was it just the changing of the laws spurred on by wineries? What process allowed wine to be good and beer to be bad in the minds of UPS and FedEx? Is it a status and perception thing? Perhaps. Will it take a lot of work to change that status and perception of beer? You bet.

However, I don’t know that change comes about by doing nothing either. Status quo will stay so if no one raises a different opinion about said status quo. Making phone calls, writing letters and tweeting about shipping beer direct to customers may not be the right direction to take. But doing nothing won’t foster change either. I doubt wineries got shipping privileges by sitting on their hands and waiting for them. I don’t really know. But I doubt it.

Anyone have other ideas about how to tackle this problem from a grassroots level? Any idea what the honey would be that Katie writes of in her post?

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5 Katie Pizzuto March 9, 2010

@Jim…what’s odd is that they even have these contracts in place for beer at all, given that they prohibit shipment of it. Make no mistake, the ONLY reason Brewforia is paying a price is because UPS hit a snag. It’s easy to look the other way and ship beer with an adult signature required as long as no one is the wiser. All it takes is one broken, smelly shipment to put UPS on the CYA (cover your ass) train.

@Poet…the reason laws on shipping wine changed is mostly because wineries fought legislation long and hard. They demanded that they be allowed to ship direct to consumer because distributors wouldn’t give them the time of day. But understand that’s a separate issue…that’s just the legality of shipping to consumer. This is a policy issue for the most part. Why UPS and FedEx view beer and wine differently is for them to tell you. What I can offer is this: many states that have begun allowing shipment of wine haven’t managed to amend their law to include “malt beverages”. It seems mostly an oversight, as the states don’t have issues with consumers getting beer as opposed to wine, but it’s a sticky issue with shipping companies. They aren’t being told they CAN’T ship beer, but they’re not exactly being told they CAN.

The last thing in the world I’d tell readers to do is “nothing”. Those that sell/ship beer need to approach government about this double standard and demand that it be set right, but that comes with a sort of “beware” clause, as we’ve seen with wine: When the Supreme Court ruled that if a state allows shipping of wine WHITHIN the state, it must allow it from OUTSIDE states. Otherwise, it can’t choose…it can’t allow either. So it became an “all or nothing” policy. And when you draw a line in the sand like that, many states chose the “nothing” end of it, and banned ALL shipping of wine. That’s the predicament this causes with beer. Shipping companies, if they are told “you can’t choose between wine and beer, you must do both or neither” might very well choose neither, in which case, we are all screwed to high heaven 🙂

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6 BeerPoet March 9, 2010

“Screwed to high heaven” and “beware” duly noted. Thanks for the insight Katie!

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7 Kimberly March 9, 2010

I had no idea that beer could not be shipped via UPS. That’s really unfortunate for my beer-loving friends. And yes, a double standard. But I’m still so mad about how effed up wine shipping is — can’t get wine shipped from this state over here, but can from that one over there, etc., which, granted, isn’t about UPS — that I can’t even think about getting mad about beer shipping B.S. Yet, anyway.

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8 Don March 10, 2010

Hey Katie, would you mind if I used your UPS and FedEx image in a post on my site? Looks like Rick will have both shippers under contract by the end of the week! Pressure helped and worked. Now if we could just get those stupid policies changed!

Let me know about the image, I will of course credit you for it.

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9 Katie Pizzuto March 10, 2010

You bet Don! Go Gonzo!!

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10 The Wine Commonsewer March 11, 2010

The thing that is overlooked is why there is a CYA train in the first place.

Grownups should be able to buy and ship whatever they want to. The reason there is any problem at all is because THE GOVERNMENT has about ten thousand different laws that apply to alcohol shipments and none of these companies want to risk the Wrath of Kahn. Sure, they’ll look the other way when it seems safe. But when push comes to shove, the government has a shit load of power and can make their lives miserable. What do you think they’re going to do? Well, they are going to err on the side of whatever isn’t going to cost them a mint or put them out of business.

Just to give you an example, I just talked to a winery who lost their ABC license for two weeks because they didn’t have their hours posted on the door.

Point being, the problem here is the insanity that we call the ABC laws. It isn’t UPS that’s screwed up. They’re mission in life is to deliver goods from willing sellers to willing buyers. But when you have 50 state governments and a federal government dictating 51 different sets of rules, many of which cannot even be comprehended, you are going to have problems.

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11 Katie Pizzuto March 12, 2010

Completely agree, Mike…the laws are an absolute clusterfuck, but UPS isn’t blameless if it’s behaving hypocritically. To state clearly on your website that you prohibit shipment of beer and then to do so when it looks like no one is watching is a tightrope walk for sure, my friend. That aside, you are 100% correct. And by the way, for whomever doesn’t already know, as of yesterday, Brewforia is in the process of being offered contracts by both UPS and FedEx, so despite the fact that they tell you they don’t ship beer, we can all rest easy knowing that is something merely said with a wink and a nod….THANK GOD!

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12 Brewforia Beer Market April 7, 2010

Just an update on our situation. We were offered contracts from both UPS and FedEx and did resume shipments. Soon there after both companies came back to us and began to refuse our shipments claiming that we were shipping to consumers. We are now seeking legal counsel regarding this issue and have a plan of attack to force this issue with both carriers.

If this is an issue that you believe in please write or call UPS and FedEx and tell them to change their policy but more importantly call your elected representative and tell them to support consumer choice and the craft beer industry and make it possible for consumers to buy the products they want and have them shipped direct to their homes.

Thanks for all your support from all of us here at Brewforia.com
Rick

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13 Katie Pizzuto April 9, 2010

Rick thanks so much for the update. I had reached out to UPS when the debacle started and was sent a rather generic email laying blame on the individual states and their confusing legislation. Given that MY home state (NJ) has yet to even allow direct shipment of wine to consumers, we haven’t begun to tackle beer, but as with wine, I’ll make myself heard. As for my readers who are fortunate enough to live in states where direct-to-consumer shipping is already allowed for wine, please reach out to legislators and make noise, but CHECK THE LAW FIRST! Some states already allow for direct shipment of beer but they haven’t amended the law to state that it included “malt beverages”. So you may not need to fight for equal rights, you just need to fight for legal amendment to STATE the equal rights. If the rule books state, clear as daylight, that direct shipping of beer is allowed, shipping companies don’t have a whipping boy to blame.

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