New PLCB Wine Kiosks As Easy As 1,2,5,7,10…

Those of you who don’t have the (sometimes mis-) fortune of living in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania probably haven’t been following the entertaining on-going saga of the Wine Kiosk.
This strange idea is the brain-child of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, who have a state-run monopoly on the sale and distribution of alcohol in the Commonwealth (at this point, you might be wondering what the difference is between “State” and “Commonwealth” – “Commonwealth” allows you to have a billion more levels of government that can tax that hell out of you, I think). And the fine blogger and fellow PA-resident Lew Bryson has a particularly insightful take on the new kiosks, which have now entered the prototype phase.
Lew posted a video from the Harrisburg Patriot-News in which one of their reporters attempts to purchase wine from the kiosks, which the PLCB claim can safely dispense wine to a non-inebriated customer of legal drinking age in 20 seconds or less.
2010-06-30_084808It takes the reporter over 10 steps and 2 and half minutes to complete a transaction of purchasing one bottle from the kiosk. During the purchase, he has to –

  • Scan his driver’s license & credit card
  • Give his signature
  • Things get significantly weirder from there though – he also has to blow into an attached breathalyzer (which the PLCB warns “It is possible the machine may detect alcohol when a consumer hasn’t been drinking”), and
  • Stand in front of a camera so that a PLCB employee at a remote site can ID him.

Call me crazy, but I do not want to be the first person whose data gets hacked from one of these kiosks, since it sounds like enough data that it could be used by evil scientists to physically clone you and recreate your full identity. Big Brother is not watching you… we swear!
I’m stumped as to how the wine kiosk is a viable alternative to an actual human selling wine, or any safer than buying a wine from a trusted retailer over the Internet. Especially when you consider that Pennsylvania’s underage drinking rate remains above average for the 50 states and the Commonwealth remains above average in DUI fatalities per mile driven. It’s tough to blame PA residents like me for feeling a bit bitter, or faulting them if they conclude that the PLCB isn’t delivering on all of its promises or potential value for money.
Joe Roberts is a Certified Specialist of Wine and author of the award-winning wine blog.

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