Friday, July 9, 2010

Vino Vending

Only in Pennsylvania.

You almost have to live here to truly understand just how frustrating the liquor laws are. Liquor and wine are only sold in state-run stores, most of which are only open 8 am - 10 pm, Mon - Sat. So if that bottle of Grey Goose drips its last drop at 9:59 pm Saturday night, and you don't live in the liquor store're fawked. If you're sticking to beer, you have a few more options, but still nothing as easy as if you lived in just about any of the other 49 states.

In its latest attempt to appear vaguely-interested in the 21st century, while still being firmly entrenched in the 18th, Pennsylvania is now testing vending machines that sell bottles of wine.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Swipe your driver's license, look into the camera, blow into the breath sensor and — voila! — you have permission to buy a bottle of wine from a vending machine.

Pennsylvania, which has some of the most Byzantine liquor laws in the nation, recently introduced the country's first wine "kiosks." If the machines are successful in their test run inside two grocery stores, the state Liquor Control Board could place the high-tech alcohol automats in about 100 others.

I have a few thoughts on this new technology:

(1.) Just what is the limit setting on the breathalyzer? Is it set to the same legal limit used to measure someone's ability to drive safely? I understand the intention behind adding the breathalyzer step to the purchasing process (for example, you wouldn't want this guy strolling out with another bottle); but, if it isn't set to two or three times higher than the legal limit, then the logic being employed is very...Pennsylvanian. Because blowing a BAC above the legal limit to drive has no bearing on whether or not you should be allowed to purchase more alcohol, unless you drove to the store. But the machine has no way of differentiating when you've hoofed it instead.

(2.) For about 15 years now I've been promised by the world that it would become standard for soda and snack vending machines to accept credit and debit cards; and yet, in that time, I've seen this mythical beast once, maybe twice. Perhaps it's just another symptom of living in this bass ackwards state. And now, we may finally get machines with this technology—but only for the purchase of wine. *sigh* Unless...

(3.) ...Will this lead to vending machines stocked with liquor? Because, while the liquor store around the corner from me closes at 10 pm, the grocery store is open 24 hours. And if so, that new bottle of Goose is only a few sweet stumbles away.

Oh wait, I forgot about the breathalyzer. *sigh*


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