Which ID Verification System Screwed Up in Michigan?

In an early post I wrote about a recent "sting" operation paid for by Michigan’s Wine & Spirit Wholesalers Association. They carried out the sting through their self funded Front Group, Coalition for a Safe and Responsible Michigan. In this sting, the wholesalers were able to find three Internet retailers who sold wine to a 20 year old. They touted their findings as proof that minors could get alcohol via the Internet.

But now I discover that one of those operations that were stung, St. Julien Wine Company, out of Paw Paw, Michigan, actually had an ID Verification System in place to fraudulent use of credit cards by minors.

Clearly it failed. So here’s my question:


It is an important question, because whichever company it was really screwed things up in Michigan. Now, Wholesalers can say to legislators, as they attempt to get their anti-direct shipping bill passed, "Age Verification Systems Don’t Work." And they’ll have proof.

Of course, when operated competently, they do work.

I’ve not discovered which age verification system was in place when the order came through to St. Julian Wine Company. All I know so far is that it wasn’t   IDology’s IDLive system that was, thankfully, recently endorsed by Wine America, a national wine trade association with members in nearly every state.

This question of which ID verification system was at work at St. Julian is important and someone needs to find out. You can bet the Wholesalers will try to carry out more stings and it would be nice if there were a system in place to prevent the stingers and any other minors from obtaining alcohol.

The ironic thing is that while it is the wholesalers carrying out the stings, it is also the wholesalers who are responsible for getting more alcohol into the hands of minors, both dead and alive, than any winery.  Ninety-nine percent or more of every bottle and can of alcohol that finds its way into a minors hands and into their cars goes through the wholesalers’ hands first.

But, the wholesalers don’t care much to clean up their own act. They play fast and loose with the facts and they play with lots of money. Michael Lashbrook, head of the Michigan Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association recently spoke to the press and deliberately misrepresented govt. statistics in order to suggest that minors are getting alcohol off the Internet at an alarming rate. They’ve refused to speak with any of the parties in the direct shipping dispute in Michigan. You can bet they will try to put off another sting operation. They’ll likely use their front organization in Michigan again (how does Better Mercer—the organization’s flack— Sleep at Night?).

Bottom line, someone needs to find out which age verification system failed in Michigan at St. Julian Wine Company…if only to assure it’s not used again by any winery.

Posted In: Shipping Wine


8 Responses

  1. Bradley - August 3, 2005

    The wholesalers have washed their hands of any blame in alcohol sales to minors simply by using the established system. All the blame falls on the retailers or point-of-sale. The wholesalers can claim they have no contact with minors (true)while endorsing a system in practice that is rife with violations. Meanwhile, in Michigan, they set out sink the direct sales movement with melodrama and hijinks. Legislators that fail to see this blatant two-faced behaviour can only be assumed to be on the take.

  2. Laura - August 3, 2005

    An article on winemichigan.org named ‘idresponse’ as the system that St. Julian used to validate the customers age.

  3. Dan - August 3, 2005

    There must have been a breakdown at the delivery level as well. The shipments I get from UPS are clearly marked that this package contains alcoholic beverages, and that an adult signature is required.
    In the sting operation, if the delivery person failed to check ID, then that is equivalent to a retail clerk failing to check ID. If the recepient had a fake ID, that could have been used at a retail store as well.

  4. huge - August 3, 2005

    Doesn’t it seem like the solution here is the same as the retail solution? Fine the person who failed to check the ID. If FedEx/UPS/DHL start getting fines, you can be damn sure they’ll start checking…..
    In this case, blame the messenger!

  5. Art - August 3, 2005

    I’m curious to know who deputized the wholesaler’s representative for the sting operation. Or is inciting a minor to break the law not illegal as long as it’s for a cause?

  6. Dan - August 3, 2005

    To be fair, they need a control study as well. How successful would this same person be at purchasing alcohol at normal retail outlets?

  7. tom merle - August 7, 2005

    Did the packages have the alcohol on board sticker or not? If the local winery believed an adult ordered the wine, by using their (faulty) age verification program, they would still have added the sticker. How did the shipping company mess up? Most retailers ship without the sticker, but the system being proposed for MI wouldn’t allow this. So, ironically, going to no-one- ships would increase illegality.

  8. Joel - August 9, 2005

    The screw-up at St. Julian resulted from a human error in use of a system that works satisfactorily. Without getting into details, it was a mistake that is unlikely to happen again.
    The “sting”, on the other hand, violated so many law enforcement procedures and LCC regulations that the LCC is completely unable to cite St. Julian or ANY of the out-of-state retailers involved. Of course, that wasn’t the purpose — it was designed for the publicity, not law enforcement.
    And in that, it failed miserably. Not only did it get very little press coverage, it actually prompted two major newspapers to publish ADDITIONAL editorials castigating the sting — and the wholesalers — for staging an event that only demonstrated the need for better law enforcement, not more laws.

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