Stupidity Or Deception: Minors and Wine On-line



This was the response to the question, "Could one say, as the liquor trade group did, that millions of teenagers had bought alcohol on-line?

Now here’s the kicker. Guess who offered this response. Michael Wood, a vice president at Teenage Research who worked on the survey commission by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association (WSWA) that used the survey results to claim, "Millions of Kids Buy Internet Alcohol, Landmark Survey Reveals."

How often will the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers Association try to block bullets with babies?    It’s a pretty immoral way of going about one’s business: using children and parents’ concern for their child’s well being to line their pockets. Yet no matter how many times the WSWA tries to play the "minor card" and no matter how many times they get called on the carpet for their deceptive and dirty tactics they still think there is more to gain by going to the well again.

This time it was the Wall Street Journal reporter Carl Bailick who did the numbers and talked to the right folk in uncovering the WSWA’s unethical twisting of the survey numbers. Bailick wrote in an August 18 column:

"To arrive at that jarring headline, the group used some questionable
logic to pump up results from a survey that was already tilted in favor
of finding a large number of online buyers."

He then goes on to debunk the part of the survey that led the WSWA to construct the headline on their press release that read: "Millions of Kids Buy Internet Alcohol, Landmark Survey Reveals."

Bailck explains:

"To justify that headline, the wholesalers’ group focused on another
part of the survey that asked respondents if they knew a teen who had
purchased alcohol online. Some 12% said they did. Of course, it’s
ridiculous to extrapolate from a stat like that — one buyer could be
known by many people, and it’s impossible to measure overlap. Consider
a high school of 1,000 students, with 20 who have bought booze online
and 100 who know about the purchases. If 100 of the school’s students
are surveyed at random, you’d expect to find two who have bought and 10
who know someone who has — but that still represents only two buyers,
not 10. (Not to mention the fact that thinking you know someone who has
ordered beer online is quite different from ordering a six pack

Karen Gravois Elliot, a WSWA PR Flack, pointed Bailick to those who oversaw the creation of the survey rather than respond to questions of its legitimacy. That’s when Bailick got the response that the results don’t justify the headline.

So this begs the question, are the folk over at the WSWA just too stupid to understand the results of the survey they commissioned or did they purposefully put out a deceptive press release?

I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s just stupidity. But that might be a hard one to sell since they now know that even their own research firm confirmed their claims are false, yet there has been no retraction by the WSWA of the claims in their press release.

So let’s just shoot to the bottom line. The WSWA has proven over and over their hypocrisy when it comes to dealing with the issue of direct shipment of wine. They’ve claimed that direct shipment is a bad thing while their president Juanita Duggan sat on the advisory board of a company that was in the business of selling direct. The difference was in that case wholesalers would get a cut of wine sold through the company. WSWA has claimed that wineries don’t care if they sell to minors or not, a claim so bogus as to defy understanding. And they’ve gone so far as to say that wine wholesalers across the country are more than willing to represent wineries that can’t ship into states where wholesaler money has bought off politicians and resulted in closing all direct shipping channels. Yet, it remains extraordinarily difficult to get a wholesaler to take on MOST brands offered to them.

Juanita Duggan, who has reigned over at WSWA as it leader for the past few years is gone. She "resigned" after what had to be the the most disastrous eight years  in the history of the WSWA. In that time more states have opened their doors to direct shipping, the Supreme Court of the United States shot down their arguments on direct shipping, a federal judge in Washington State opened the doors to wineries from out of state selling direct to in-state restaurants and retailers, and the WSWA has developed a reputation in the industry and among the media for being snake oil peddlers when it comes to the issue of direct shipping.

This "survey" was Juanita Duggan’s last hurrah before "resigning" her post at WSWA. It was nice to see the Wall Street Journal give her an appropriate send off.

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