Does Direct Shipment of Wine Prevent Minors’ Access To Booze?

Minoralcoholuse For twenty years now Americans have heard alcohol wholesalers and members of the prevention community explain how the direct shipping of wine will put minors in harms way; that minors will use the Internet to obtain alcohol and get all liquored up and hurt themselves and others. And for twenty years, the use of direct shipping has continued to increase as wine in particular—in its now numerous diverse forms—has caught the attention of American imbibers.

But what of those minors who, we have been told constantly, will use Internet sales and shipping to get their booze on? Well, there's this:

"2010 Monitoring the Future Survey: Teen Drinking Rates Reach Historic Low"

That's right. Despite the continued increase in direct shipment of wine, use of alcohol by teens has hit an all time low. Not only that, but teens who say that alcohol is "Fairly" or "Very" easy to get has hit an all time low. This important trend, reported by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States after the release of the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey that tracks these things, may make it harder for opponents of the direct shipment of wine to continue to make their case that the direct shipments of wine will lead to the total evaporation of all American minors. Perhaps, given the trend of fewer minors drinking and more direct shipping, we ought to make the argument that direct shipment of alcohol is the best way to assure minors DON'T get their hands on alcohol.

Still, let me remind you how the anti-shipping argument is made:

“We in the industry need to be careful. We try to be very responsible practitioners…if and when a kid buys online, gets drunk and goes and kills somebody, it’s not just that one direct shipper that is going to be tarred, it’s the entire industry that’s going to be tarred. We’ve worked so hard to show how responsible and caring we are that we don’t think that is a risk worth taking.”
Craig Wolf, president and CEO of Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America quoted in Wine&Spirits Daily

Though we don't doubt the depth and breadth of caring for today's youth that wholesalers and Craig Wolf possess, we do doubt that the risk associated with direct shipping is such that an entire channel of commerce ought to shut down in order to mitigate this risk. Let's review what a minor must do in order to get their booze on via direct shipping:

1. Obtain a Credit Card

2. Obtain a Fake Identification Card

3. Order online and get past age verification services

4. Wait a week or so for their booze to be delivered

5. Be at home when the delivery is made

6. Convince the delivery person that they are over 21.

7. Hope their parents are not home or don't notice the huge package their kids are carrying around that says, "Contains Alcohol"

The fact of the matter is this: On-line sales and direct delivery of wine is probably the least likely way kids will get their hands on alcohol. Much more likely is the practice of taking it out of the liquor cabinets of their parents, using a fake ID in a brick and mortar store or having someone over 21 buy it for them. Oddly, you never hear the caring wine and spirit wholesaler call for the shutting down of brick and mortar alcohol sales or for mandatory locks on home liquor cabinets.

The fact that minor drinking is at historic lows is good. There's no doubting that. But there should be great doubting that the direct shipment of wine, which has been on the increase, has played any significant role in minors getting alcohol. Still, this continuing trend won't stop the discussion and debate concerning direct shipment fo wine. But let's hope that this trend can help us stop wasting time talking about phantom threats and start talking about the real issue: Reasonable Reform of Laws Governing Consumer Access to Wine.

8 Responses

  1. Steve Heimoff - December 15, 2010

    This canard that DTC shipping will result in minors drinking has been alleged for years by the wholesalers. It’s been debunked every time. Does anyone seriously believe that some dumb teenager is going to order a $15 or $20 bottle of wine through the Internet when he can easily get beer or liquor from an older friend who gets it in a 7-Eleven? That is so ridiculous it’s beneath contempt.

  2. Heather - December 15, 2010

    I have no doubt that the majority of teenagers are reading wine publications for the latest scores, discussing these with their high school friends, placing orders online and waiting a week to drink themselves into a drunken stupor.Because IF the internet had existed when I was a kid, that so would have been my course of action! Whoever makes this ridiculous argument has been smoking the same stuff that is the real reason these numbers have declined.

  3. Mark - December 16, 2010

    I always think of the comedic video you posted a while ago in regards to online wine sales to minors: They no longer are happy with cheap beer or even 2 Buck Chuck, they now want single vineyard Pinot Noir etc.
    The fact that an adult signature is still necessary makes the likelihood incredibly small. Why try and convince someone to sign for your wine, when you can have more immediate gratification at your local liquor store?

  4. 1winedude - December 16, 2010

    I hate the “save our children argument” because it’s so insulting to anyone with enough intelligence to search the Internet and see that control states (like mine, in PA) can rank right in the middle of stats such as underage drinking when compared with other states ( ) – which basically means the argument in PA’s case ought to be “but we’d be EVEN WORSE OFF if we weren’t a control state, which obviously isn’t an argument that a sane person would take up! 🙂

  5. Alex Andrawes, CEO of - December 16, 2010

    Wholesalers never had control over this argument. Retailers and parents are the only ones who have the ability to squash underage drinking. If you make a retailer pay a direct shipping license AND make them prove they are suited to handle and safely deliver wines, then why not? Make retailers get $2M insurance liability coverage to get the direct shipping license. Ask yourself one question, why doesn’t the UK, EU, China, Japan, Australia, or any other country/govt. have laws as stupid as these? Because they realize they are protectionist laws meant to protect a small group of people who want wines to move thru their hands only.
    In Economics one thing has proven true, that the simplest most efficient way to do business is the way that gives consumers more choice. Everyone including the wholesaler wins with that mentality.
    There is no doubt that this is the darkest time in wine’s 30,000 year old history. The Romans would have been pissed and gone to war over this.

  6. matthewjg - December 17, 2010

    It’s good to know from the given graph above that minor drinking took a downward trend for succeeding years. Perhaps direct shipment of wine had this effect. Happy parents…less worries.

  7. Jordan shoes - December 17, 2010

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  8. Wine Searcher - December 19, 2010

    A prospective artitecel. Very helpful for wine lovers.

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