Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Going in the Wrong Direction for Consumer Choice

We're going to say it straight away: We need your help!

Some of you may be familiar with the efforts of Purple Teeth Cellars to open up state lines for all US consumers to be able to choose which wineries they would like to patronize. We try and promote the importance of direct shipping of wine to customers, without wholesalers and distributors making the choices for us. Here at Purple Teeth Cellars, we are grateful that you consider buying our wine but if you opt not to because you tend to like white wines or Pinot Noir (we currently only focus on red Rhone varietals), then that is your choice and we can only respect your choice.

But when we hear from prospective customers in certain states that they tasted our wine at someone else's home and want to buy some for themselves, but can't due to arcane shipping laws that preclude us from shipping directly to that state, that upsets us a great deal. And unfortunately an effort is under way to undermine consumer choice and end direct shipping of wine throughout the US in the form of HR 5034. This bill is being sponsored by a number of organizations, including the National Wine Wholesalers Association and the National Beer Wholesalers Association – these groups are also known in some circles as "middlemen".

For every state that allows direct shipping of wine, it means less of a piece of the pie ($$$) for the middlemen so obviously they have a lot to lose. But YOU as the consumer have more to lose than they do. Small and many medium-sized winemakers cannot afford to pay wholesalers a piece of their margins because of the nature of the business being so linked to economies of scale. Contrary to what you may have seen on that 80s TV show, Falcon Crest, winemaking is not a hugely profitable business unless you are making mass quantities of it. And BTW if you know that show, then I guess you now know I am dating myself a tad - LOL. But I digress.

On the other hand, a number of groups and highly influential individuals/publications are trying to band together to notify consumers of what the wholesalers are trying to do. In addition to letting people know, they are educating customers on how they can influence this bill from NOT being passed in Congress. Purple Teeth Cellars is happy to be a part of these endeavors and asks you to participate by writing to your elected officials on the federal levels. This is where we need your help in writing your elected officials ASAP!

You can find out who your federal Congressman or Congresswoman is here. You can find out who your US Senator is here. In terms of what to include in your letter, here are some thoughts from one of the Facebook groups marshaling against this effort:

  • Tell them early on that you are their constituent and that you are urging them to oppose HR 5034.
  • Explain that the bill will lead to prohibitions on the direct shipment of wine, hurting consumers as well as small wineries that cannot get proper distribution and rely on direct to consumer shipping.
  • Tell them, "The bill will prevent any court challenges to discriminatory wine shipping laws that hurt consumers and wineries. The bill flat out discriminates against small wineries and is a huge barrier to having a fair playing field to compete on."
  • End the letter with another urging that they oppose HR 5034.
  • Include your name and address in the letter.

For what it is worth, the wholesalers are using the argument that they are in a better position to prevent underage drinking as opposed to a courier service like UPS or FedEx. As someone who has received a decent amount of wine via those two companies, I can assure you that they make you sign for the package once they assess you are over 21. I am way past 21 but am fortunate to look much younger and was asked for my license less than a month ago. I'm not complaining, but I also do not think the 18-year old check-out clerk at your local supermarket is going to be more vigilant than UPS or FedEx given how much $$$ they would lose if they were busted leaving alcohol without an adult over the age of 21 signing for it.

Please contact your elected officials and tell them NOT to vote for HR 5034 and spread the word to your family and friends.

Thanks again for your support and don't forget to flash those PURPLE TEETH!

NOTE: For past Purple Teeth Cellars blog entries on shipping, particularly to New Jersey, please click here.


posted by Jill B. @ 2:56 PM        2 Comments


At April 20, 2010 at 5:09 PM , Blogger Jill said...


At April 20, 2010 at 7:34 PM , Blogger Marc (Purple Teeth) said...

Bill Threat Meter


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