If you’re like me, you’re mildly entertained by the folly that is Pennsylvania’s wine kiosk program. That program, which uses a Rube Goldberg-designed system of pulleys and startled pigeons to grudgingly dispense wine to inevitably disappointed shoppers, has failed utterly. More importantly, it has failed humorously, including getting robotically snappish with customers during the busy holiday season and refusing to serve them.
The primary mission of the kiosk experiment was never really customer service, of course. It was the preservation of the state’s monopoly on liquor sales. That hasn’t worked any better than the machines themselves, with the state Liquor Control Board’s heavy-handed, Soviet-style “innovation” so irritating the wine-buying public that the movement to privatize Pennsylvania’s state stores is stronger than ever. There are only two constituencies left in favor of continuing the state monopoly: the unions representing liquor store employees and people like me who write jokes about the wine kiosks.
So, anyway, I note with a certain smug satisfaction that a prominent grocery store chain has pulled out of the program.
Wegmans Food Markets is pulling out of the state’s much-criticized wine-kiosk program, dealing a blow to the state Liquor Control Board’s efforts to shed its image as a lumbering government bureaucracy and stave off privatization.
In a statement late Thursday, the supermarket chain said: “We had hoped that our customers would find the kiosks to be a valuable addition to their shopping experience, but that proved not to be the case.”
The Rochester, N.Y., chain said that if anything, the state’s latest attempt at user-friendly wine sales had backfired. A letter from Wegmans to the LCB complained that the machines often malfunctioned, leading to a “significant volume” of customer complaints.
Wegmans stores are host to almost a third of the wine kiosks. The chain has asked that the state remove the bus-sized kiosks within 30 days, but says it will be flexible just as long as the state “gets those damned contraptions out of our stores.”
OK, I made that last quote up, but you get the point.