Retail Customer Experience: Pennsylvania’s New Wine Kiosks Get Panned
By James Bickers, Editor
Through a special arrangement, presented here for
discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Customer Experience,
a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping
In December, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) announced
it would test self-service wine-dispensing kiosks in a select number of grocery
stores, and the first two just opened for business at a Wegmans and a Giant
Designed in roughly the same shape as a Zoom Shop but longer, the kiosk’s
touchscreen guides the shopper through the wine selection process and offers
food pairing tips. The kiosks could carry up to 500 bottles of as many as 50
wines at varying prices.
On checkout, the user is asked to scan his driver’s
license and credit or debit card, then must breathe into a breathalyzer unit
to check for intoxication. A live agent at the PLCB looks at the shopper through
a two-way video connection to personally ensure that the buyer is the person
on the driver’s license. The shopper then walks to the appropriate door on
the unit, where a single bottle of the chosen vino awaits, while the rest of
the bottles in the machine remain behind security gates. The entire purchasing
process is estimated to take less than 20 seconds.
“The self-service kiosks are an exciting new opportunity for consumers
to pick up their groceries and a bottle of their favorite wine to compliment
their dinner all in one stop,” PLCB Board Chairman Patrick J. ‘PJ’ Stapleton
said in a statement. “While our PLCB stores continue to provide excellent
customer service and a wider variety of products, the kiosks are a way to give
our customers an added level of convenience in today’s busy society.”
is known for having some of the tightest alcohol control laws in the United
States. The distribution system is owned and operated by the state government,
which issues licenses to retailers under a quota system. Retailers in the state
have a number of hoops to jump through if they want alcohol on their shelves,
including a restricted list of brands that they are allowed to carry.
to a PLCB press release, the breathalyzer is set to the state’s “zero
tolerance” level of .02 blood alcohol — so if a shopper has had a
beer with dinner, he would not be allowed to complete the purchase.
To say the
wine enthusiast community’s reaction has been negative would be an understatement.
The biggest complaint appeared to be not being able to hold the bottle and
read the labels before committing to the purchase. Others included the restriction
over only being able to pay by credit card, limited information on each wine,
and sanitary concerns over the breathalyzer.
At the blog The Wine Culture
Project, the kiosk has been singled out
as the “Worst wine idea of the year.” Writer John Kafarski laments
that the use of the kiosks turns wine buying into “nothing more than soda
in a vending machine.”
The press release also said that if the program
is well received, it will launch another 100 of the machines, “as part
of the PLCB’s multi-faceted
effort to enhance customer convenience.”
Discussion Questions: What do you think of wine kiosks as a selling tool?
Can you suggest improvements to the kiosk being introduced by the PLCB? What
do you think of kiosks’ ability to prevent liquor sales to minors?
- Pennsylvania’s new wine kiosks get panned – Retail Customer Experience
- Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Launches Wine Kiosk Pilot Program – Pennsylvania
Liquor Control Board