UPS and FedEx Favor Wine and Reject Beer When It Comes to Businesses Shipping to Consumers

March 8th, 2010 · 15 Comments · General Beer News

It is not uncommon to encounter people and businesses that respect wine over beer and accordingly treat them differently, but nothing is as puzzling as the current regulations that are in place at UPS and FedEx when it comes to businesses shipping beer to consumers. Essentially, both shipping companies allow licensed businesses to ship wine direct to consumers in the many states (30+) where it is not illegal. But, both UPS and FedEx regulations forbid any sort of licensed business from doing the same for consumers ordering beer. Are there companies that do ship beer? Yes, many of you know that already. But as I understand it, UPS and FedEx don’t always enforce this regulation uniformly and many businesses get around the rule one way or another. As it is, these shippers are holding very similar products to very different rules.

Several online beer retailers have recently been forced to shutter their shipping operations, and at least one of these instances was due to the issues of dealing with these regulations. This article in the Idaho Statesman details the battle that a Boise-based retailer named Brewforia is currently up against with UPS and FedEx. After eighteen months of no issues shipping beer to consumers, UPS told the company that they would cease delivering products from Brewforia last month. Attempts have been made to strike a contract with both UPS and FedEx for shipping beer to consumers, but it appears that will not happen and Brewforia will be switching the focus of their business to local retail sales and deliveries. According to the Idaha Statesman article:

Susan Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for UPS, said if the company was making deliveries for Brewforia, it was in error, because UPS only approves beer deliveries between licensed businesses. “He needs to seek an alternate vendor,” Rosenberg said, explaining that once UPS officials determined what Brewforia was doing, they stopped delivery. When asked why UPS will deliver wine and not beer, Rosenberg said “that has just been a policy that we have had. It’s a program where our focus has been working with a number of licensed wine shippers.” “For right now, UPS has chosen policy where beer contracts are for business-to-business shipments.” Rosenberg said the issue is complicated by some states defining wine differently than beer and having different distribution requirements. UPS officials have been working with wine retailers for longer and don’t have any immediate plans to revisit their beer policy, Rosenberg said.

I shouldn’t have to spell out how unfair this is to craft beer consumers and businesses alike. How does it make sense to anyone involved that beer should be treated differently than wine in this case? I know several people that have received shipments from beer retailers, myself included, and to many people it is a very convenient means of purchasing beers you can’t get locally. It is not against the law in most states, it is just that UPS and FedEx choose to treat beer differently than wine. It is a conscious choice that could be easily changed, and they just don’t want to.

This has been a problem for some time, but this issue is starting to pick up steam. Jay Brooks is calling for a boycott of UPS in order to try and start a grassroots response to let them know how ridiculous this is. I’m all for this. While FedEx is a problem as well, starting with one is a good action of response. And if one of the shippers rethinks their rules, then maybe the other will. In addition to boycotting UPS, you should also email them to let them know what you think of their business practices. The more exposure this gets, the more likely they’ll be to change their rules. For those in states where shipping alcohol to consumers is prohibited by law (it is allowed in Washington and Oregon), that is a separate fight and you should contact your government. You can also follow BeerEqualityNow on Twitter or on facebook for updates and news on the fight to equalize beer with wine in regards to shipments.

I realize that many local drinkers couldn’t care less about being able to order beer from out-of-state retailers. But, I’d hope that you can all understand that this is an inequality that affects breweries and customers both in the long run.

FedEx regulations regarding beer shipments:

Only licensed entities may ship alcohol of any type with FedEx. For more information, go to fedex.com/us/wine. Consumers may not ship alcohol.

1. Licensee to Licensee. FedEx will accept alcohol shipments (beer, wine and spirits) when both the shipper and recipient are either licensed wholesalers, licensed dealers, licensed distributors, licensed manufacturers or licensed importers, subject to additional requirements and all applicable laws and regulations. Contact your FedEx account executive for complete details.
2. Licensee to Consumer. FedEx will accept wine shipments from licensed entities directly to consumers, subject to additional requirements and all applicable laws and regulations. Contact your FedEx account executive for complete details. Shipments of beer or spirits to consumers are prohibited.

UPS regulations regarding beer shipments:

UPS provides service for other alcoholic beverages (beer and alcohol) on a contract basis only. For shipments containing beer or alcohol, shippers must enter into an approved UPS agreement for the transportation of beer or alcohol as applicable, must be licensed and authorized under applicable law to ship beer and alcohol, and may ship only to licensed consignees. UPS does not accept shipments of beer or alcohol for delivery to consumers. UPS accepts shipments of beer or alcohol only among and between selected states.

Keep in mind that this issue is very different than the rules that do not allow consumers to ship any kind of alcohol via UPS or FedEx. Those of us that do ship beer to friends know how to get around those rules. As a reminder, remember that while it is merely against the rules with those shippers, it is against federal law to ship alcohol via the US Postal Service.

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • Paul

    Glad to see more coverage since I posted a story on this as well.

    Thanks for helping Brewforia (along with current and future online beer sellers) driving home that equality must exist across all avenues.

    Cheers,
    Paul

  • Tiffany

    Regarding UPS rules for contract basis, what I understabd as the major problem experienced by online retailers, such as Brewforia, is that the carrier is rejecting renewal of contract to ALL states…this includes states to which it is LEGAL for retailers to ship to consumers.

    In Washington, it is currently illegal for breweries and/or retailers to ship direct to consumers. However, it is legal for licensed wineries to direct-ship to consumers. For us, this is where the “beer equality” issue arises.

    Washington state – current law:
    http://liq.wa.gov/publications/DirectShippingLaws.aspx

    Washington state – proposed change:
    http://www.liq.wa.gov/rules/Concise%20explanatory%20statement%20-Internet%20Sales%20and%20Delivery.pdf

    My questions on the proposed change —

    • Does this apply only to retailers already located within Washington, or can online stores outside of Washington apply for “Specialty Beer/Wine Store license with Internet Sales endorsement”?

    • If out-of-state stores are able to attain license to sell direct-to consumers in Washington, how are they subject to Washington state liquor control laws other than paying taxes to the state?

    For example:
    • Can they still advertise “free beer” on their sites even though it is illegal for in-state businesses to do so?
    • Are they limited to selling beer into our state that has only been approved by the WSLCB for distribution within our state?
    • How can the WSLCB adequately review out-of-state licensees when the state has cut the WSLCB budgets and closed many regional field offices?

    …but really, if the state is already allowing direct-ship of wine “from wineries” to consumers in Washington, I’m sure they’ve got answers to all of these things. I do wonder how all these “wine stores” (not wineries) are shipping into our state. It’s probably just a matter of time before the state goes after out-of-state alcohol (liquor/wine/beer) Internet stores for payment of back-taxes, like they did to the cigarrette retailers some years back.

    One of the reasons we’ve not branched into online sales is cost. When I started calling liquor control boards in each state, I often learned that annual licenses costing upwards of $600 annually were required, in addition to collecting and sending state taxes on a monthly-quarterly-annual basis. Many online beer stores have disclaimers stating that the “purchaser is responsible” for their state laws/taxes, but that is largely ignored…my “assumption” is that those stating such are neither licensed to sell nor paying taxes to the states.

    Though we are living in “America the free” we are not in a free trade society. Would love to see people’s thoughts on this topic.

  • Tiffany

    …so a final question:

    If we are boycotting UPS/FedEx, are we asking them to ship to all states, even to those it is currently illegal for beer retialers to direct-ship to consumers, such as Washington? Or, are we simply asking them to allow beer retailers to be allowed to use their services for shipping to states that it is legal to ship to?

  • Joel

    Great post! Glad to see we are increasing awareness. ;)

    Thanks for your adds Tiffany..

    So are there lobbies that we can join to help improve WA beer laws? What organizations are around to promote good legislation?

  • Kaiser

    Tiffany – I’m not well-versed enough in the state laws to be able to answer any of that myself…

    My understanding is that it is not illegal to ship beer into Washington, just that UPS and FedEx don’t allow it per their rules. Most online retailers stay away from shipping to states where it is definitely illegal (like PA), and every online retailer I’ve seen will ship to WA. Like I said, I’m not well-versed in the actual laws, this is just my understanding.

    My goal here was to bring to light that beer is treated differently than wine by UPS and FedEx. Simply asking that they allow retailers to ship to consumers in states where it is not illegal to do so.
    The state laws are a completely different and much more complicated issue in my eyes.

  • Paul

    Currently wine can only be shipped to 32 states and yet UPS or FedEx has not applied the same allowances for beer, where its legal.

    It is because of those states that allow direct to consumer allowances, that makes their regulations towards beer and spirits counter-intuitive.

    If someone wants to ship wine to their legal allowed state, I feel the same should be allowed for beer.

  • Tiffany

    Joel says, “So are there lobbies that we can join to help improve WA beer laws? What organizations are around to promote good legislation?”

    Yes!! The Washington Beer Commission is here to help us get new legislation thru the Washington state government.

  • blackhook

    I love Susan Rosenberg’s comment “this is our policy.” ‘Policy’ has always been a substitute for actual clear thinking – about any issue – and this is just bizarre. It reflects pure ignorance about beer vis-à-vis wine.

    It’s bad enough that we can no longer carry beer on board planes, but to have to listen to brain-dead people spout off like this just insults our sensibilities.

    Note to Fedex & UPS: Wake up & smell the hops. You are marginalizing your own businesses when you endorse such backward business practices.

  • Dean Ruffner

    When the revolution comes, the first ones up against the wall will be the sheep who said, “but that’s the way we’ve always done it”

  • Erika

    Great post Geoff…I get asked all the time about shipping. Having previously worked for an online only retailer, I know how dependent business can be on shipping. I also know how restrictive and cut-throat each shipper can be. Boycotting one to get them to change will ensure the others will follow. I know big money went into ensure wine could be shipped..it was a major battle for years. I expect it will be a similar fight for beer…Power to the Hops!

  • anda

    The problem is that in most states it is technically illegal to ship beer, but not wine. Most direct shipment laws specifically state wine may be shipped directly to consumers by certain retailers or wineries. The laws are silent on beer, which, technically, makes it illegal.

    Until the state laws are changed, the shippers are unlikely to change their policies. One of the only states that specifically allows breweries to ship directly to consumers is CA.

    I think Erika is right, it will be another long fight for breweries to get the same rights as wineries fought hard to get from the states.

  • Hoperatives - Short Hops: March 17, 2010

    [...] ? UPS and FedEx Favor Wine and Reject Beer When It Comes to Businesses Shipping to Consumers [...]

  • Brewforia Beer Market

    Hi guys, I wanted give a quick thanks to you guys for devoting a little attention to our cause. I’m the owner of Brewforia Beer Market, the store mentioned in the article. We believe it is patently unfair of the two carriers to refuse shipments of beer to states where it is legal and are fighting tooth and nail to get this policy changed. I expect that this will be a long and difficult battle but the support of the craft beer community is very much appreciated.

    If this is a cause you believe in become a fan of Demand Beer Equality on Facebook, call and write to UPS and FedEx and most importantly tell your elected representatives to support the craft beer industry by making it possible to consumers to buy the products they want and have them shipped to thier homes.

    Thanks from all of us here at Brewforia.com
    Rick

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    […] I want to stop hearing about anywhere in the world where beer is taxed differently than wine and I want everyone that will ship wine to be able to ship beer. (And that was the closest I’ll ever get to comparing wine and beer.) If it takes some beer […]

  • alissa

    I wouldn’t get so upset with UPS or FedEx as it’s actually each STATE who is in control of alcohol coming into their state.
    What we need to do it push for Breweries to be able to ship beer!! It’s a daunting task that we as Breweries need to address.

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