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.
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 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.