I’ve always thought it was strange how local laws have so strictly regulated our liquor industry here in Nashville, only recently allowing direct shipment of wine and spirits to consumers after producers jump through hoops and pay registration fees for the right to ship. But at the same time any old schmo could list a bottle of Pappy on eBay for $300 and some other schlemiel will get into a bidding war for the right to ship it illegally to his home. (Elementary Yiddish lesson for proper usage: A waiter who spills the soup on a patron is a schmo. The unlucky person who gets soup spilled on him is a schlemiel. Now go forth and work that into your everyday vernacular.)
There’s not much wrong with the regulated system in Tennessee, especially with regards to preventing underage drinking. The folks at ABC’s 20/20 developed a pretty simple sting operation where a 13-year old was easily able to have two bottles of vodka delivered to his house. While you have to honor his ingenuity, at least some of us learned some valuable graphic arts skills by faking ID’s in the 1980’s when Tennessee still used paper driver’s licenses. I said “some” of us to ensure plausible deniability.
But seriously, it only makes sense that once you’ve gone to all the effort to set up a system that has many safeguards to prevent minors from purchasing alcohol, you’d want to close the eBay loophole. Fortunately, the company has self-regulated after the outcry of the 20/20 segment. Their official statement on the situation is:
“eBay will not allow our marketplace to be used as a way to circumvent laws regarding the sale of alcohol, particularly the illegal sale of alcohol to minors. We are beginning the process of removing listings of beer and spirits. We expect to allow these listings again after developing and implementing additional, reasonable requirements to support seller compliance with our policies and applicable laws. We will continue to allow listings by pre-approved, licensed wine sellers.”
The old policy allowed for the selling of “commemorative bottles” that happened to have alcohol in them, but if Sammy Hagar has his picture on a bottle of tequila, that counted as commemorative. Yeah, it’s in honor of the fact that he sold his stake in Cabo Wabo for $80 million!
In addition to making it harder for minors to buy, this new regulation may slow down the rapid escalation in truly collectible spirits like single malt whiskys and vintage bourbons. Good for them, I say. Your favorite retailer should be the one to set the market for what a bottle should cost, and there are strong governmental guidelines in place to ensure fairness in the marketplace. If you want an even shake or maybe access to a rare bottle, the best way to go is to make a friend of your local liquor or wine store owner. Ask his or her advice, shop there consistently and let them know what you like and what you’re looking for, and there should be no need to go poking around eBay anyway.