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Jenise

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FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Jenise » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:27 pm

Two weeks ago a case of wine I purchased from a non-commercial L.A. based wine collector/seller got within 100 miles of me and was sent back. It was determined to be wine, and the box didn't have an adult-sig required sticker on it.

Yesterday the Fed Ex delivery person told me that another had been returned. "They're really cracking down," she said, "and if we hear styrofoam we presume it's wine. We'll open it to be sure it's not oil or something, but most of the time if we think it's wine, it is." Sympathetic (she and her husband have a wine tasting group, she said), she gave me the tracking number and a phone number so that I could call the terminal direct and get it sent back today, "tell them your driver will verify your age." That's a new trick and I was eager to try it--but too late, the box had already departed that terminal.

Anyway, twice in two weeks after not having any problem in three years here suggests that she's right about the crackdown. I presume it's nationwide and not a local issue, though it could be. In case any of you are shipping "auto parts", I thought I should pass that on.
Last edited by Jenise on Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Robin Garr

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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:44 pm

Anybody here a FedEx stockholder? It sounds like it's getting to be time for some wheels to start squeaking.
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Bob Ross » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:09 pm

FedEx is such a PITA on wine -- they maintain a web page on the subject at http://www.fedex.com/us/wine/ which is constantly updated.

I see Vermont was just added as an approved state on November 1.

UPS is much friendlier in this area; that may be local option, but they deliver without question.

FedEx loves to take all our liquids up to its office in Mahwah 12 miles away and store it on the floor of a hot office and then letting us know where it is three or four days later.
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Jenise » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:28 pm

Euuw, Bob. Well, the box I mailed you on Tuesday is definitely coming FedEx, but it will have an adult-sig required sticker on it so hopefully they'll actually attempt to hand it over to you personally.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:30 pm

Bob, I wonder what the motivating factors might be for such a direction in policy - could the upper management simply be sympathetic to the neopuritan cause? If UPS manages a more libertarian ethic in the area of wine shipments and it doesn't cause legal issues, then why would FedEx take the effort to do what they do? That is the gist of my bewilderment.

I am never surprised anymore when the values held at the top of an organization filter ALL the way through the entire organization and colour its policies.
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Jenise » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:50 pm

Paul, I'd actually had the impression that the puritans were at UPS, which is why I have preferentially used FedEx.
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Bob Ross » Thu Nov 09, 2006 2:50 pm

"Well, the box I mailed you on Tuesday is definitely coming FedEx."

If you can send me a tracking number, Jenise, I can intercept it. We plan to be banging up siding on Friday and Saturday, and I've gotten to know all the delivery people. They are all very sympathetic -- it's the office staff that make the difference.

They refuse to talk to me at all, even when I pick up our stuff. :(
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Bob Ross » Thu Nov 09, 2006 3:11 pm

"Bob, I wonder what the motivating factors might be for such a direction in policy - could the upper management simply be sympathetic to the neopuritan cause?"

I don't see anything in the bios of either UPS or FedEx that indicate an anti-alcohol bias, Paul. My impression is that wine is a small part of the alcohol picture for both shippers, and that they get creamed from time to time by the Feds or state regulators if excise or other taxes aren't collected.

Also, in felony states, an argument can be made that the shipping company is a co-conspirator if there is a violation of state law.

I personally blame the various state shipping laws -- it's easy to bitch at the carriers, but they do have an obligation to act in a lawful manner -- and that is very hard to do in the US.

May be more to it than that, but the rules seem well designed to give them protection in case of a problem with local authorities.

Just for interest, would it be easy for you to ship wine within Ontario or from Ontario to another province? I see that some wineries refuse to ship outside Ontario -- eg http://www.carmelaestates.ca/index.php?id=20

I don't see anything at all about alcohol on the Fedex Canada site -- if the directive were coming from the top from antialcohol forces, I would assume that the rules would apply in other countries, not just the US.

Regards, Bob
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Paul B. » Thu Nov 09, 2006 3:18 pm

Bob, as I understand the situation, the only government approved way of ordering out-of-province wines into Ontario as a citizen, not an importer, is to go through the LCBO, which presumably would collect all the applicable taxes on the purchase. But they also have a nasty minimum-one-case-order policy that makes it distasteful for me to even bother ordering out-of-province wine - I never buy cases of wines that I only wish to sample, one bottle at a time, to see if they are any good. Imagine your reaction at ordering a case plus all the markups, and finding the wine to be really bad! This is partly why I got into home winemaking: I get to learn about the stuff "from ground to glass", and all the above headaches don't apply.
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Mark Lipton » Thu Nov 09, 2006 3:29 pm

Bob Ross wrote:"Bob, I wonder what the motivating factors might be for such a direction in policy - could the upper management simply be sympathetic to the neopuritan cause?"

I don't see anything in the bios of either UPS or FedEx that indicate an anti-alcohol bias, Paul. My impression is that wine is a small part of the alcohol picture for both shippers, and that they get creamed from time to time by the Feds or state regulators if excise or other taxes aren't collected.

Also, in felony states, an argument can be made that the shipping company is a co-conspirator if there is a violation of state law.

I personally blame the various state shipping laws -- it's easy to bitch at the carriers, but they do have an obligation to act in a lawful manner -- and that is very hard to do in the US.


That sounds about right, Bob. I got a rapid education in the vagaries of shipping wine when I wanted to send two bottles to New Zealand. What I was told by all the shippers I contacted was that they wouldn't deal with an individual at all and that I'd have to go through a retailer. Fortunately for me, I was interested in sending current release Ridge Zins, so Sam's obliged me. None of this had anything to do with the law; rather, it was the disinterest of the shippers to take on any potential legal hassles whatsoever for such a meager payoff. I suspect that the same attitude underlies Jenise's experience.

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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 09, 2006 3:47 pm

Bob Ross wrote:UPS is much friendlier in this area; that may be local option, but they deliver without question.


It may help to be perceived as ITB by your delivery people ... we've had no trouble with FedEx, UPS, DHL or Airborne, and they're even pretty flexible about leaving packages if we don't respond to a knock.
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Bob Ross » Thu Nov 09, 2006 3:52 pm

Personal friendships work too, Robin. But, of course, it's their jobs at stake, and if the home office gets tough, there is nothing they can do except call and warn me.

I used my wine company name for awhile -- Wine Adventures Limited -- but that seemed to tip off the carriers.

I see more and more retailers using coded names -- Rare Wine ships under something like VV Enterprises, I think.
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Jenise » Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:53 pm

Robin Garr wrote:It may help to be perceived as ITB by your delivery people ...


Agreed, and just in case I gave my driver a business card yesterday that I hope she enjoys with a good cheese some day soon. But she was very specific about the emphasis on the crackdown being on the shipping side which is why I mentioned it here as a problem others might run into--you have to be a registered shipper and pay some extra taxes. Which doesn't mean I don't also have a local problem of the vigillante kind since both shipments got into the state before they were turned around, but....

Bob, Rare Wine might also use the code name simply because that name might call undue attention to the contents as well as imply higher value for would-be theives where something more innocuous could be, well, just about anything. What was your wine business about?
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Bob Ross » Fri Nov 10, 2006 12:56 am

"What was your wine business about?"

What it still is all about -- having fun!

I've got some really neat "business" cards printed up, and pass them out at the drop of a hat.

My goal is to change "Wine Adventures Limited" to "Wine Adventures Unlimited". :)

I've had quite a few "business" expenses over the past 12 years, none of them tax deductible you understand. And I've never actually generated any income. But for some reason that business card carries great weight in some circles.

It's sometimes even better than a $20 bill at times.

You've reminded me -- I have a little collection of business card related adventures -- I'll put together a post in due course and revert.

Regards, Bob
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Re: FedEx cracking down on wine shipments

by Bob Cohen » Fri Nov 10, 2006 11:39 pm

Bob,

These days I'm buying more photographic equipment than wine, and the photo dealers tend to also use disguised names on their shipping labels. I agree that it's probably due to the possible value of the merchandise and not wanting to call unwanted attention to that.
--Bob

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