Wine Kiosks May Be Coming Up Empty In Pennsylvania

The great wine-vending kiosk experiment may be just about over, at least in Pennsylvania. Last week (Aug. 15), Wal-Mart told the state's Liquor Control Board that the retail giant is no longer interested in putting the 10-foot-high machines in 23 of its Pennsylvania stores. That comes after the June announcement by grocery chain Wegmans that it was pulling the giant vending machines out of its 10 stores that had them. And the state now says that if the kiosks' developer, Simple Brands LLC, doesn't come up with a $1 million payment by September 19, the plug will be pulled on the remaining 21 machines.

The wine kiosks were an interesting idea, but they may simply have been impossible to get right. There were ongoing mechanical problems (all the machines were taken off-line for repairs temporarily in December) and liability issues, in addition to concerns about whether minors could be blocked effectively from buying wine by the kiosks' technology for matching a buyer's face to his driver's license. But the biggest problem may still be that wine buyers generally like to browse wine labels before making a decision—not buy wine from a glorified Coke machine.