Why Do UPS and FedEx Hate Beer?…or do they?

This is an issue that my Beer Guy and friend Rick Boyd at the Brewforia Beer Market has been grappling with for the last several months.  It seems that someone within UPS or FedEx hates beer.  So much so that they are refusing to ship product from the Brewforia Beer Market in Boise, Idaho.  See before Brewforia was a store that you could physically go to, Rick set up an internet sales business where he would ship to customers around the US.  And all was going along swimmingly until one day it wasn’t.  For some reason the local UPS and FedEx offices have refused to ship his products.  Why, you might be asking yourself.  Well it seems that there is a policy against shipping beer to an end consumer that they for some reason have decided to start to enforce.

Or have they?  Seems that there are still a lot of beer shipments happening out there.  See my Brother Jim belongs to a Beer of the Month Club that his wife bought for him for Christmas.  Every Month my brother receives 12 bottles of beer shipped to his home from the BOTM club.  Well, guess what…you guessed it, it is shipped via UPS.  Perhaps they didn’t get the company memo in New Jersey, but faithfully each month the brown truck drives up to his house and drops off a case of brew for his personal consumption.  Is it because the person answering the door was of age?  I don’t know, but it seems as if this is an easily rectifiable situation.  Just make sure whoever signs for the box is 21 or older.

What further made this situation even more preposterous was the fact that UPS and FedEx will ship Wine or Spirits (where ever legal to do so) without so much as a questioning look.  So why do they hate beer?  Dunno!  Why can the BOTM Club ship beer, and Brewforia can’t?  Dunno!  It all seems stupid.  And it is.

The only way to fix this is to add pressure to the situation.  As Beer drinkers, we should demand that UPS and FedEx ship our beverages just like they do Wine and Spirits.  So to pressure them you will need to contact them.  You can reach UPS at (404) 828-4900, or by e-mail at customerrelations@ups.com.  Just say you are demanding “Beer Equality” and explain that you would like them to ship beer for everyone, not just a select few.  Thanks for your help.

-Don

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29 Comments on “Why Do UPS and FedEx Hate Beer?…or do they?”

  1. March 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    This is painfully stupid, Don. And when these bonehead shipping companies are questioned about it, their answer is “because” and they don’t want to talk about it. They are totally dismissive and arrogant about the whole thing.

    The real downside to this is that it will eventually stifle a portion of the growth of craft beer. For instance, now that you’ve outed the Beer of the Month Club, what happens if they can’t send their (relatively boing) selection of craft beers out each month? How many future brew fans are going to keep drinking Bass? Beer entrepreneurs should have all the same tools that their wine-selling counterparts enjoy.

    It’s unfair, counterproductive and need to change. Perhaps UPS needs to hear from us all…

    • Don
      March 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

      This is truly one of the dumbest things I’ve ever had to write about. And poor Rick down at Brewforia has been jerked around by bureaucrats for the last 4 months! Stupid, Stupid! Seems they said that he needed a contract, so he tried to get a contract, then they said they wouldn’t ship because he wasn’t up front that there was beer in the boxes???…Wasn’t up front??? what the ??? Its a freaking BEER STORE shipping, what stuffed puppies? C’mon, how ridiculous! Something has to give and I seriously hope people will e-mail and call, this is the stupidest policy ever!

      • March 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

        Yeah, I imagine that it’s easy for the little guy to get screwed in a case like this. Maybe we should go all RockArt/Monster on their asses. THis is something that affects lots of folks, like Bruisin Ales. I’m wonder if the Craft Brewers Association can step in to help.

        BTW, I had no idea that Rick sold stuffed puppies, Don. I bet they’re cute, like little sea turtles.

  2. March 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    Thanks Don for writing about our situation and thanks to anyone who picks up the phone or sends an email to UPS on our behalf.

    Cheers!

  3. @BeerPoet
    March 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    FYI, Rick has been following all state guidelines regarding where beer can be shipped, and he has requested signatures for said deliveries. All of us that know Rick and the situation are completely baffled by the stance UPS is taking.

    What’s not to like about shipping direct to customers? Breweries give more people across the country access to beers their distributors don’t offer. Distributors within states that have online beer retailers are moving more beer as those retailers ship it. Customers in other regions of the U.S. have more access to more beer. AND Shipping companies like UPS are collecting money shipping heavy boxes of beer. Seriously people, what is not to like?

    The only thing that I can think of is the conspiracy angle. Shipping direct to customer favors makers of special, unique, craft beers and their breweries. Does anyone really need to ship a Coors, PBR, MGD or Corona across the U.S.? No. Have large yellow fizzy beer conglomerates scared the distributors and shippers so much that they’re afraid to rock the boat or do anything that could be considered controversial in the eyes of said conglomerates (or lobbyists and therefore legislators) that back them. As you say Don, dunno. Maybe.

    It’s just hard to see a legit business get jerked around by illogical corporate policies that are enforced unfairly and unequally when it applies beer vs. wine, and apparently even just beer. Sure gets me fired up every time I hear about it, anyway.

    For those of you who enjoy having your beer shipped to you from online retailers. Please realize that this is happening in violation both of those companies policies (even if your retailer has a policy with UPS or FedEx to ship beer, it supposed to only be to other retailers–not consumers). As soon as someone takes issue with your favorite online beer retailer shipping beer, it could end. And end quickly if we don’t speak up. Demand Beer Equality Now.

    O.K., there’s my rant. . I’ll go drown my anger in a delightful craft beer that I didn’t have shipped to me. Thanks for listening.

  4. Katie Pizzuto
    March 9, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    I wrote about this a while back in regards to shipping wine, but the same bullshit applies to beer, unfortunately. It’s a state-by-state law, so some allow direct-to-consumer shipping of alcohol and some don’t. Right now, NJ does NOT allow direct shipment, although a bill has been approved and is moving up to a full Senate hearing, in order to reverse the ban. The reason Jim gets his beer is most likely because they are using a second party shipper, thus UPS or FedEx can’t say anything because the box didn’t originate at a brewery or winery. It’s all insanity.

    As for why archaic laws like this persist, that’s easy…he’s called the distributor. The middleman makes his bread and butter buying wine or beer from the producer, and then reselling to retailers for them to stock their shelves. If wineries/breweries are allowed to ship direct to consumer, that essentially eliminates the need for a middleman…god forbid. The truth is that these guys wouldn’t suffer in the least, because the people that benefit most from direct-to-consumer shipping are the little boutique wineries and the micro- or nanobreweries that couldn’t get a distributor to carry their products if they offered daily hand jobs. Their livelihood is based on DtC sales. The distributor is only interested in carrying bigger brands they know they can move. So the distributors lobby against this type of commerce, but if you ask them WHY they don’t want it, they’ll never tell you it’s a money issue, they’ll tell you that they are afraid underaged children will start ordering and receiving shipments (despite the fact that an adult must sign for the package). It’s a friggin’ circle jerk.

    In case you didn’t notice, this subject really pisses me off 🙂

    • March 9, 2010 at 10:37 am #

      Thanks for adding to the rants hear, Katie. And prepare to be more pissed off. It’s similar but not totally the same circle jerk as wine. Yes, beer is facing the same issue that wine was facing 6 – 7 years ago (don’t recall exact timing) regarding direct shipment to consumer. And let’s all acknowledge that thankfully wine has paved the way in that regard.

      All Rick is asking from UPS and FedEx is the same shipping rights wine gets as those rights legally apply to beer. You can, just like wine, ship beer to some states that allow it as long as you have an adult signature for delivery. The problem is a UPS and FedEx corporate policy that allows direct shipment to consumers of wine but not beer. UPS and FedEx will ship wine to states that legally allow it, but they have a policy that states they won’t ship beer direct to consumers to states that legally allow it. And that policy is being applied sporadically and unequally–some online beer retailers out there are having a problem with these policies recently while others are not.

      All Rick at Brewforia is asking is that UPS and FedEx allow him, an online beer retailer the same shipping rights they afford wine as they legally apply to beer. Hes not asking for them to allow him ship to states that forbid it or ship it without a signature. He would just like to ship beer to states that legally allow the shipment of beer direct to consumer. Nothing more.

      And where it will piss you off even more is when you start asking (UPS customer service and management) about this policy you first get, as you say, the circle jerk. But when really pressed (by the press), their response is, and I’m paraphrasing, “well, wine is different than beer” or worse “just because”.

      I totally get the distributor point and distributors missing out on craft brew distribution. But you make a great point. Small craft brewers aren’t going to have big distribution deals. Furthermore, if every state that allowed it had one or more online beer retailers, those retailers are buying their beer from local distributors to sell direct to customers online. Those distributors would be selling more beer! And they would be moving that beer through a channel that gave them access to customers across the country that their distribution channels don’t normally have access to.

      So again, what’s not to like about direct to customer beer shipments? I still don’t get it. Is anyone an expert out there? Can someone explain it to me?

      Grrr. As you can see this subject pisses me off, too!

      • Katie Pizzuto
        March 9, 2010 at 11:00 am #

        Understood, now I get the specifics of the rant…UPS is saying “no” even if the state says “yes” and it’s doing so specifically with beer. OK, so here’s my promise, because like I said, I’ve written about this before and was actually part of the initial bandwagon to defend Rock Art Brewery vs. Monster: I’m gonna research a bit, write a big post on it, and try to get some steam behind it. I’ll also speak to Alan at Mutineer magazine and see if he’s interested in me writing a piece about it. Will keep you guys posted.

        • Don
          March 9, 2010 at 11:02 am #

          Wow! Thanks Katie! I hope we can get a little traction here for a small business owner! Thanks again.

        • @BeerPoet
          March 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

          Awesome Katie! Thanks for your interest and time. It’s an equally aggravating and intriguing topic. You’re right, the whole three-tier distribution system is a mess of monied interests hidden behind morality messages. At one time there may have been some real logic behind it. But these days it just doesn’t seem to be working as well as consumers need or want it to.

      • March 9, 2010 at 11:21 am #

        Rock on, Katie! This is bigger than Brewforia, and it affects all of us lushes who want tasty beer delivered to our doors. I hope we can get some grass roots pressure going here. Do we need a hashtag like #UPSsucks?

  5. March 9, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    If UPS stops shipping whisky to my front door because of this post I’m coming for you two! 🙂

    Best of luck getting them to include beer among their shipments.

    Jason @WHISKYhost

    • March 9, 2010 at 11:19 am #

      Ha ha! I had a similar thought this morning. I ship beer to Don using UPS – I hope we don’t incur any “accidental” breakage after this. Maybe he’ll be able to wring the Founders Breakfast Stout out of the cardboard box…

      • Don
        March 9, 2010 at 11:39 am #

        Yeah…Laugh away. I’m the one having to drink cardboard beer!

    • Don
      March 9, 2010 at 11:37 am #

      No worries there Jason. Their policies only prohibit the shipping of beer specifically! That is why it makes no sense!

      • Katie Pizzuto
        March 9, 2010 at 11:46 am #

        I don’t think so, Don…I’m pretty sure the statements I’ve read thus far include beer and spirits.

        • Don
          March 9, 2010 at 11:53 am #

          Well there you go. You Rock Katie!

  6. March 9, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    Hey guys. I’ve created a Facebook page where we can all bitch intelligently about this and shame these bozos into doing the right thing. Here’s the link : http://tinyurl.com/yzpz6gf

    Please check it out and help spread the word. A fan page is like a cyber petition with a comment section!

  7. March 9, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Interesting topic. I was aware of some State restrictions as Katie had mentioned, but it seems that their logic is ‘Our Playground- Our Rules’ and as private companies they can make their own rules regardless of reason. Heck, the USPS won’t ship it either.

    I think the press and pressure angle is the best way to get those rules changed! Problem is, what’s the alternative to FedEx or UPS? Maybe DHL or someone has more reasonable policies and the business can be directed toward them. Carrot and stick.

    • March 9, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

      The alternative is Miller and Bud. 😦

    • Don
      March 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

      Scott UPS is technically a private company, but they get huge government contracts to provide overflow support to the USPS every year. Not saying that they don’t have the right to ship what they want, but they need to have a level playing field and not ship for some but not others.

  8. March 9, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Whiskyhost, I have bad news for you buddy. It’s illegal in all 50 states to ship spirits and it is expressly prohibited by both UPS and FedEx to ship beer or spirits direct to you as a consumer. Even though its illegal and even though their policy prohibits it they obviously allow it to happen so you have to come to one of two conclusions. Either they have a policy they can’t enforce therefore they should change it or so long as you have a contract they just don’t care. Either way this is a major problem that puts hundreds of businesses around the country at risk of being shut down at a moments notice.

    Let me give you all a bit of background on how exactly all this happened. When we set up our UPS account back over a year ago we told the customer service rep exactly who and what we were and that we would be shipping beer direct to consumers. She said no problem just select adult signature required on every package to make sure no one underage can get the delivery. Done.

    Everything was fine until this past October when we had a package damaged and UPS discovered that there was beer inside. They called us up and told us that we couldn’t ship beer unless we had a beer and wine contract with them so we said fine, send us a beer and wine contract. They said they couldn’t do that it would have to be generated by our sales rep. Well in almost of year of business this was the first time we’d ever been told we had a sales rep so we asked for his phone number or email address only to be told they can’t give that out but they would send him an email and ask that he call us. Weeks pass with no contact from the rep and we repeatedly attempt to contact him.

    In November we opened our holdiay store near the mall and arranged for daily pick ups by UPS in the store. On the front of our store is a great big sign with the name “Brewforia Beer Market” in giant red letters, the store is stocked with 400 different beers and we would ship out 20 to 50 packages containing beer every day via UPS when their driver would come inside and pick them up. We continued like this until early February when UPS told us we were shipping beer without a contract and that we were cut off from shipping any more.

    I spent the next two weeks calling anyone I could get a number for at UPS and asking that we get this resolved but every person I spoke to gave me a different answer and no one was interested in helping get it resolved. Finally I’m told by a supervisor in Salt Lake City that they would not extend a contract to us because we had attempted to decieve UPS by shipping beer without their knowledge. This was when I lost it. So according to them when we set up the account using our company name with the word beer in the name or when their driver came in every day for 3 months and picked up packages in a store filled with beer and talked with me about the beer in the packages that we were shipping they didn’t know we were dealing in beer because we were attempting to decieve them so they would not offer us a contract.

    Right now there are hundreds of companies shipping beer and spirits via UPS in violation of their policies yet they operate uninterrupted while we are being punished and risk being put out of business because we were upfront and honest with them about what we were doing. Had their customer service and sales team actually made an effort a year ago to contact us and provide us with a contract all of this could have been avoided. Now, UPS has opened a can of worms that I don’t think they are at all prepared to deal with.

  9. Katie Pizzuto
    March 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Guys, for what it’s worth, you offer a penny for my thoughts and I put in my two cents…you owe me, I’m starting a tab 🙂

    http://bit.ly/cdLtK9

    • Don
      March 9, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

      I put a link up on the Facebook Wall we are trying to get going for this issue. I’m sure all of our 4 fans will hit your site right away. Hope we don’t crash it!

  10. March 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    I think that they need to see that there is $ to be made by making beer shipments where permitted by law, and $ to be lost by not shipping beer where permitted by law. If wine can go there, beer should be able to go there too. Letters/emails to the companies and letters to the Legislature/Governor to change the law.

    Perhaps a protest of some sort to get media attention? Don, you should put on a diaper and stand in front of the UPS place with a giant sign to draw attention to the issue. (Sorry, I took this way down the wrong path here) but unless enough people get behind it, the shippers will never change. Most people have no idea its a problem and probably don’t care either.

    Again, its their sandbox so they make the rules. They need to see somehow that they are losing $ before their policy will change. My .02

    • March 9, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

      Scott, you are absolutely right, they will only change the policy if there is an economic incentive to do so. My fear is that to make them understand the economic impact of this policy we would have to force them to shut down shipments from all the companies that currently ship beer and spirits with them. My estimate based on my own shipping fees is that this would cost each company millions of dollars annually in gross revenue but it would also mean the destruction of an entire industry. I’m not quite ready to kill an industry to make my point.

      What makes more sense but takes longer to accomplish is to push state governments to create regulations regarding the shipment of beer and wine that are both equal and simple for everyone to understand. I would encourage everyone to contact their state government and find out what the rules are regarding the shipment of beer and wine and if your state doesn’t currently allow for direct shipment of these products to consumers then encourage them to support legislation to make it possible. In this economic environment, when governments are looking for any way to raise money for the general fund they need to see this as a source of tax dollars that right now is gong uncollected. By forcing what is essentially an underground economy of beer, wine and spirits shipments we deprive the government of funds, force businesses to lie and mislead vendors, risk the products falling into the hands of underage drinkers and ultimately deprive consumers of the opportunity to get the products they want. Support beer equality and free and fair trade by contacting your state government today.

      • March 10, 2010 at 1:09 am #

        Nicely said, Rick. Probably the best direction to head. Not the fastest. And, not going to help your online business any time soon, but you don’t want to take down an entire industry, as you said. It may not be operating totally above board, but at least it’s operating. And the longer it operates, the easier it may become to totally legitimize later.

        Thanks for your efforts. Just sorry your online store has to be the unfortunate catalyst driving them.

  11. Amber
    November 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Perhaps a look at who serves on the boards of those shipping companies might reveal
    some clues. I understand that the owner of a major brewery may serve on one of the boards.

    • Don
      November 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

      Ahhh the ol’ conspiracy theory in action! I like the way you think Amber. You might be correct.

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