Take Two for August 5, 2013

US Postal Service considers lifting alcohol shipping ban

Champagne sits on the counter of Vintage

WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

Champagne sits on the counter of Vintage Cellars in the upmarket Melbourne suburb of South Yarra, on October 24, 2008.

With the US Postal Service losing $15 billion each year, it's looking into everything it can to make up that deficit. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has proposed one idea: make it legal for you to ship alcoholic beverages through the mail.

So the next time you visit Napa or tour your favorite craft brewer, you can skip the UPS or FedEx counter (where it is legal to ship alcohol) and ship your vinos through the post office, and maybe pay a lower rate.

While this sounds a lot more convenient, not everyone is keen on the idea.

“The people opposed to this are really those who are already shipping alcohol by mail,” says Nancy Pope, curator at the National Postal Museum at the Smithsonian.

There’s a lot of work involved in shipping alcohol, Pope says, as it is regulated by each individual state.

“So, if you have a company that’s doing all that work for you, then … they are the ones who are making the big bucks, and they are big bucks,” Pope says.

Shipping costs from California to D.C., for example, could cost anywhere from $19 to $80.

“And that’s before the packing materials,” Pope says. “So, the postal service would obviously be much cheaper than that. They would have a standardized rate, nationwide, which is what they do, and that’s cutting into a lot of people’s business.”

It’s estimated that, if the US Postal Service did allow alcohol to be shipped, the proposed plan could bring in about $50 million a year – a drop in the wine bottle with a reported multi-billion dollar loss.

Other ideas that have been thrown around include eliminating Saturday mail delivery, but Congress has since delayed those plans

Nuran Alteir contributed to this online article.


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