The United States Post Office (USPS) has come a long way since Benjamin Franklin became the service’s first Postmaster in 1775. Originally created to carry communications between Congress and the armies, today the USPS allows the shipping of all sorts of items from coconuts to diamonds.
Despite the continually expanding variety of goods the USPS accepts, the service still does not allow anyone to ship wine. The restriction includes wine retailers, distributors, and wholesalers alike. As private cargo carriers fill the void of transporting wine, we explored why the USPS remains on the alcohol shipping sidelines.
To understand why the USPS will not ship wine, we must go back nearly 200 years. In the mid-1800’s, the United States saw the first anti-alcohol movements begin to form. Alcohol consumption was more than three times greater than it is today.
Alcohol was seen as a great evil that tore apart the lives of many. Women and children felt the brunt of alcohol abuse by men. In addition to the havoc at home, alcohol was blamed for health problems, poverty, and crime. The result was the temperance movement of the 19th century.
As the temperance movement grew, so too did pressure on the local, state, and the federal government to outlaw alcohol. As the U.S. government was recoding many of the country’s penal statutes, anti-alcohol pressures witnessed their first victory. In 1909, eleven years before prohibition, all “spirituous, vinous, malted, fermented, or other intoxicating liquors” were barred from being shipped via the USPS.
Times have changed since 1909, except for Publication 52 of the US postal code restricting the shipment of alcohol. Yes, alcohol is technically a restricted item, not a prohibited item. However, the exception to shipping alcohol is limited to cold remedies and mouthwash, and between federal and state agencies.
The USPS has specifically prohibited five items from domestic shipping:
- Marijuana (medical or otherwise)
Alcohol is a part of a much larger restricted item list that includes, but is not limited to items such as:
- Dry ice
- Live animals
- Perishable goods
- Prescription drugs
- Alcoholic beverages
- Certain flammable items
Anyone who has questions about which items may or may not be shipped using the USPS should contact their local post office. And, while drinking wine may not be shipped USPS, there is one unique exception – the service may indeed carry cooking wine.
The U.S. Senate considered allowing the USPS to ship alcohol, specifically beer and wine. In 2012, the 100-seat chamber passed legislation as a way to help boost the service’s revenue. As with many pieces of legislation, the bill included a number of other proposals including:
- Five-day delivery
- Addition of retirement benefits
- Restructuring of health benefits
Unfortunately, the bill did not win out, and the USPS still is unable to capitalize on the growing demand for wine shipping services. Even if passed, the service would need to address a number of issues facing any shipping company.
Shipping alcohol to those who are underage could be avoided by requiring a delivery signature. There is also the issue of state laws that may prohibit the importation of wine. Currently, only 14 states allow out-of-state retailers to ship to them while 40 states allow state winery shipments to cross their border.
Private carriers have swooped in and fulfilled the need for licensed wine shippers who need to ship wine. Local couriers may sometimes be a good option for shipping locally. However, for most using one of the big three shipping companies is best:
Each company offers varying shipping solutions to businesses needing to ship across town or across the country. Carriers will provide services to those licensed to ship wine.
Whether shipping entire cases of wine or a single bottle of wine, your product is extremely delicate. If not handled and shipped properly, the recipient will receive a tainted, or worse, a broken bottle of wine. It is important to take steps to ensure your wine will be received exactly how it left your place of business.
If you are packaging wine on your own, purchase boxes capable of holding the weight of wine to be shipped. Secure multiple bottles inside with packaging material, securing the outside with strong adhesive tape. Make sure the box will not split or break under load.
Always request signature delivery from some to receive wine shipments. This will guarantee your package is not left on a front stoop. The enemy of wine is the elements. By forgoing a required delivery signature, packages could be left out in the hot sun, direct light, or freezing snow.
Depending on the value of your shipment, consider insuring your wine. Late deliveries could ruin wine, and in some circumstances, your package may not be delivered at all. Of course, insurance also provides protection against breakage.
Shipping wine is big business in today’s online and connected world. Perhaps one day the USPS will become tomorrow’s preferred wine shipper. But, until then, utilize the county’s top parcel carriers to expand your business’ reach.
Cabrella Shipping Insurance saves you up to 90% in shipping insurance costs for your wine shipments. Click the link below to find out how much Cabrella could save you!