open letter to the intertubes.

Dear Interwebs,

I recently lost a wager with a friend, and now I owe him a bottle of local wine.

I have procured the wine, but UPS and USPS refuse to ship bottled alcohol.  I fear there’s no way to get this delicious Piscassic Pond Halfsaett Honey Mead to my thirsty friend in Chicago, and I may have to end up holding on to it until we run into each other at Worldcon 2011 when I pick up my inevitable Hugo.

Can you help, dear almighty hivemind?  How is one supposed to ship wine across a state line for intoxication purposes without running afoul of Teh Fedz?


–Tipsy in New Hampshire


23 thoughts on “open letter to the intertubes.

  1. rfortier1796 says:

    Disclaimer: Any advice of mine you take, you are taking on your own understanding that I cannot be held responsible for your actions. I’m not MTV, so don’t blame me.

    Also, if someone from the .gov is reading this, I have never ever done this. Nor anything like it. I am an upstanding and law abiding citizen.

    Lie about it. Pack it up, make sure it is nice and cuddly in bubble wrap and packing peanuts, and leave it unmarked. Don’t go to a UPS or USPS, go to a small Pack and Mail store. You’ll have to pay something around a 50% markup as it is the standard at the pack and mail type places.

    They may ask you what you are mailing, they may not. If they do, well, just lie. Say it is something like a glass or a goblet or challice. I’d lean with one of the later two as the “I’m too cool for my own good” teenager behind the counter is gonna think you’re off and want to get you out of the store ASAP. In fact, the more like that you act, the more likely they are just going to want to get you out of the store quickly. Either way, they aren’t going to care enough to actually check what is in the box, and will take your word for it.

    Most pack and mail places offer insurance right off the bat for about $100 bucks at no cost to you. If you want to insure it for more, go for it. Pay the cost, and off it goes, with good chance that it’ll make it there just fine and dandy.

    To note, this is still less than legal. However It works quite well. Or so I’ve heard. I am sure that there is a more legal way to handle this that will cost you an arm and a leg and a proctology exam at your own expense. I guess it comes down to your definition of “running afoul”.

  2. 1. Styrofoam peanuts
    2. Box.
    3. Trebuchet.

  3. Antibubba says:

    I’d say you’re fortunate to live in a region famous for its vinegars; made from the finest grapes, gourmet vinegar can be an essential cooking ingredient…

  4. William the Coroner says:

    I’m not sure it’s the feds. The USPS is concerned about flammable materials–alcohol counts. The rest, the states have weird rules about alcohol distribution for tax purposes. You could

    1. Just wrap in bubble wrap, double box with styrofoam peanuts around the outer box, and shut up. Use FedEx and say it’s food.

    2. Use the internet and mail order from a place in Chi that’ll ship. Like a gourmet food house.

    Now, if you want THAT particular bottle, do A.

    3. Just go there and carry it yourself. I’ve carried booze back from Amsterdam and Florida. TSA might get pissy, but put it in your pelican case with your gun.

    4. Drive it already. Get a dictaphone and write your story as you drive.

  5. Don Gwinn says:

    You have to lose a bigger bet before you travel in person from Connecticut to Chicago.

    The really simple way is to buy the wine, put it on your mantel, and call him and tell him it’s ready whenever he wants to come get it.

    Simple, but not nice.

  6. Dave says:

    This is all hypothetical, but I would imagine that a person could follow previously posted advice and pack it well (think of that school experiment where you tried to see who could drop their egg from 100 feet without it breaking) and take it to the post office. If the hypothetical actor doesn’t include the correct return address, it can’t be easily traced back to him.

    A college roommate did just this – mailed a bottle of tequila and a bottle of rum to a friend on the opposite coast. Bottles arrived, unbroken, and were happily consumed.

  7. genie28 says:

    We once received a water clock from a relative in Germany.

    Said clock was uniquely made of cut glass crystal and the water was amber-gold and smelled like spiced apples. It is still on my parents’ mantle today although the clock part is defective in that the water keeps dehydrating or something.

  8. mail him a gift card for a gourmet wine shop that stocks an eclectic assortment that might include that local potion. or one for abc liquors that he can use for a big box o’ wine like the ones stacked in your kitchen.

    btw, what was the bet?


    • Marko says:

      He had an almost-finished play, I had an almost-finished novel. We set a deadline and wagered a bottle of wine. He finished first.

      • ah. well then, there’s another answer to the payoff. bet him double or nothin’ on whose work gets bought first…a play? that’s a bet you can’t lose.

        that’s also the answer to funding the next phase of wrangler ranch rehab…”I figure another fifty grand should do it, tops”…

        the advance alone should cover that.

  9. J T Bolt says:

    When I brewed professionally, I had to send 2 bottles of beer to the ATF to get permission to sell each brand. The nice ATF person told me to wrap em up really good and put “yeast samples” on the contents line of the package. I wasn’t about to NOT follow the instructions of the ATF. This was in the mid-90s, so I knew what happened to you if you crossed em. I didn’t even own a firearm at the time, so this was my only contact with them. (guns are bad. they can cause hearing damage, apparently.)

    The ATF told me how much alcohol was in those 2 bottles, btw. That’s all they told me, and probably all they did with them. I imagine they did the same thing with Zima and Miller Clear.

  10. William the Coroner says:

    On consideration, I believe this comes under the heading of de minimis non curat praetor for YOU, if not for UPS. The amount is one freakin’ bottle, as a gift, for non-commercial purposes. Now, it is not worth the paperwork hassle to jump through all the legal hoops for YOU, Tipsy. UPS handles a lot of stuff, and it is in their best interest to not be a wine/alcohol/tobacco/whatever distributor. Therefore, if you ship it, double boxed and wrapped, and call it “Honey Preserves” which is exactly what it IS. no one will really give a crap. If you are truly concerned, give a false return address, or just mangle yours.

  11. Stingray says:

    Last few times I shipped hooch I just packed it up good, took it to the USPS and had ’em stamp “FRAGILE” on it. They didn’t ask what it was and I didn’t feel particularly compelled to volunteer the info.

  12. Chip says:

    FedEx seems fine with it. I just yesterday got some booze delivered via them. Admittedly it was from a liquor distributor so maybe they have a special dispensation but I have got stuff shipped in twice. They won’t release the package to anyone under 21 or if you appear to be already plowed so plan ahead for that.

  13. Kristopher says:

    Shipping wine is complex … usually requiring a state license for the state you ship to.


    Back before Absinthe was legalized in the US, EU vendors would just use a courier company, and call it antique glassware.

  14. Tirno says:

    Before I had a TDY to Italy, the more senior (and prior enlisted) LT at my duty station, who has a penchant for wine, told me a story about a winery in Italy. This winery made a lovely wine from strawberries, but it was a rather high alcohol content, and in any event did not fit into the neat bureaucratic approval categories that is the surviving remnant of Mussolini’s concept of government, so they were not legally able to sell the wine.

    So they did not sell the wine.

    However, they did sell the most beautiful glass sculptures, mostly enclosed except for a small narrow opening at the top, on site only, no mail order or off-site sales. For the safety’s sake, for transporting the sculptures home, they packed the inside of the sculpture with a noncompressible fluid, and sealed the opening at the top with a spongy wood plug.

    It was considered best practice, when you arrived home, to remove the plug and drain the packing fluid before displaying the sculpture.

  15. MarkHB says:

    Good story, Tirno 🙂

    Though the whole “laws about shipping booze” thing confuses me. I didn’t know there was such an animal.

  16. Jeff says:

    I had some Absinthe shipped to me from the EU last year. It came USPS once it hit the states. I don’t recall what the customs forms said though. I have to admit that I was a bit worried when they made me come to the post office to pick it up.

    In your case I’d pack it really well, and ship it UPS, just do it online, and drop it off at a shipping center, (UPS Store, Office Depot, Office Max, etc…) I like the “honey preserves” idea for the description.

  17. Al T. says:

    I’d just dehydrate the wine, send him the powder and tell him to add water. 🙂

  18. ChrisTheEngineer says:

    Take it to fedex, declare it to be explosive (like tracer bullets, signal flares or primers) and pay the $20 hazmat fee in addition to the shipping. Really, it is all about the money. Plus you get a fine sticker for the package.

    Might be a problem for a recipient in Chicago, but you can send me such explosives (or single-malt) anytime.

  19. rickn8or says:

    Good advice, but I’m just trying to get my Father’s Day Bacon Vodka from Number One son in one corner of Tennessee to the opposite corner…

  20. ericn says:

    Bacon vodka???

Comments are closed.