how do you ship alcohol legally?
April 18, 2010 7:04 PM   Subscribe

What would be the best way to send a friend a $1000 bottle of 80 proof alcohol from Minnesota to California? Needless to say I want to break no laws and need it to reach its destination. (sender and recipient are both over 21 years old) Again: It is a priority that NO laws are broken. thanks!
posted by santogold to Food & Drink (25 answers total)
I don't think you're going to run into a law issue here, but shipping company rules.

I would craig's list for someone making that trip, pack it carefully, and pay someone to carry it for you, with half the fee paid at the other end....
posted by HuronBob at 7:11 PM on April 18, 2010

I'll only tell you if you give me two shots.

OK, I've never sent any alcohol that expensive, but I sent (fairly expensive) wine almost every Christmas for years. This is interstate and for personal use, I can't think that any laws are involved, any more than if you were driving it yourself, and I've never been asked about it though I've put wine on the shipping lists.

So I'd think any insured carrier (USPS, UPS...) would be fine, and would also be the best ones to ask. I bet you get better answers, but if you don't memail me, and I'll send you an address for those shots.
posted by Some1 at 7:14 PM on April 18, 2010

usps, ups, and fedex will not ship alcohol.
posted by HuronBob at 7:17 PM on April 18, 2010

I recently tried to ship a few bottles of wine from Minnesota to California and could not get a shipping company to do it. I was unwilling to stay mum on the contents of the box and once I told them I was shipping alcohol, UPS and Fedex wanted nothing to do with it. I didn't check with USPS because their tracking system was unsatisfactory to me. I finally put the bottles in my suitcase and took them myself. So unless you are willing to lie-and I would not with an expensive bottle like that-I think you're going to have to get someone to take it for you.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:18 PM on April 18, 2010

It's illegal to ship alcohol via USPS, and it is against company policy to do it via ups or fedex -- though, unlike USPS, not illegal.
posted by brainmouse at 7:19 PM on April 18, 2010

I'd take it myself, as carry-on luggage on a jet.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:22 PM on April 18, 2010

usps, ups, and fedex will not ship alcohol.

False. I used to work for UPS -- we shipped Alcohol all the time.

I'm not sure if you need a permit to ship it, but there's a special designation/sticker that alcohol-containing packages receive. The DIAD (the dirty brown computer thing that you sign) also instructs the driver to get a 21+ signature for the package.

I'd take it to a UPS store (or Kinkos). Tell them what you're trying to do, and they should be able to help you. Also make sure to inform them of the value of your package -- UPS does insure, and high-value items set another trigger in the computer to alert the driver to be really, really careful. (However, $1000 might not be enough to trigger this flag -- again, ask at the store. Be warned that UPS sorts its packages by literally throwing them)
posted by schmod at 7:36 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

you can't carry on liquids. You can pack them and send them via your checked luggage.
posted by HuronBob at 7:36 PM on April 18, 2010

From ups site "UPS provides wine shipping services for approved customers who are licensed to ship wine. Select the links below to learn more about our program."

I assume you don't have a license to ship alcohol...
posted by HuronBob at 7:37 PM on April 18, 2010

ugh-oh. Well, I have definitely done this (with UPS) and never been asked - I did scan the forms, and I think I listed wine, but who knows. Anyway...
posted by Some1 at 7:37 PM on April 18, 2010

I sent you a Memail.
posted by cabingirl at 7:51 PM on April 18, 2010

You can definitely do it from UPS, but perhaps not at all locations. My friend needed to ship a bottle of wine recently and our local UPS Store couldn't do it, but they directed us to a larger location that could (so WE didn't need a license, but it appears to the store DOES - so call ahead).
posted by alaijmw at 8:42 PM on April 18, 2010

Call UPS to get a definitive answer. One time I shipped a bottle of whiskey via UPS. When they asked me what was in the package I said "Whiskey" the guy behind the counter said "You're mistaken. We can't ship alcohol, so what's really in the box?" "Uh... An antique bottle?" "Perfect."

So clearly everyone's mileage varies.
posted by Ookseer at 8:52 PM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Looking further into the issue, it seems like this varies state-to-state. You may need a license in some states, but not in others.

The only thing that's 100% clear is that USPS won't do it for you.

Confusing. Looks like the prohibition's not really over.
posted by schmod at 8:54 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some UPS stores will definitely ship wine for private parties. But if you are buying a $1000 bottle id ask (and expect) the retailer to ship it for you.
posted by fshgrl at 9:01 PM on April 18, 2010

Here's a potential idea. How about contacting someone locally that already has a license to ship alcohol and see if they would send this package for you?
posted by special-k at 10:30 PM on April 18, 2010

Go to UPS. Not the UPS store, and not some other shitty store trying to get more money for doing the same service. Go TO UPS. Send it there. declare the value and contents. you will get it shipped.

USPS does not ship alcohol...and i never tried fedex because UPS never failed me.

insure it, though.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:51 AM on April 19, 2010

I used to live in Pennsylvania, and as far as I'm concerned they are liquor nazis. When you enter the state owned liquor store, you walk in and deal with state workers. Seriously dressed and act as they do at the DMV. Ok, maybe a little more personable. You can not buy liquor in PA without going thru the state. Online retailers will not ship to PA. So, if you wanted to have a bottle of wine, liquor, etc shipped, it could only be done through the store itself through their own catalog. I assume these states are why it's sometimes so difficult to do this.

Upon a quick search, neither of the states involved are one of these, so I'm going to assume it's somewhat easier.

On preview, sorry for all of the assuming. Just a suggestion :)
posted by phox at 4:15 AM on April 19, 2010

If I had a $1000 bottle of liquor that I wanted to give to a friend, I'd travel cross-country and share the bottle with my friend upon reaching my destination.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:30 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

But if you are buying a $1000 bottle id ask (and expect) the retailer to ship it for you...

This. A thousand times this. A $1,000 bottle of alcohol is, obviously, an extremely rare thing. Any reputable retailer will most certainly provide shipping for you. They don't want to risk loss any more than you do. If you already have the bottle in-hand, a good retailer (especially one that specializes in fine wines) will eagerly want to help you, regardless if you bought the bottle there. They will probably charge you a handling fee, but, that's small change compared to losing a 1k bottle of booze.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:38 AM on April 19, 2010

My local pack-und-ship store is very nice about these things. I've shipped homebrew to several states in the country and had no issues. In a previous askme question, I saw it recommended to describe it as perfume or marinade. I like the "antique bottle" angle too.
posted by plinth at 6:18 AM on April 19, 2010

what you are running into is a combination of taxation and monopoly issues.

taxation - states all have their own individual alcohol taxes and they don't want you moving booze across their borders without having paid it. this is why cincinnati police camp in the parking lot of the I-75 Cork & Bottle in Newport KY and follow cars with Ohio tags back over the bridge - to stop and charge them with bootlegging. it's a big ass fine.

some states/distributors deal with interstate movement laws by establishing offices/warehouses in the states in which they want to do business - eg: the consumer can't buy wine in california to be shipped from california to their home in florida, but they can buy wine from california that is then transported by the company from its california warehouse to its florida warehouse (a dummy office in boca raton, say), and then shipped to the consumer at his home in vero beach.

monopoly - major alcohol bottlers and distributors want to keep competition out of the states they dominate. anheuser busch, which distributes a crapload of other kinds of alcohol in primary states missouri and florida, got the florida legislature to pass some bizarre "bottle laws" that prevent any alcohol from being imported into the state that comes in containers of a volume that is not distributed by A-B. for example, 500 ml bottle of wine ok, if A-B sells wine in 500 ml bottles. 650 ml bottle of wine not ok, if A-B doesn't sell anything in that size bottle. here's one example that was changed about a decade ago in florida.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:57 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is probably chatfilter, but following from what toodleydoodley said--jeez America is weird. Australia Post sells winepaks, for gods sake. In one-bottle and two-bottle sizes.
posted by Logophiliac at 11:22 AM on April 19, 2010

Do you mind your recipient having to go to the airport? Or send a cab to pick up it. You could use an airline small package service (Delta calls theirs DASH.) It's fast and not too expensive. and I can't see any prohibitions on shipping booze.
posted by vespabelle at 12:44 PM on April 19, 2010

Haskell's should be able to tell you, they know everything. Email or call them:
posted by wenestvedt at 8:33 AM on April 20, 2010

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