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Glass looking half-empty for wine kiosks

The hits keep coming to Pennsylvania's wine kiosk program. Not only did Wal-Mart announce last week that it's cancelling a contract that would have placed self-service wine kiosks in 23 stores throughout the state, but Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania's auditor general, has issued a statement recommending that the plug be pulled on the entire experiment.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board began selling wine via automated kiosks throuhgout supermarkets last year in hopes of improving customer convenience and increasing revenues to state government.

The kiosks did neither, according to the results of Wagner's special performance audit. As of June 30, 2011, the PLCB spent more to operate the kiosks than it took in, resulting in an operating shortfall of $1.12 million, mostly due from operational issues. Mechanical and technological malfunctions forced the PLCB to shut down the kiosks in all 29 supermarkets on Dec. 21, during the height of the busy Christmas shopping season. Also, auditors found that from October through December of last year, there was a problem with one in every 21 kiosk transactions.

Wagner said the PCLB should take immediate steps to terminate its contract with Simple Brands LLC of Conshohocken if kiosk operations can't be modified to meet the originally stated objectives. If the PCLB chooses not to terminate the agreement, however, he said it should continue be more aggressive in holding the kiosk vendor accountable for ensuring that all kiosks are fully functional at all times. The board should also work with the General Assembly to pass legislation to allow all kiosks to be open 9 a.m. to midnight daily if housed in stores that are open during those hours.

For more stories like this, visit our Custom Kiosk Research Center.

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