PA wine vending kiosks malfunction

The wine marketing world has been keeping an eye on Pennsylvania, where wine vending machines have been placed in certain grocery stores on a trial basis.

The first reports are not good.

More than 700 kiosk problems were reported to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board between June 24 and Dec. 20, according to a report in the Patriot-News, citing its review of the agency’s call center log obtained through a Right to Know request.

The kiosks, located in 29 supermarkets across the commonwealth, are being tested to see if they actually provide more convenient service to consumers who otherwise would have to visit a state store to purchase wine. Customers have to pass a blood alcohol breath test to use them.

It was revealed that all of the kiosks were shut down on December 21 after bottles failed to dispense in one of every 150 to 175 transactions. The newspaper said more than 150 calls reported that kiosk screens froze, were lagging or did not show any words. More than 100 other reports said the kiosk shut down, showed error messages or the screen went black.

About 130 reports dealt with customers’ ID cards not scanning, getting stuck in the machine or prompting an ID hardware error message, according to the paper’s analysis.

Other problems included kiosk doors not unlocking, plastic shields not rotating to dispense the bottle or staying open after a transaction, Breathalyzer pads requiring multiple attempts and receipts not printing.

Jim Lesser, CEO of Simple Brands, the developer of the Pronto wine kiosks, said many of the reported problems stemmed from faulty resistors and problems with circuit boards. He said the company replaced circuit boards and tens of thousands of resistors, realigned receipt printers and installed faster processors to speed transactions.

Five or six kiosks are to be reopened Tuesday of this week on a trial basis for a week. If no problems are encountered, the rest will be put back into service.

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