It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, did you see that E-Bay has ended beer sales? Although I've never bought beer there
I have seen hundreds of posts daily last year that offered hard-to-get beers at sometimes,
make that usually, highly inflated prices. No harm,no foul to me but then the president of
Russian River Brewing, in Santa Rosa, Calif. got involved. She spotted the brewery's famed
Pliny the Elder, going for between $15 and $50 when it goes for around $5 (if you can get it) at
the brewery. Even more Russian River's discontinued Toronado anniversary beer, which sold
for about $25 at the brewery, was being auctioned for about $700 last year. That got her
angry. She was quoted as saying, "People were running liquor stores on eBay without any
accountability." She issued a statement citing the steps that her company took that black
market sellers are skipping: acquiring liquor and business licenses, paying sales, property and
other taxes and selling responsibly. She pointed out the dangers of selling to minors online or
the questions of who would be responsible if a drunk driver who'd bought beer sold illegally
online killed someone. All true but my guess she was angry her company wasn't getting a cut.
She went to state regulators, who set up a meeting with eBay who clamied they were unaware
of the practice (cough, cough) but would end it. Now they don't allow any container with
alcohol, even if it's considered collectible, to be auctioned.
No one who was forced to buy a beer on eBay however came forward to complain. Wait, no
one was ever forced to buy one. Who's protection whom from what? To me Russian River is
being a bit disingenuous since the eBay sales of rare beer helps to build the reputation of said
beers, ultimately leads to more profit for the breweries. So they don't lose. As for the high
prices no one can protect a fool from himself. Bill, it's calle caveat emptor. When your local
supermarket buys Cheerios from the manufacturer and resells it to us they can charge
whatever they won't. If their price is too high, no one will buy it. That's capitalism and it works
when left alone. When people stand in line for hours and hours to buy a limited release beer
no one blames the brewery. It's supply and demand.
Please don't rant on about licensing and safeguards. I agree totally with that. I'm simply
talking about a principle that legal goods should let the laws of the free market determine price
and availability. Repeat, within the law and as far as I can tell eBay sales of beer is fine it's the
shipping that is really at issue. Besides, I'd be willing to wager that the amount of beer that
ends up on eBay is an extremely small amount the of beer that's sold, so it's not like all the
"true beer" fans are going to be deprived. And as for those "true beer fans" just why do they
buy the maximum allotment and bring a few "friends" (mules) to brewery releases? Could it be
for trade? Hummm..... . And as for the people who say if you want the beer get your rear end
to the release party, well excuse me if I take the side of those lazy loafers who can't be
bothered to take a day off work, fly 3000 miles, and spend basically $1,000 to get a $7 beer!
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next
Hey Gina, Happy New Year to you too! My, you're worked up over this thing. Well, hope your
sitting down, because in general I agree with you. I said in general, so let's get a couple of
contraries in first. I do understand the dismay of the local supporters of a brewery that they
cannot get some special releases since much of the beer was scoped up for sale on eBay. In a
sense, the people who sustain the regular offerings of a brewery see some great brews taken out
of their hands by individuals who are only about profit.
Secondly, banning sales on eBay just might take away some of the quite outrageous "value" that
some people give to certain rare beers. Some eBay sellers are all about excessive pofiteering.
States have laws about price gouging which are designed tprotect the consumer. Stopping
eBay beer sales is not that dissimilar.
Gina, I do agree that the breweries are part of the problem. Instead of more Russian River type
complaining why don't they simply skip the entire 'release' day and just put beers up for sale
when they are ready, unannounced? Needless to say if they did that there would be no hype to
promote the beer and get people to buy it at an already hefty price. Frankly, brewers getting up
in arms about eBay seems like an inflated sense of entitlement to me. Something doesn't smell
right when a brewery (or any business for that matter) exercises their right to neglect an
enormously large demand for a product they are currently supplying. Breweries can't create
'hype' and then get upset that people want to try their beer and are willing to pay 'market' price.
For those who might wonder how the bottles get to people who turnaround and sell them on eBay
the answer is simple. Gina spoke about mules, and that's the answer. People go to release
events with "friends" and each buys the max of the individual allotment. The leader then takes all
the beers and resells them for a big profit in the secondary market in which eBay is a big part. Of
course some use their supply as trade bait in a multitude of forums which is only a bit different.
As for the ultimate end, people will ultimately tire of scrambling over intentionally limited bottle
releases and distain spending big bucks. If the free market prevails, I think the bubble will
eventually burst. Craft will lose its trendy fans, and a few breweries might even close. And that's
I believe eBay has its place. As long as it's legal, if someone has something that I want and they
want to sell it why should have the option to buy it? It's a simple premise that works for every
other merchandise category...why not beer?
Oh, Gina, you've seen my collection of rare beers and I think you'll agree it's not bad ( just being
modest - ha), well I've never sold or bought a beer on eBay, but that doesn't me you should not
be able to. Case closed.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.