HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner on Tuesday criticized the state's experiment with wine vending machines and said the way to best achieve customer convenience is to keep the state-controlled wine and liquor stores open longer.
Wagner said the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board should eliminate the program that places wine vending machines, or kiosks, in supermarkets if it cannot be run more profitably.
"We agree with PLCB that innovation should always be a top priority with regard to customer convenience, which was a specific goal of the kiosk program," Wagner said. "However, the most fundamental goal that needs to occur within the PLCB and state government - through action by the General Assembly - is greater customer convenience by opening all PLCB stores seven days a week, 12 hours a day."
Wagner said most of the approximately 600 state liquor stores are open only five or six days a week, and the ones that are open seven days a week have limited hours on Sundays. The Legislature limits the hours that stores can open, and the liquor board also limits the amount of time some stores stay open.
Liquor board CEO Joe Conti said he agrees that stores should be allowed to be open longer. The stores may be in for more drastic changes, however, because Gov. Tom Corbett and some state lawmakers want to privatize them.
Wagner said his auditors found that the liquor board spent $1.1 million more to operate the wine vending machines than they took in through June 30. Currently, 22 kiosks are in supermarkets.
The vending machines' contractor, Simple Brands LLC, contends that mechanical problems now affect less than 0.5 percent of transactions, and even before software changes the machines, at their worst, had problems with less than 1 percent of transactions.