I wrote an article for the Boston Globe on the rise of smartphone apps for making same-day alcohol deliveries. I think it’s an interesting phenomenon both because the legal ground is muddy, and because it’s an example of small startups working on the same-day delivery goal that’s preoccupying eBay and Amazon.
There’s also concern about enabling alcoholism. Online alcohol delivery hasn’t been studied, but I talked to researchers who looked at home delivery services in the 1990s. They don’t think it’s a good idea.
Dr. Mark Willenbring, a former director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research at the National Institutes of Health, has studied home delivery of alcohol. In 1996, he coauthored a report that found problem drinkers gravitated toward the services, probably for their convenience and relative anonymity.
The advent of easy-to-use Web-powered delivery services, Willenbring said, “would be very likely to increase consumption, rather substantially, especially among problem drinkers. All in all, I think it’s a very bad idea.”
Some alcoholics try to control their drinking by buying a limited amount of alcohol and staying in, but delivery services can confound that strategy, Willenbring said. He also found that problem drinkers were more likely to use delivery services if they lived in an urban area and didn’t have access to a vehicle.
“The clinical experience was that even people who couldn’t drive because they didn’t have a driver’s license, or because their family members had taken away their car keys, or were too sick to drive, a lot of them would use home delivery,” Willenbring said.