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Aggressive customers prompt changes at Idaho liquor stores

November 1, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Instances of hoarding, illegal reselling and bad behavior by customers have caused the state agency that sells alcohol to change how it rolls out rare spirits at stores, officials said.

The Idaho State Liquor Division late last month announced new rules involving rare but highly sought after bourbons, whiskeys and other small-batch liquor offerings.

That combination has resulted in what the agency calls unsavory behavior by some customers that includes harassment of store workers.

The new rules mean the agency will now sporadically allocate rare products across its 67 retail outlets to create what it calls a “treasure hunt” approach. The agency also has stopped listing rare-product inventory on its website, and will only sell alcohol visible on store shelves.

The changes follow reports of shoppers getting “very aggressive with these products,” Tony Faraca, the Idaho State Liquor Division’s chief financial officer, told The Idaho Statesman.

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“We know that there is a lot of hoarding going on,” he said. “We know that there are illegal secondary sales going on. Our store employees are being harassed by these whiskey groups. It’s causing a lot of stress and turmoil with our staff.”

He said some groups try to buy up rare bottles that have limits of one per customer. Some customers, armed with inventory details, have tried to persuade employees to go into storage and dig through unopened boxes.

Now that the agency has stopped sharing inventory details, “our hope is that more people will get to partake in the rare product,” Faraca said.

Chris Schmierer, 45, of Nampa, runs a 150-member Facebook group called Boise Whiskey Enthusiasts. He said the group was aware that rare whiskeys would be arriving at stores in September.

“Every bourbon chaser on every delivery day was lining up,” Schmierer said. “It got really bad. It’s essentially like they created their own pandemic of bourbon. Instead of toilet paper, it was a run on bourbon.”

Schmierer said the state’s new approach does result in something of a treasure hunt, with bottles showing up unexpectedly.

“It’s just finding a unicorn in the wild now,” Schmierer said.

Faraca said the new rules are something of a work in progress.

“If this somehow turns out to be a terrible idea, then we’ll modify again,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep it as fair as possible, so as many people as possible can get our product at the manufacturer’s suggested price.”