Why you shouldn’t send your underage granddaughter a gift from Wine Country Gift Baskets

Avis Brown decides to brighten her 19-year-old granddaughter’s day by sending her a basket of holiday snacks from Wine Country Gift Baskets. This thoughtful gesture backfires in a big way when the company delivers a gift of wine to the young lady’s college dormitory instead.

Question:

I recently placed an order with Wine Country Gift Baskets. I wanted to send my granddaughter a basket of snacks to the University of Southern California. It arrived but wasn’t what I had ordered.

When it arrived, the package contained wine for my underage granddaughter. She does not drink alcohol, and I did not order her any alcohol! USC inspects incoming packages and discovered the wine. Now the school is forcing my granddaughter to complete an alcohol education course.

My granddaughter was still recovering from an illness and was in the middle of exams. This event caused her to be subjected to additional pressure. This is Wine Country Gift Baskets’ error.

I told Wine Country that it was illegal to deliver wine to underage students. They promised to look into it, but I have not heard from them. I would like an apology from Wine Country Gift Baskets. — Avis Robin, Berlin, Conn.

Answer:

Oh, no! What a shame. You just wanted to send your granddaughter some tasty treats — not get her into hot water with the powers-that-be at USC.

When you saw Wine Country Gift Baskets’ Polar Bear Tower, you knew it would be just the thing to get your granddaughter through the last weeks of the fall semester.

Wine Country Gift Baskets Polar Bear Tower

With thoughts of your granddaughter happily snacking on the goodies during her late night study sessions, you completed your order.

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Unfortunately, the scenario you imagined never happened. Not by a long shot.

Instead of your granddaughter calling to thank you, you received the awful news that something had gone haywire. The gift delivered to the dormitory was not cookies and cakes, but alcohol. And she was in trouble.

Yikes!

USC will confiscate Wine Country Gift Baskets

Because Wine Country Gift Baskets requires a signature upon delivery, an adult in the mail room had signed for the box. Presumably, the name “Wine Country” in the sender’s field set off alarm bells at the school. And the employee confiscated the box and reported it.

The University of Southern California has a strict policy against underage drinking and is committed to educating its students about the dangers of underage and excessive drinking. Its policy on alcohol violations reads:

IV. Violation of Alcohol and Drug Policy
Student involvement in underage consumption of alcohol or the manufacture, use, possession, distribution or sale of illicit drugs is a matter of concern to the university and will subject a student so involved to disciplinary action by the university. Dependent on the nature of the violation, university sanctions may include educational intervention, mandated community reparations, suspension, or expulsion aside from or in addition to prosecution under applicable state and federal laws. University action may be taken whether or not independent action is taken by civil authorities.

Alcohol and college students don’t mix

Given the many highly publicized incidents of minors injuring or killing themselves and others while under the influence of alcohol, it’s no wonder that the university confiscated the package.

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Your complaint had some blurry parts though — most likely because the story was being told by a third party (you). You reported that the university had immediately penalized your granddaughter for this delivery.

In fact, you said that USC had forced your granddaughter to take an alcohol education course as a result. Since we did not speak to your granddaughter, the sequence of events is unclear. However, the student handbook of USC states that to improve alcohol awareness all students must take this course.

All new undergraduate students entering USC are required, prior to arriving on campus, to complete AlcoholEdu for College. This is a web-based, alcohol abuse prevention program.

And then you accused Wine Country Gift Baskets of delivering alcohol to minors. But the representative explained that your granddaughter could never have received the package since the company requires an adult signature. In fact, the basket was never in your granddaughter’s possession.

The good news

Although you valued your damages at $1,000 in your request for help to our advocates, what you really wanted was an apology. You were embarrassed that your loving gesture to your granddaughter had backfired so spectacularly. And you wanted the university to clear your granddaughter’s name.

Wine Country readily admitted this mistake. It delivered a new alcohol-free gift basket and provided your requested apologies — and now all is well.

In the future, when sending a gift to a college dormitory you may want to steer clear of any company with the name of an alcoholic beverage in the title.

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Maybe next time just send a Candy-Gram!

Should Wine Country Gift Baskets provide further compensation for this misdelivery?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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