DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s Liquor Enforcement Division told the Problem Solvers it’s investigating the home delivery ordering app Gopuff for possible violations of the state’s liquor laws.
FOX31 learned of the state’s investigation after it shared the case of a 15-year-old Denver girl who was able to order alcohol through the Gopuff app and have it delivered to a residential address.
The Problem Solvers have agreed to protect the identity of the girl and her mother after they agreed to share their story, warning others about how easy it was for a minor to order alcohol for home delivery.
Teen’s house party quickly goes awry
The mother reached out to FOX31 after the weekend of Oct. 27, when she discovered her daughter had been able to supply alcohol to her friends at a house party.
“So we established very serious ground rules: 20 kids only, I needed to know the names — first and last — of all the kids. We had two adults here. We would come down every half hour or so and check on the kids or if it got too loud,” said the Denver mom, who thought she did everything right when she agreed to allow her daughter to host a party that was supposed to be alcohol-free.
“So this party lasted about 2 hours, and that was enough for all hell to break loose,” said the mom, who soon found Gopuff delivery bags hidden in a bedroom.
That’s when her daughter confessed she had bought alcohol online through the Gopuff app.
“And then I went back through her texts, and immediately it was clear she had not only purchased alcohol that night, she had purchased it other nights before,” said the mom, who admitted she had never even heard of Gopuff before.
How a 15-year-old got alcohol delivery in Denver
Gopuff is an online platform company based in Philadelphia. It’s similar to DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Drizly.
“It was really easy. I didn’t really have to do much” to obtain the alcohol, the 15-year-old girl said.
The teen told the Problem Solvers she wasn’t required to provide an ID on the app. She even made the order using her real name, but she had the alcohol delivered to a house up for sale around the corner from her home.
She said when the delivery driver arrived, he showed no suspicion that the girl was already standing outside in the dark in front of a house with a for-sale sign. He quickly scanned her ID, which she acknowledged was a fake Georgia driver’s license, with a Georgia address that didn’t match the Denver address on her order.
In addition, her fake driver’s license had a name that didn’t match her real name — the name she placed the order with.
Despite those red flags, especially her mistake of ordering with one name and presenting an ID with a different name, the girl said she had no worry the delivery driver was going to challenge her fake ID.
“No, because I thought it was just someone young, you know, not like someone owning a business,” the 15-year-old girl said.
She admitted she barely looks her age, let alone 21: “No, and all my friends said that.”
The mom said she feels that whoever delivered the alcohol didn’t thoroughly check the ID, adding her daughter doesn’t remotely look to be of legal drinking age.
“Respectfully to my daughter, I think 15 is pushing it. She’s very young. She’s also on the shorter side. … The fact that a 15-year-old can go online and get any kind of alcohol, and not just alcohol — vaping supplies, cigarettes, any number of things that we as parents assume that somehow they’re somewhat insulated from purchasing.”
No Colorado alcohol, delivery license for Gopuff
When FOX31 explained what happened to Josh Robinson, the president of Argonaut Liquor and Wine, he immediately responded: “That doesn’t surprise me at all.”
His Colfax Avenue business sells and delivers alcohol online but not for Gopuff, whose operations he calls “hugely problematic. I mean, you know, anybody can place an order on our website. They need a government ID to do so. But we check IDs. Our employees are trained in checking IDs. They know how to spot fakes, how to spot expired IDs.”
Gopuff does not have an alcohol or delivery license in Colorado. The online company told FOX31 it’s just an ordering platform that uses local liquor stores and those store’s employees to deliver the alcohol.
Gopuff told the Problem Solvers the following Denver liquor stores leverage Gopuff’s platform: Jewell Liquors, Wilmore Liquors, Park Avenue Wine & Spirits and Grapes & Grains Wine & Liquor.
Robinson said Gopuff’s business model allows it to escape blame or liability if alcohol is inadvertently delivered to a minor.
“Whereas if one of my drivers gets caught making an underage sale, there are huge fines,” Robinson said. “If that happens twice, I have to shut down for a week.”
“I looked on the app. I can’t find the name of the person who served my child,” the Denver mother complained. “I can’t even find where she purchased the alcohol from. All I know is that she received the alcohol from Gopuff.
In a statement to the Problem Solvers, Gopuff said:
“This alleged situation is completely unacceptable and we are investigating it with the Denver liquor stores listed on our platform. We have always taken the responsible sale and delivery of alcohol extremely seriously and remain committed to continually improving our processes and those of our partner stores. We will continue to collaborate with the liquor stores on our platform to further enhance the policies and procedures that facilitate responsible alcohol deliveries and prevent the sale of alcohol to minors. “Gopuff
A Gopuff spokesperson also said delivery people are still paid if they cancel an alcohol delivery order because the customer doesn’t appear to be over 21, and the company expects any driver found to have delivered alcohol to someone under the age of 21 to be terminated.
A Gopuff spokesperson also told FOX31 that delivery drivers are expected to carefully inspect and scan the customer’s ID using integrated technology within the Gopuff delivery app.
The spokesperson added that customers shopping on Gopuff are informed four times during the shopping, checkout and delivery process that an ID is required for delivery.
But the 15-year-old girl said there’s a reason why she chose to order through Gopuff rather than use her fake ID at a local liquor store.
“This felt a lot easier because, you know, at a liquor store, like if they accept someone underage, the police come and stuff. But if a random 25-year-old (driver) accepts you, they’re not getting in any trouble,” she said.
Her mother told FOX31 it was simply too easy for her daughter to get alcohol from Gopuff.
“Coming into a front yard late at night. It’s totally dark. My daughter presents an ID, and the person goes, ‘Yeah, that looks good.’ And hands her the alcohol. There’s no oversight. I have no idea who this person is. They have no idea who my daughter is. And there’s no accountability whatsoever,” she said.
Gopuff already under investigation in Colorado
Shannon Gray, a spokeswoman for Colorado’s Liquor Enforcement Division, told the Problem Solvers the state was already investigating Gopuff.
“Third-party aggregators cannot sell liquor through their websites,” Gray said. “They must connect the customer with a licensed liquor store with a valid delivery permit. The liquor licensee then processes the purchase and delivers the alcohol.”
The 15-year-old girl said what was supposed to be a fun party night turned into something truly concerning.
“One of the girls I was really worried about, she was, like, throwing up. And then, I mean, there were a few people throwing up, but I was just really worried we’re going to have to call an ambulance,” she said.
Gopuff told the Problem Solvers it has been able to identify who it believes ordered the alcohol in this case and has blocked her from its platform so the 15-year-old can’t order alcohol online again. It has also identified the liquor store it used to deliver the alcohol and confirms an employee scanned a fake ID, but the company said no disciplinary action has been taken against the delivery driver because it continues to investigate the exact circumstances of what went wrong.
Gopuff got in trouble with the state of Massachusetts earlier this year. The state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission revoked Gopuff’s license to operate on May 18, accusing the company of delivering alcohol to underage students at Boston College.
Gopuff immediately filed an injunction with the courts, which was granted, allowing the online platform to continue operating while the commission takes time to reconsider its decision.
In a statement to FOX31, Gopuff said: “We are pleased with the court’s decision and look forward to continuing to serve our customers across Massachusetts. We have always maintained a deep commitment to protecting underage consumers and quickly made several meaningful changes to our compliance processes when these violations were brought to our attention. Those changes included enhancing delivery partner education and communication around regulated product delivery, further strengthening operational compliance procedures, launching a secret shopper program, and implementing enhanced ID scanning technology, among other updates.”