Thursday, April 19, 2018

The PLCB doesn't know business; just ask them

The PLCB plays at being a business, but they really don't know what they're doing. We've told you that many times. If you don't believe us, you can just listen to them. They'll make it pretty clear.

The PLCB -- the actual three member board, plus the so-called "executive director" Charles "Not a CEO, Nope, No Sir" Mooney -- testified in front of a joint meeting of the House Of Representatives Liquor Control Committee and Senate Law and Justice Committee about the effects of Act 39...especially about flexible pricing (you can read the whole transcript here). It's a big deal, these meetings and the change Act 39 brings, and the Board has to be ready for the legislators' questions.

And of course...they weren't. Apparently, they weren't really ready for flexible pricing, either, despite having asked for it for years. 

Let's start with the Chairman. Here's what he told the legislators when they started drilling him about why they hadn't simply negotiated lower prices to begin with; you know, with the huge "buying power" we always heard about. As we told you all along, the "buying power" bullshit was just that: bullshit. They never used it.

Holden: "If we would have sought lower product costs from suppliers, it would have resulted in reduced Commonwealth revenue due to the required application of a flat percentage markup and taxes." On face value, that would seem to make sense. Lower wholesale prices, run to a set mark-up formula to the shelf, means "reduced Commonwealth revenue," sure. Of course, it also means lower prices for us. You know, the citizens. But if it means the revenues are maximized, well, okay. After all, you can't make more money by lowering prices. 

But there ARE real businesses that make a profit doing exactly that. You may have heard of them: Walmart. Target. Aldi. Total Wine & Spirits. All of these real businesses, run by real business people, regularly make tons of money by cutting prices. It's established practice: lower your gross margin, so you make less money on each item; but at the same time the lower prices mean more sales, so you make more money overall. The PLCB doesn't get it; guess it's too much work. ("So many boxes to lift!")

They didn't need "flexible pricing," they could have been doing this all along. It's simple. For every item on the shelf, there is a price that will result in the maximum revenue. Higher, and sales decrease; lower, and total profit decreases. That price point is affected by things like competition, or price-matching, or sales, but the PLCB doesn't do any of those; they certainly don't have any significant legal competition. (And no, the PLCB does not have sales, at least, not in the usual sense: if the producers drop a price, the PLCB passes it through as is, and their slice of the pie remains exactly the same. They never cut prices, except on their ill-advised "clearance sales." Thanks, guys.)
Of course I'm lying. I don't know any of this math stuff.

But here's the thing that boggles the mind. Even under "flexible pricing," where they have to negotiate each price of the top 150 wine and spirits brands, they STILL aren't using this business tool. So while they are screwing the suppliers and consumers, it certainly isn't as satisfying as it should be for either of us. 

No, the PLCB wants to really ream us. "...brands that are not within the statutory definition of best selling wines and spirits continue to be governed by the proportional pricing requirement of the liquor code. For a future legislative consideration, we respectfully recommend that the same pricing flexibility be extended on all products sold by the PLCB." 


And there it is. It's not enough that they raise prices on the majority of the best-selling items, they want to do that to everything. Keep in mind that there is no institutional pricing oversight by the legislature (only these hearings where the legislators gets to chide the Board about prices, and the Board gets to say 'oh, yeah, guess so, whatever') and as always, nobody with any experience in the industry is leading this parade of monkeys down the path.


M
ore bumbling ensued as the hearing went on. The Chairman: "We made some mistakes at the initial supplier meetings. We asked suppliers for significant reductions to their product costs to increase our margin. But we failed to take a few things into consideration. We miscalculated the reaction of some of the largest suppliers of our best selling brands, who refused to come to the table at all." Imagine that. You said, 'Hey, we want to pay less for these brands everyone wants,' and companies that deal with sharpened pencils every day said 'That's nice. No.' After all, they sell the same products in neighboring states...that don't have the PLCB.

And once again, we suffer for the mistakes of ignorance, just as we have done for the past 83 years. While the Chairman was being the mouthpiece for this failure, it fully lies on Charlie Mooney. After 40 years in the PLCB, Mooney might know about graft, nepotism, bribes: it's apparently the way the PLCB runs. But it looks like he had no idea how the actual liquor industry (or any industry for that matter) worked.
So after blundering around for nine months, and hiring two specialists to help them figure out how to do this, and -- once again! -- paying an outside consulting firm to gather data, that all eventually led to this statement: "... pricing flexibility has resulted in a reduction of product acquisition costs for almost seven hundred products, retail prices decreases for more than one hundred and twenty products and retail price increases of a hundred twenty-five products."

Let me put that in English for you - they saved money on 580 products and you didn't see a dime of it. They raised prices on more items than they reduced prices, and of the top 10 selling liquor or wine items you saw a reduction on only one: a pint bottle of cheap vodka. Remember those top 10 items are the ones they should have the most leverage on, due to sales volume. They screwed us again. Of course they did.

SENATOR MCILHINNEY: "... the state citizens own this system, and they should be able to get some, any benefit by having a good deal when they go to the liquor store."
MR. HOLDEN: "Absolutely",
Except they aren't. We aren't. Weren't the legislators paying attention? We got NO benefit on 81% of the products that the PLCB paid a lower price for. They said so themselves.

Charlie Mooney also came up with: "Senator, we -- I am confident, without all the data in front of me, that, overall, consumer prices have decreased." Well Charlie, without having all the data in front of me, I call BULLSHIT. Especially after you raised prices on 422 items just because you had crap negotiating skills and didn't get what you wanted.

Maybe they should rename it the PLCB principle.

Remember that the PLCB has over $1.7 BILLION in liabilities, they are a drag on the economy of the state and stifle a free market where large and small businesses do not exist because of their continued presence in the marketplace. They do nothing for the citizens, unless you happen to be one that works there. Even Russia has free market liquor stores. Pennsylvania doesn't.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Not Quite 10 Years Ago...

It's not quite ten years since I started this blog with this post. It was on April 22, 2008, and I should probably do the 10th anniversary post next month, but...it's snowing like mad out there right now, and I'm not going to be able to go do brewery visits like I planned, so I'm doing it now. What's a month?

Ten years ago things were pretty bad; they were worse than they are today. The State Stores were not under any kind of real scrutiny, they didn't have a useful website, and there hadn't been a serious push for privatization in 20 years. Beer was sold at distributors -- by the case and keg only -- or at taverns -- only 2 sixers at a time, and at a stiff markup -- and that was it...except for the occasional weird exception. The Legislature was in a long period of inactivity on the Almighty Liquor Code. And I was losing my mind after seeing how booze was sold all over the country.

So I started this blog...and things changed. I don't take any credit for this. Much like the success of my other crusade, the Session Beer Project, I don't feel that I caused any change. I just had a very sensitive ear to the ground, and caught the rumors and mumblings before almost anyone else did. At the most, I may have suggested lines of inquiry to reporters (who picked up on the blog fairly early; as did a suspicious number of IP addresses in downtown Harrisburg), and if that worked, well, that's always been the main aim and hoped-for audience of the blog. (A big hat-tip and thanks to my co-writer, the pseudonymous Albert Brooks, who picked up the pen while I was sidelined for over two years and has done a GREAT job feeding facts to that audience.)

What happened in the past ten years? Here's the dumb stuff.

  • The PLCB spent $3.6 million on public image, advertising, and store layout, paid to a California-based marketing firm. They come up with a new name for the State Stores: "Table Leaf." In a rare rush of smarts, the PLCB realized that's idiotic (though they did keep an option on it; see below), and decided to go with the basic stupid rename: Fine Wine and Good Spirits Store. Governor Rendell was furious...and the PLCB blatantly didn't care. Your money wasted: it's a monopoly (a police-enforced monopoly, as we would point out many times), there's no need for marketing.
  • The aptly-named Special Liquor Order (and they call it SLO, you can't make this up) system broke down again, and again, and again...
  • The PLCB so badly screwed up their new inventory system in 2011 that store managers over-ordered so much wine that they had to store almost 100,000 cases of it in tractor-trailers...un-air conditioned trailers, in the summer. Renting the trailers and hiring security guards cost about $500,000. (Numbers are from an Auditor General report.) Good job, morons!
  • Around 20 State Stores closed. A bunch more were moved for arbitrary reasons without input from local communities. And of course, we revealed that ten counties in Pennsylvania have only ONE State Store. There are ten others with only two.
  • The Courtesy Contract. The PLCB spent $173,820 on training State Store System clerks "how to greet someone, where to stand, and how to read a customer's cues." And the company doing the training belonged to a PLCB regional manager's spouse. Real nice. 
  • We saw several ethics investigations of the PLCB (one of which struck paydirt) and several harshly worded audits. The marketing director was found guilty of fraud...back in 2015, and he still has not been sentenced. Speculation is that he is cooperating in further federal investigations. Conti must be spooked. 
  • We saw again and again that the PLCB often actively made it harder for licensees and wholesalers and brewers to sell beer. You know...their only competition in the booze biz. Not bad, when you make the rules. This included the harassment of three Philly bars and a major Philly beer wholesaler for selling "unregistered" beer, carried out by the BLCE and supported by the PLCB (and their soon-to-be-exposed flawed database). After armed raids, seizures of beer, disruption of private (beer) business, and a full-blown legislative hearing...the result was a warning letter. Harassment, and they should have been sued. 
  • The Saga of Joe "Da CEO" Conti, from his disappearance, to his greatest failure, to his ignominious end, to his unlikely (and lucrative) return. We miss his shenanigans; his constantly wrong-footed instincts were the best thing that ever happened to privatization. 
  • The Wine Kiosks. Nothing more need be said. Possibly their biggest failure in the last 40 years, and that's saying something. 
  • Table Leaf: the brand. As mentioned above, they'd already (over)paid for this branding, so they used it for a house brand of wine. And then they decided to wield it as a weapon against their biggest suppliers...and Pennsylvania wineries. Who brought it to the Legislature's attention, and that was the end of another PLCB fiasco.
  • Privatization was repeatedly brought up by the House, and squashed in the Senate, mainly thanks to the efforts of Senator Chuck McIlhinney.
  • But in all the past ten years, the very worst thing that happened was that the Legislature let the PLCB have the one thing that they never should have: so-called "flexible pricing." This is the idea that the PLCB should not be forced to use the same set mark-up on every item; when they got a deal, they could pass it on (which is bullshit: they could always have done that). What it really means is that they charge more; we told you that for years, and golly, it was true. We're stuck with it, too.
    Ah, the wine kiosk. The Best Worst Thing.
Wow. I know I'm missing stuff, but those are the big ones. Yet somehow, these ding-dongs are still in business, still the sole wholesaler of wine and spirits in the state despite continual screw-ups.

Meanwhile, we did get some things, although almost all of them were mixed blessings. 
All right, break it up!
  • The case law is finally gone! That was one of the big ones. We no longer have to buy an entire case of beer at the distributor. That'd be great, except we still can only buy a 12-pack at bars and grocery stores (more on that shortly), then walk out the door and walk back in and buy another...What kind of bullshit is that?
  • We can buy beer and wine in grocery stores and convenience stores!! HOT DAMN! Whoa there, hoss. We can buy beer and wine in places that hold a restaurant license; that's always been true, but now these stores can buy those licenses (for as much as $500,000!), and put in a 'cafe' that seats at least 30, and sell sixpacks. About 450-odd stores have done so, out of the thousands in the state. So don't wet yourself with glee. And remember: a 12-pack of beer, or four bottles of wine, and it's out the door you go
  • Direct wine shipment (and beer...but not liquor) is now a thing. That's a big deal for a small number of people. 
  • The PLCB had to start telling the truth about their financials; specifically, their deep pension debt. And just like that, they were no longer making money, net of taxes. They still are paying money into the General Fund, because they have to, but they're doing it out of reserve assets. The day of reckoning is coming. 
  • We got some really cool stuff: Pennsylvania booze producers can cross-sell their products. A winery can sell PA-produced beer, cider, spirits, mead...and, what, kvass, I guess? Any of that. And they can have satellite stores off their main production premises, which can also sell those other products, which has led to Pennsylvania Libations, the first privately-owned liquor store in Pennsylvania in almost 100 years. And that's cool. 
  • About a thousand (I think) liquor licenses were blown out of escrow and auctioned off. Mostly picked up by grocery stores. So that's kind of good, but...all those grocery stores buying bar licenses is making the price of a license go up, a lot in some places, and that's putting the squeeze on indie mom-and-pop bars and groceries. This is going to give us a lot more chain groceries and chain restaurants, and that, my friends, ain't optimal
That's all I can think of right now. There have been some other side effects. One, the PLCB is running scared, and the selection is about as good as it's been in a while. (You're a fool if you think that will continue if the privatization talk dies down, so let's keep 'em scared.) Two, the BLCE has been scared to do any enforcement of the monopoly, so we can buy out of state with impunity. Three, people have a lower opinion of the PLCB these days after the corruption charges, and that's good. Four, McIlhinney's retiring, and maybe we can get someone who really gets it in there.
OTOH...The GOP has, overall, been a huge friend to privatization of the PLCB in the past 40 years, despite numerous missteps. The unpopularity of the Trump administration may lead to a loss of the solid GOP majority in the General Assembly. Overall, that's how things go, but for this issue? If the Democrats gain a majority, or cut the GOP majority, you can kiss further progress good-bye. Because the Dems have made it crystal-clear that they are opposed to any further privatization of the State Store System. We'll just have to wait and see.

Overall, though? Good progress at the 10-year mark. We got rid of the case law, and the PLCB's sales are suffering from the wine sales at groceries. This is what union boss Wendell W. "Windy Wendy" Young IV referred to as "the death of a thousand cuts." Here's hoping he's right about that, and that "flexible pricing" doesn't bleed us to death in the meantime.

I feel for you folks who are far from a border. If Philly were where State College is, away from the liquor stores of Jersey and Delaware, the PLCB would have been long gone. Let's keep the pressure on.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Don't Let Them Fool You

The PLCB just put out their latest Retail Year In Review, patting themselves on the back — again — about how great the State Stores are doing! Yahoo! It's all here! Just don't look too closely at the numbers!

Because if you do look closely, peek under the gloss and sparkles, you can see just how crappy a job they are doing. Let's start with the record sales. Let's see: police controlled monopoly, citizens can't go anywhere else, rising prices, increased population... It would probably take a real marketing genius to have record sales under those conditions. And take a look at those record sales in the hottest market category - American Whiskey: the PLCB's growth there is less than the national average increase in sales. Not just a little less, it is about 30% less. Imagine how much more in taxes would be collected if Pennsylvania was able to match the strongest national trend in booze sales for just that one category.

The PLCB is over $1 BILLION in debt
Of course, our old friend Jack Daniel's isn't forgotten; after years of us saying that it isn't a bourbon, the PLCB in their normal bout of incompetency gets it half right. On page 32, table 19 of the report there is Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack sitting in the number 10 spot for "bourbon." At least they didn't have JD #7 listed 3 times like they did last year (page 30, Table 19). It is hard to say if they left it out because it isn't bourbon or they just screwed the table up.

To prove they are keeping up with the "modern lifestyle," a whole one tenth of one percent (0.11%) of sales came from the Internet, which is really pathetic in this day and age for a retail company. Pathetic is the key word when talking about the PLCB's technology track record. Can you say "wine kiosk"?

Then there is the problem of saying things to make yourself look good, even when the numbers that you provide don't always match up with reality.  For most of us this is called lying, for the PLCB it's called "how we do business." Let's look at those "increased sales".  First we have the sales for 2015-2016 from the Retail Year In Review.  On page 4 it lists total sales of $2,303,405,801. On page 5 it lists sales by month and transaction; it doesn't total them up, but have no fear, I did it for you.

Notice that the total is about $23.5 million different. The PLCB doesn't say why, and apparently we don't deserve an explanation.

The next table is for the year 2016-17. Again, the monthly sales in total don't match the total listed by the PLCB on page 4 of the current Retail Year In Review ($2,443,725,791). Only this time, it is $76.5 million that has disappeared. Remember, as the owners of this mess this is our money, and I'd like to know where that $76.5 million is.


Here you'll see that the number of transactions was fairly flat, increasing only by 0.91%, while sales dollars went up 3.8%. What this tells us is that the citizens bought 1% more often, but it cost them 3.8% more each time, well above the inflation rate of 2.1%

Retail alcohol is one of the few major sales items where the individual product is elastic (in economic terms, this means that a small change in price can mean a large change in sales), because there are so many suitable substitutes. If your favorite vodka goes up, you can easily find another at a price you are more comfortable paying. The industry as a whole, though, is inelastic, meaning that people are going to pay for some form of the product no matter what the price changes to. The PLCB knows this (probably because they hired somebody to explain it to them), so they will increase prices and not have it affect overall sales that much, if at all. They are doing that right now, through the old variable pricing trick they foisted upon the public (and the gullible Legislature).

So now that you have real numbers in front of you, you have to ask where the PLCB came up with an "average statewide increase of 6.10%", when the numbers they give us don't match? What numbers are we supposed to believe Table 4 or Table 5? And why should be believe anything the PLCB tells us, given their history of anti-consumer behavior, their predisposition to screwing us? Why aren't they capable of making the sales numbers match on their own damn report? As far as that goes, why, in this age of almost instant information access does it take them six months to put this report out? Find another $2 billion business that takes that long...go ahead, I'll wait.

Face it, the PLCB does NOTHING for the citizens except cost them more in the long run. Remember: they are a BILLION dollars in debt and it isn't getting any smaller.

Privatize.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A closer look at the PLCB Cash Cow

The PLCB and the UFCW (the State Store clerks' union) have always fed the public (and the Legislature) a big lie about the PLCB Cash Cow. They make it sound like their bulging bovine is comprised of nothing but filet mignon, and shits millions into the General Fund.
What they want you to think
However, the Federal Government doesn't think so and with new accounting rules in effect, the real value of the PLCB is more starkly in focus. Remember a couple years ago, when pension debt was required to be included in the annual report, showing that the incompetents in Harrisburg were really $240 million in debt? Now other benefits besides just pensions have to be taken into account, and it turns out that the PLCB is OVER A BILLION BUCKS IN DEBT. with total liabilities of over $1.7 billion! Yup, billion.  With a 'B.'*

Let me say that again. The agency that has been stealing from the public and short-changing the clerks the benefits it promised (which it could never afford to begin with) for over 80 years, while telling us all that it makes money...is over A BILLION DOLLARS in debt.

Don't believe me?  Why not ask the PLCB themselves? Here's the minutes from their December 6th meeting; take a look at page 9.
The reality of 80 years of lies.
What does it mean? It means that even with stealing more from you with "flexible pricing," even after screwing us with rising prices just because they want to, even after cheating us out of the discounts given by the suppliers, even after purposely working against PA businesses with imported house brands...they still need more...a lot more. The lying political hack they call a Chairman could barely keep a straight face when he told this whopper: "And, as we’ve said all along, prices will increase for some items, when the supplier and PLCB agree that the market can bear the increase." 

Looking at page 10 of the minutes you can see that for October they claim a profit (Change in net position) of $8,623,941. That means that if they didn't do anything else besides pay down debt, it would take ten years just to break even for the debt due today. Of course, they would be accruing more debt, new debt during those same 10 years. This is a Ponzi scheme worthy of Bernie Madoff. No wonder they worked so hard trying to get the Governor's borrowing plan into place. It would further obligate the citizens into paying off their debts and for the next 20 years keep the people who care about limited government and fair treatment for the citizenry at bay.

What does it take to be rid of them? How incompetent do they have to be? How anti-consumer will they get trying to pay off what they owe? You know where this money has to come from, don't you? I got a hint: the wallet of someone you know really, really well.

Can we afford to keep the PLCB's cash cow? Are state stores worth it? 3,500 clerks should not hold hostage a state of 12 million people. Privatize.


(*) Now $1.8 Billion in liabilities for January)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Gift That Keeps On Taking

Giving and getting booze as a gift in Pennsylvania is no easy feat.

Given the police-enforced monopoly that is Pennsylvania's wine and spirits marketplace, you might expect that there are laws to fence off all possible ways around those restrictions; for instance, no "gifts" of booze (that are then surreptitiously reciprocated with cash). But if you thought there was a one bottle or a case exception for honest gifts, you would be wrong. You still have to give the state its cut, even on a gift.

And you know who is responsible to pay the fees, taxes, and unknown markup on that bottle? Not the person giving, but the person receiving. A good friend of the blog recently quizzed the PLCB about all the steps necessary to give some hard to find, not available in PA no way no how, honest to goodness collectible booze to a PA resident. Here's what they learned.

As a rule it is generally unlawful for anyone, other than the PLCB or the holder of an importer’s license or a direct wine shipper license (or a sacramental wine license), to "import" any liquor (including wine) into Pennsylvania. 47 P.S. §§ 4-491(8), (11).

No problem, you think, I'm not bringing it in, someone else did and gave it to me. Ah, but it is also generally unlawful for anyone, other than a manufacturer, the PLCB, the holder of a sacramental wine license, or the holder of an importer license, to possess or transport any liquor or alcohol within the Commonwealth that was not lawfully acquired from the PLCB, a PLCB-licensed limited winery, a PLCB-licensed distillery, a PLCB-licensed limited distillery, a PLCB-licensed direct wine shipper, or a PLCB-licensed retailer holding a wine expanded permit. 47 P.S. §§ 4-415, 4-488, 4-491(2), 5-505.2, 5-505.4.

OK, so how do you LEGALLY get that bottle into the state so you can give it to somebody? Short answer: you can't. In a moment of supreme bureaucratic idiocy it was decided that the recipient has to do all the work. Why?  All I can come up with is that the PLCB can't screw an out of state person like they can screw a PA resident.


So if you go ahead and just illegally give that bottle to somebody in PA? Here's what they have to do, if they want to legally keep it and not just flush it down the toilet and deny all knowledge when the BLCE comes busting in.

BLCE!! HAND OVER THE GRAPPA! NOW!!
First, they have to know exactly what you are giving them...ahead of time (which kinda ruins any surprise if that was your intent). Then they have to fill out an application for importation and an application for the payment of tax on the liquor to be filed with the PLCB’s Bureau of Product Selection by the intended gift recipient (i.e., the person importing the liquor). (40 Pa. Code§ 9.51.) No word on how long it takes to get that information (because nobody in their right mind has ever done it).

Once it has been decided by the Bureau of Product Selection what fees and markup and service charge (remember that this is a SERVICE to allow you to bypass the incompetents in Harrisburg) to apply, you then have to contact the Department Of  Revenue, because the state taxes on the liquor would be levied by the Department of Revenue, and they have to determine the amount of taxes that would be owed on the gift, if any. If they're confused by this, tell them the PLCB sent you.

(By this time, you may be wondering: if Revenue is collecting the taxes, and the BLCE is doing the enforcement...if we got rid of the State Stores, what would we need the PLCB for? Good question.)

If you want to try and figure out approximately what the fees are yourself, before committing to this mindstorm of bureaucracy - be prepared to wait. It took two weeks to drag the info out of the Bureau of Product selection. They finally sent a reference to 40 Pa. Code § 9.52. Why did that take fourteen days? Probably because nobody in organizational memory had ever been asked the question before. You know...because an ordinary citizen would just give their friend the bottle of booze and be done with it. 

Once that is done, hopefully before you are too old to enjoy your gift, you have to go back to the PLCB’s Bureau of Product Selection and turn in your application for importation and an application for the payment of tax on the liquor (which Revenue gave you). Now even though you have paid the tax, the fees, the markup, and the service charge, the Board can still say no because they have monopoly power and there is no legal recourse for you to appeal to if they are feeling a little bitchy that day.

Think you are done? Of course not! Your friend can't just drive across the border with with his gift. Horrors! The world will come to an end. No, the State has to maintain CONTROL by having you hire a Transporter for Hire Class A or Class C licensee to bring it to your residence. Yeah, really. And by the time this is all over, you'll want to remember to tell your friend to please never bring you another gift.

By the way, if you decide you don't like the gift and want to sell it -- because it is, after all, your legal property -- then just turn it in to any State Store and they will take care of it for you. "But what about the money?" you ask? Don't worry, it won't cost you a penny! Really. You don't get any proceeds from the sale...but your conscience will be clear knowing you didn't break the law. I'm not sure what happens if you sell a bottle when you are out of state but I'd bet the PLCB has some way to screw you if you do that too.
More Pennsylvanians than this buy or drink bootleg booze every day
Suppose this just was too much and the giver decides to say screw it, it is too much trouble for my buddy to go through, I'll just bring him some beer. Guess what? There are NO EXCEPTIONS for beer at all. No jump through the hoops while you kiss our ass paperwork hurdles, no forms to fill out, no taxes to pay. It is illegal, period, to bring beer into the state.

Don't believe me? Here is what the PLCB has to say about it: "The importation of malt or brewed beverages is governed by different sections of the Liquor Code, 47 P.S. §§ 4-431, 4-492(8), and no exception currently exists that would allow for the importation of gift malt or brewed beverages outside the otherwise authorized channels of distribution."

So I urge you to put on that mask, and join the tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who say, 'Up Yours, PLCB!' every day, and bring that cheaper beer, nicer wine, and better liquor in over the border in as much quantity as youu need as often as you want. Be an outlaw, be a Hero for Freedom of Choice. Perhaps I'll see you on the border.

Privatize.

Smuggler's Blues from Michael Dewey on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

PLCB buying power is a joke.

Well, it it that time of year again when the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) goes up for lottery. So how does PA fare as one of the largest buyers in the country? Worse than most control states and certainly worst than Total Wine.  Need proof?

Last year PA got an allotment of 165 bottles of George T Stagg, the most popular of bourbons in the BTAC, out of a release of 9.120 This year the total bottling of GTS is almost 29,000 more bottles and PA is getting.....you guessed it, 165 again. Maybe that is just an outlier you say. OK, let's looks at Thomas Handy Rye. PA got 408 bottles for the entire state out of a run of 11,944. This year they are getting 407 from a run of  14,021.
2017 BTAC, although the PLCB says it it 2016, but they are idiots.

Want to try another? Sazerac Rye stayed the same too even though production went up and W.L Weller also stayed the same even though production was up 42% over last year. Yeah I've got the numbers for them too if you really need them. 

So even if the allotments were just divided up by states and foreign sales PA got the short end of the stick by A LOT, It is even worse if you looked at it by a population allocation and we owe it all to the glorious leaders at the PLCB. They should hire some North Koreans, at least they have experience in allocating resources while screwing the public.


Now if you are like me you're thinking that this is what they get for trying to play hardball over purchase prices. We, the citizens and consumers, not only have to pay above list price to the ass-backward PLCB but their newly increased "buying power" gets us LESS of the products we want. Name another business that works like that? You can't - and if one did exist they wouldn't be in business because their competition would make sure they didn't survive.

So just let me say that you guys are doing a bang up job. The more stupid and incompetent things you keep dreaming up to do means the sooner we can be rid of you for good.

PRIVATIZE.

Monday, September 18, 2017

PLCB Stupid Inventory part 100

After five years of saying and showing the PLCB that they were screwing up the listings for their #1 selling "bourbon" — as Chairman Tim Holden likes to call it — the PLCB has almost managed to get their listings for Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey correct. Although in typical fashion they have managed to get the most expensive hard to get JD wrong.

A bit hard to read but NO Jack Daniel's products are a blended whiskey as defined by the US Government.

The 2016 Laphroaig Cairdeas bottling confused them enough that they don't know what specific type of spirit it is, so they left it blank. Guys, it says "single malt Stotch" right there!
Then there is Jim Beam's Eight Star Blended Whiskey (#504228) which the PLCB thinks is also eight years old for some reason - maybe their lack of product knowledge?  And what about Kinahans Irish Whiskey Blended 10 Year Old  (#559929) which is stuck in with the blended whiskies. Now I know you are going to say that the bottle says "blended whiskey" right on it, but foreign whiskey does not follow same the rules as American blended whiskey. Jameson's and Bushmills are blended whiskey too, unless you get one of the Single Malt versions. It should be under the Irish Whiskey section along with all the other Irish. Again, anybody who had any real knowledge of liquor would know this.

Of course, the PLCB has the normal (for them) inability to read product labels. It is just so much trouble to get things right and hey, you can't go anywhere else so what does it matter.
If you don't like using the FWAGS website never fear they screwed it up on the flat file webpage too, calling this a blended whiskey and getting the proof wrong.

And for the last one today there is Whistle Pig 12 year old Old World Whiskey (#559250) which says "Straight Rye Whiskey" right on the label but that doesn't stop the incompetents in Harrisburg from putting it in the blended whiskey section. Here's a tip for you, "Straight" in whiskey means it is a distinctly different product from blended whiskey in US law. But if you are wandering around making up your own interpretations, I guess it can mean anything you want.

There are only 53 records in the WHISKEY (BLENDED) section and I found 5 that were wrong just by looking without really checking into them all so there may be more. So if we apply that ~ 10% error rate across the PLCB catalog there are over 1,000 wrong entries. Way to run like a business guys!  If we could we'd fire the lot of you for incompetence.

Privatize.