Monday, March 9, 2009

More lipstick for the pig, and Joe Conti surfaces

From an AP story I saw in the Inquirer:

The PLCB is going to spend more of Pennsylvania taxpayers' money (that's money taken out of their 'contribution' to the general fund; more 'operating expenses') to pay a Pittsburgh company $173,820 this year to train State Store System managers "how to coach their staffers in the fundamentals of being good sales reps." This coaching will consist of teaching them "how to greet someone, where to stand, and how to read a customer's cues." Really, that's what they apparently believe the SSS clerks need to learn. I suppose we should be grateful that they're at least paying a Pennsylvania company to do the training.

Folks, this is more lipstick for the pig; it is, as I said here, about as natural as my dog walking on hind legs, wearing a dress, and smoking a cigar. This is not a business. It is a state-owned and mandated monopoly. The reason the PLCB is spending money on this is defensive. They want to keep you just satisfied enough to distract you from the reality of this unnatural situation.

It's pretty telling that the clerks will not receive any product training on wines and spirits under this program. No, they don't get that until they've learned courtesy. Amazing that the SSS has gone this long without realizing there might be a need for this stuff.

There are big ads in the Inquirer every week for the giant liquor/wine/beer superstores located just over the border in New Jersey and Delaware. Why are the ads in the Inky, why are the stores just across the border? Because Pennsylvanians shop there in droves, every week, because the State Store System either doesn't have what they want, doesn't have as good a price, or can't be bothered to give them good service and assistance.

The reason why is simple: the SSS has no incentive to deliver that. They're just doing their job, selling the bottles, and if you want them, okay, they'll sell them. But -- with a few, dedicated, interested exceptions -- the employees are not interested in helping you. They don't have to. All they have to do is keep the shelves stocked and ring up your purchase and bag it (don't try to bag it yourself, a lesson I learned; that's the one thing that will bring out passion in these folks as they quickly tell you you're not supposed to do that).

Now they're going to get training to be nice to people. To say 'Thank you.' Oh, boy. It changes nothing. The State Store System has to go. It is unresponsive, it is ridiculously, unnecessarily state-owned, and it is robbing Pennsylvanians of jobs.

Side bits of interest. PLCB "CEO" Joe Conti was quoted in the article, the first mention of him from the board in months. Has he been behind the scenes, working away? Maybe, though it's hard to believe a long-time legislator wouldn't have made sure he got his due. Has he been resting his ass in a job that most people assumed, from the way it was handed to him without any job search or serious interview process, was a total sinecure? Maybe, though I'd rather not think so. Hard to say.

The story also quoted Eric Epstein, identified as "a Harrisburg activist and founder of" Epstein "politely called the idea 'a demented interpretation of happy hour.
It's a sad state of affairs when you have to train people to be kind and courteous,' he said, 'but I guess things are so bad that even booze peddlers have to pretend to be nice.'"

"Even booze peddlers." Thanks, Eric, you schmuck. It's not like they're pushing crack on street corners.


That guy said...

There is a great quote in the Tribune-Review here in Pittsburgh today:

"This is part of the renaissance of the Liquor Control Board," Joe Conti, the board's chief executive, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "The point is to become a specialty retailer and not be known as a government monopoly."

Can that qualify as acknowledging that they are putting lipstick on the pig?

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, absolutely. "Become a specialty retailer" is gonna take a lot more than a few smiles, for God's sake. It takes broad variety of product, which the SSS just don't have (sorry guys, 120 vodkas doesn't count).

ClockworkOrange said...

Does it really matter how their clerks treat us? They could put a live scorpion in every bag and we'd still come back next week for more. It's not like we can go across the street and patronize the competition.

Lew Bryson said...

Exactly, CO. It's a monopoly. If they spend money on clerk training...they're wasting my money.