Forgot to tell you about this one. We had a nice bottle of wine back in the spring, an Alma Negra Bonarda Malbec, a dark Argentine red. It was so good I remembered it, and come December, when we were shopping for Christmas presents, I wanted to get a bottle for someone (and a couple for myself). I went to the State Store here in Newtown, and started looking.
No luck, so I whipped out the iPhone, and went to the PLCB's product search website to see if they even had it. They did, and when I drilled down further, I found that the local store (good old Store #0909!) had -- at that time -- 126 bottles of it. Couldn't find it in the Argentine section. So, against my better judgment, I asked a clerk. I'm looking for an Argentine Malbec called Alma Negra, I said (I'll admit my ignorance: I didn't know that Bonarda was a varietal. Malbec was all I recognized), could you help me find it? His very first words were "Oh, no, we don't have anything by that name." Very helpful!
Luckily, I still had the iPhone out, and I told him, Actually, the LCB website says you have 126 bottles of it! Maybe it's up front; it's a Chairman's Selection. And the guy says, "Oh, no, that's not a Chairman's Selection. We don't have any Argentine Malbecs as Chairman's." I was stunned, a bit, but rallied: Yes, it is, it says so right on your website. And I went towards the front of the store -- and almost tripped over the stuff. It was sitting in the middle of an aisle (among the domestics, far from the Argentina section...), four cases of it topped by an open case, with a Chairman's Selection sign on it.
Here it is, I said brightly, thanks! And he comes up, picks up the bottle, and points to the label, and says, "Oh, you see: it's a blend. It's not a Malbec." So I grinned, and said, You're right, I'm sorry. What else was I going to do? I was really, really sorry that I had to buy wine from people who clearly knew nothing about their stock -- and the guy's been working there for years -- and couldn't care less about helping a customer find a product.
See, this is why I grit my teeth when I read letters to the editor and comments on blogs where people talk about the wonderful service they get at the State Stores. Because while I'm sure there are at least some SS clerks out there who really want to help, and really know the products (there was a younger guy at #0909 who actually knew something about whiskey, although he was obnoxious about it), I have not had those kinds of experience. Cash register service? Just fine, no complaints. But advice? Guidance? Even common courtesy out in the aisles? You get better service at Home Depot.
And if this system went away, and we got private stores...I could just go somewhere else. But in PA? There's no point. And I'm literally forbidden by law to shop in New Jersey (and bring anything home, that is).