Saturday, February 5, 2011

State Store Stings?

I have a Facebook page about this subject, Abolish the PLCB -- Rewrite the Code! (feel free to join, if you haven't already), and there are some serious PLCB apologists who joined and post counters to privatization. I suspect they're PLCB employees (present or retired) or fellow union members, but I have no proof...and my suspicions are mostly based on my incredulity that anyone else would support the PLCB, I'll admit that.

Anyway, one of them was posting a number of news reports (from other states) about sting operations that had resulted in arrests of liquor store staff or owners making sales to minors. This would always be accompanied by crowing about how privatization would bring more sales to minors, and that the PLCB clerks never ever sell to minors. Well, that's probably not actually true, because I've noticed that PLCB supporters have just started saying that there were only two sales to minors in the past 7 years, but that's still pretty impressive.

Only...wait a minute. Just how cozy is the relationship between PLCB store clerks and Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement agents? So I started responding to all his posts: "Hey, does the BLCE ever conduct stings on State Stores? Just asking!" Never got a response.

To tell the truth...I don't know. Do they? Because if they don''s a meaningless statistic. I'd say I'd like to see it happen, but honestly? I wouldn't, because the way the regs are set up, any PLCB clerk who sells to an underage purchaser loses their job and their pension. I wouldn't want to see that just to prove a point. the absence of such stings, this is comparing apples and oranges. Stick a pin in this balloon.


Anonymous said...

BLCE-PSP does in fact conduct checks on stores at regular intervals. They conduct these check's as often as one would expect any law enforcement to do so. Please do some more research on this topic before you provoke. I respect some of the posts you put on here, but I feel this one may be shooting wild without a firm basis. You're getting sloppy is what I am trying to convey to you. I ask that you not censor this post, if for nothing more than to show your honesty.

Anonymous said...

Further I would like to point out that the BLCE-PSP stands for Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement - Pennsylvania State Police. Since the store workers, Administrative staff, and the PSP are all separate entities with separate Union Representation, there is no more incentive for the PSP officer to cute johnny liquor store clerk a break then they would a Sheetz clerk for selling cigarettes to a minor.

Lew Bryson said...

"Please do some more research"? In the first place, I'm just asking, because I haven't been able to come up with any evidence that it does happen. I did a number of Google searches -- and in my previous career, I did online searching all day long; I'm good at it -- and turned up nothing on operations in State Stores other than 'shoulder tap' operations, which are not the kind of "sting" operations that police run in other states, or in Pennsylvania licensed establishments. In fact, the BLCE's own website makes no mention of enforcement in the State Stores; only in privately owned licensee establishments (clubs, distributors, hotels, restaurants, etc.). By what they're putting out, they apparently don't do any enforcement on the State Stores; at least, they don't talk about it.

But I'll tell you what. I'll write to both the PLCB and the BLCE, and ask them exactly what kind of enforcement activities do take place. Fair enough?

And please; don't even think about lecturing me on censorship or honesty. The only posts I don't publish are ones that are profane, or ones that verge on libelous -- except when it's about me; I'm a big boy.

Lew Bryson said...

And yeah, I know the BLCE is a branch of the PSP, not the PLCB -- we learned all about that during the disastrous and dopey beer registration raids last year! But if you don't think the BLCE is likely to cut the PLCB a break just because they're all state employees and the PLCB funds the BLCE...well, in the real world, we call that a conflict of interest, and just the appearance of one is enough to bring about the asking of questions. Kind of like what happened when the State Auditor General investigated the PLCB's hiring the firm run by the husband of one of their regional managers to do their (already controversial) courtesy training program. Conflict of interest.

Lew Bryson said...

Okay, Anonymous: just mailed a letter to the BLCE (copied my state Rep and the PLCB press office), the heart of which asks "I’d like to know what kind of enforcement actions take place in the State Stores, and if you can confirm how many of these violations have taken place over the past ten years."

I'll be sure to post the answer here. Is that less sloppy?

PR said...

This is the previous participant, Anonymous.

My intent of the previous post was not to upset, but to question whether you were writing this blog as an individual with a "blog" or as someone with journalistic intent. A true journalist will search for facts and write about those findings where as a blogger will pose a question in such a way that will cause their readers to form an opinion without a factual basis, such as; do they do checks? I don't know but it seems like a conflict of interest. I hope you do find the facts and report them as such. I suspect that you may not hear back due to the manner in which you sought the knowledge, but I would suggest either filing a "right to know" petition on the information, or seeking help in person with your representative (when you show up in person with a question they are more prone to helping you.)

I will also disclose. I was once a Liquor Store Employee. No longer. I will agree 100% with you about customer service. The problem though isn't that this is state run. The problem is that Liquor Store clerks AND Store managers are members of the Union. Anytime you have both worker and manager as Union employees, the chance of good service is slim to none. I know from experience that my manager didn't care very much, and felt that her position was impregnable. It was only after 6 (SIX!) AWOLS that the Union finally agreed to release her. This is the cause of customer dissatisfaction, not State Control.

I also would like to state that I agree with you that the Federal Government and State Government have no place holding retail operations. However, I would also like to point out that we are not a state, we are a Commonwealth, in that our sovereign status is granted by the people of Pennsylvania, and not by the Federal Government. With that being said, it is this power that we have granted the Commonwealth which has given it the power to regulate and control the sale of alcohol via the Liquor store system. Please reread that. There is nothing unconstitutional about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania owning and running a Monopoly. There would be an issue, however, if we were not a Commonwealth.

Truthfully, I really could care less if we get out of the liquor business, as long as it does not hinder the state budget. I just want to make sure that the information you are presenting is done in a factual way, as well as a lawful interpretation of the powers of government.

If your stance is that a STATE should not control a retail industry, you are correct. If your stance is that a Commonwealth should not control a retail industry, then I am sorry but you must do more research as to the Constitutional rights of a Commonwealth.

Lew Bryson said...

It's a blog, not a newspaper. All I did was ask a question. And I believe I'll get an answer from the BLCE, as I just got an answer to another question put to the PLCB in the same manner today. I'm also on good terms with my state Rep already, so there's another angle. A RTK petition won't work unless you know the specific document you're looking for; which I don't. Been down that road before.

As to your state v. commonwealth issue, it's neither here nor there: the constitutional point that makes this particular monopoly legal is the 21st Amendment, which has been interpreted to give the states broad powers over the sale and regulation of alcohol beverages. It pretty much makes your point moot.

Lew Bryson said... a response on my question from the PLCB (in only 3 days; not bad). "Because our stores are not licensed establishments, BLCE does not perform compliance checks in them."

And do you have any evidence to contradict that?

Anonymous said...

I read in the paper that they did nearly 1 million minor challenges in the past year! Thats pretty good for 620 some stores! Ya just throwing stuff out there to make your case huh? Big conspiracy Right!

Lew Bryson said...

According to whom, "Anonymous"? The PLCB SAYS they did a million "minor challenges."

Why should I believe that?
Where's the records?
Do they keep records?
What constitutes a challenge?

This is exactly the kind of empty "fact" that the whole argument against privatization is based on.

Anonymous said...

ask that lady from the lcb i have seen them run them thru the register i pretty sure they are recorded somewhere

Lew Bryson said...

Not to mention...Wegman's, the PRIVATE store that sells beer, did over 700,000 ID checks last year. Because they check everyone. So...exactly how is the State Store System doing a better job by apparently only checking ID when the clerk thinks the customer might be underage?

What worth is a system that is not 100%? Even the private stores know that, seems to me.

Anonymous said...

what's the point of carding a 40 50 or 60 year old person or even older? that 700,000 just proves they had that many customers how many were 30 and under like the sign sez in the liquor store? If the stores carded nearly 1 million that was hardly 40 50 and 60 year old, I got carded for beer in the giant eagle and im 60. I think they do a wonderful job preventing sales to minors which would be lost on private stores.

Lew Bryson said...

"I think they do a wonderful job preventing sales to minors which would be lost on private stores."

Really. How? If the private stores ID everyone, and you can easily make that part of the New Liquor Code, how can the State Stores do better than that? Tell me what you think about that?

Not to mention, the whole thing is a bit of a red herring. Research consistently shows that the great majority of underage drinkers get their drinks from an of-age friend or relative, not by buying them at a store or bar.

Anonymous said...

So how would that make the liquor code better by making it tougher on older people? Do you wanta be carded everytime you buy a bottle? And really its probably not the big stores its those little dumpy stores run by all those foreign people that can't speak english have you been in a gas station lately that im worried about after all they are doing a great job not selling the ciggs to kids

Lew Bryson said...

It would make the Liquor Code "better" by giving folks like you fewer things to whine about, for one. And as far as the terrible pain for older folks...I'M an older folk, too. Just turned 52 today, got plenty of gray in my beard, and I don't mind showing my ID when I buy beer at Wegmans. I just want something written into the code that the data from those checks is only used for age proof, and no other info is kept.

As for your purely racist comments, I'll let them speak for themselves...once. Don't bother bringing it up again, I won't allow it to post.