Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why prices matter (and why they don't)

First, read this story in the Inquirer (which they picked up from the Harrisburg Patriot-News). It's about prices at the State Stores vs. prices in private stores in border states. Here's a sample:
But a survey of liquor stores in four states conducted by the Harrisburg Patriot-News reveals that prices aren't always better across the state line. In fact, in some cases, Pennsylvania prices are cheaper.
A 750-milliliter bottle of Bacardi Superior P.R. Rum sells for $14.99 in Pennsylvania and $15.99 at Plaza Wines & Liquors in Manchester, N.J. A Yellow Tail Chardonnay is $7.99 in Pennsylvania and $8.99 at the New Jersey store.
Across the border in Delaware, a 1.75-liter bottle of Johnnie Walker Red is priced at $29.99 at Total Wine & More vs. the $41.99 Pennsylvania shoppers pay.

This is a "survey" conducted by the paper. Look, I know Sue Gleiter, I like her. She's interviewed me for stories, including some on the PLCB, but this is kind of sloppy. There's no information given on how many stores were 'surveyed' or how the 'survey' was done. I'd like to see one done like the supermarkets do it around here; don't check individual prices and show me WOW THIS ONE ITEM IS C*H*E*A*P*E*R* AT OUR STORE!!! Fill a typical cart and add up the total (and don't fill it at the PLCB's "outlet stores" on the border where prices are kept artificially low by adding liter bottles at cut-rate prices...that the rest of us in the state can't get). 

Next, read this letter in today's Inky from wine writer (and Pennsylvania resident) Mark Squires. He rips the story a new hole:
A story on May 24, "Pa. liquor often cheaper than in neighboring states," was an example of sloppy analysis and virtual propaganda. Of course, you can find instances when Pennsylvania prices might be cheaper on a particular item. With the 18 percent Johnstown tax, though, prices won't be cheaper overall or cheaper all the time.
In Pennsylvania, you aren't allowed to shop around because the Liquor Control Board is a monopoly. If you find a store in New Jersey with a bad price, you can go to another store. Or to Maryland, Delaware, wherever. Not every little private store may be exemplary, but there can be little doubt that, taken together, private stores win on service, selection, and price.
Incidentally, I was able to find online in about 90 seconds a 2010 Yellow Tail Chardonnay in a variety of stores ranging from under $5 to $6.33 in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, while the writer of the aforementioned article merely found that Pennsylvania, at $8, was cheaper than one New Jersey store.
Dead on the money, so to speak, and the bolded bits strike home to the real problem with the PLCB: the monopolistic nature of it. They have no real competition when it comes to Pennsylvanians, and we are a captive audience, forced to buy at these stores by the coercion of law.And yet...we put up with that, and seem willing to allow legislators like Senator John Pippy run our lives and make our decisions. For God's sake, Pennsylvanians, stand up on your hind legs and act like adults. Tell your legislator that you don't need to be CONTROLLED any longer.


Nathan said...

Not a very thorough investigation, I have to agree. Bacardi Silver 750ML happens to be one of the products where the PLCB's price is _worse_ than nearly ever other vendor in my database: I can list 15 retailers that sell it for less, and 0 that sell it for more. In Maryland and Delaware I see it listed for for $10.99, and these are specialty shops we're talking about, not discounters!

PRRedlin said...

But Lew, I thought price wasn't the point! I thought it was for the sake of privatization! So...why even bring up prices?

Pick an arguing point and stick with it.

Lew Bryson said...

PRRedlin...Did you READ the post? The post pretty much says that comparison of prices is pointless. I'm making that point again. And again. And again. All right?

Michael said...

What a joke of a survey.

Glad to see you active here again. I don't know anyone who doesn't want the plcb gone, and it seems so tantalizingly close this time-let's make this happen people, write to your state reps!

Anonymous said...

I think we are just going to get some changes as Senator Pippy says. They lost all momentum from the budget problems, they started with that study which will probably kill that 2 billion figure, Now the prices aren't that different from the other states around us. There is always a sale somewhere if ya look for it!selection will probably be less unless you live in a big city where the good stores are! All thats left is get rid of them just to do it! we will get longer hours maybe direct shipping but no private stores