Friday, August 12, 2011

State Stores Lose Money...and the PLCB's proud of it

In the Bizarro World of the PLCB, where crap selection and lackadaisical service make a store "world-class," apparently it is also a good thing to have 45 stores (out of 620-ish, about 7%) losing money! Is this all about the PLCB's touted "Serve The Rural Areas With Booze!" program (see below; sorry about the Chinese Communist Party-style title, it's almost irresistible with the PLCB)? Not completely, it seems like it's more about the PLCB's business incompetence. Check out this piece at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which reports that "The LCB data obtained by the Tribune-Review show that the losing stores weren't all rural: Two stores in Brighton Heights and Downtown and one in Philadelphia were unprofitable in 2009-10."

But put aside how completely awful at business you have to be to not run a profit when you have a police-enforced monopoly. Joe "Da CEO" Conti says it's a good thing! Here he is in an AP story about yesterday's hearings:

Conti said a standard state store carries nearly 2,500 types of liquor and wine*, and that the board maintains stores in rural areas, even when they are not profitable, as a matter of fairness for consumers, which may not be the case under privatization.
"The bill cannot force a grocery store to bid for a license," said Dale Horst, the PLCB's director of retail operations. "If the PLCB can't make any money because the sales volume is simply not there, these areas may not be served at all."
Here's a thought: the number of stores in the state is set by the PLCB, not by law. They claim it's to cut down on drunkenness, on the ill effects of alcohol abuse. Really? Or is it because they've already got stores in all the areas that can make money using their horribly inefficient business model? Wouldn't it make more sense to go private, and allow the local grocery store to sell wine and sixpacks, and liquor if they want to, than to force a State Store to carry 2,500 different kinds of booze?

Check this assbackwards reasoning. They won't allow specialty stores in Philly and Pittsburgh to carry a large selection of wines and spirits, like the big stores right across the border, but they'll tell you that you can "easily" order from 30,000 selections (you know, odd sizes, and double-entered SLO/on-shelf items, but it's a lot, Joe Da CEO says so!) on their SLO system and have it delivered (to the store, not to YOUR house, that would be too easy). But then they turn around and force rural stores to carry a relatively broad selection of stuff -- and lose money on it! -- rather than pare it down to a reasonable selection...and let them order other stuff by SLO! I mean, if I lived in Snow Shoe, I suppose I'd be glad, but it's not like it makes sense.

Of course it doesn't. It's Bizarro State. Fix it. Privatize, boost the number of licenses, and kill the case law. Let the PLCB focus on enforcement. Fix the booze tax situation. Make booze law that serves the citizens instead of bureaucrats and business. Please.

*Compare that to the 13,000 SKUs of liquor, wine, and beer at the latest Total Wine to open in Florida. Or, if you'd rather, compare it to under 500 SKUs at almost any gas station or drug store in rural Maryland...which most rural Pennsylvanians would find incredibly convenient compared to having to drive an hour to get to a part-time State Store in one of the nine Pennsylvania counties that only have ONE State Store. Conti and Hereditary Union President For Life Wendell W. Young IV will tell you that lots of stores with a minimal selection is so much worse than one store in the 522 square miles of Adams County, or the one store in the 898 square miles of Clinton County, or one in the 405 square miles of Wyoming County...If only the Legislature would kill the case law, or change the ridiculously strict population limits on licenses, or...something. Something like privatization.     


JohnRz said...

Where can I find a rural gas station in NY with 500 SKU's of Liqour wine? I want to make a run and compare prices. I almost never buy gas in NY so maybe that's why I don't recall much Liquor selection.

Lew Bryson said...

Thanks, John; you're right, gas stations in NY only carry beer (which most rural Pennsylvanians would also find quite convenient, but it's been decreed that this discussion won't be about beer...), so I changed it to Maryland, which meant I was able to drugstores into the mix.