Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Only 10% of a PLCB managers score is product knowledge. That explains a lot.

Consider this: only 10% (approximately) of the score on the civil service test required to be promoted to management in the PLCB has to do with product knowledge. Hard to believe, but it's fact. [see below for the reference] Since the majority of folks who work in Harrisburg for the PLCB come from the ranks, that means that most have never been responsible to know what they sell.

Imagine if that was the case for your shoe salesman. “Well, it is the color you asked for, and it looks like it will fit, but since you can’t try it here at the Pennsylvania Shoe Control Office (PASCO, "Monopolizing Your Shoe Choices since 1934!"), you’ll just have to believe me. You can return it if there is something wrong, but not just because you don’t like it or if you think it doesn’t match the requirements you gave me. The state absolves us of any responsibility for that."

In that light, I figured that since the people in charge never had to know much about the product the tests they come up with would reflect that fact. To that end I made up what I think is the level of complexity shown on the PLCB Managers test. See how well you can do.

1. Rye whiskey is made from
A. Corn
B. Malted Barley
C. Rye
D. Bourbon
E. None of the above

2. Red wine comes from:
A. Republican states
B. France
C. California
D. Red grapes

3.  Bourbon can only be made
A. In Kentucky
B. In Tennessee
C. In the U.S.
D. In a distillery

4. If you bought a bottle that has 10 year old whiskey in it and kept it for 20 years how old would the whiskey be?
A. 10 yrs old
B. 20 yrs old
C. 30 yrs old
D. None of the Above
E. 2 weeks on Close-out at 55% discount

5. What temperature should the metal trailer be in order to store wine the PLCB way?
A. 80 degrees
B. 90 degrees
C. 100 degrees
D. Unknown, these temperatures are not recorded

6.  Wine should be served at:
A. Room temperature
B. Slightly chilled
C. Whatever temperature the cooler is in the store.

7. How much wine and liquor should be stacked along the front windows in the sun?
A. As much as will fit.
B. Whatever I feel like
C. Only brands that pay for it
D. None of the above

8. Liquor of a given type should be placed on the shelf and grouped by producer/manufacturer/distillery and not by price because:
A. That is how Harrisburg wants it.
B. People only buy their favorite brand.
C. It's not important.
D. Both A and C.

9. Why is Wild Turkey American Honey in the Liqueur section and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey in the bourbon section? They both say liqueur on the label.
A. That is how Harrisburg wants it.
B. People only buy their favorite brand
C. It's not important.
D. Both A and C.

10. Are 11 orange flavored vodkas enough?
A. That is how Harrisburg wants it.
B. People only buy their favorite brand
C. It's not important.
D. Both A and C.

So if product knowledge is such a small part of the job...just what do the store managers do?
They don't order product: Harrisburg does.
They don't hire and fire: Harrisburg does.
They don't lay out the store: Harrisburg does.
They don't control when they are open: Harrisburg does.
They don't control product placement: Harrisburg does.
They don't control pricing: Harrisburg does.
They don't have to pay attention to industry trends - but then Harrisburg doesn't either.
They don't have to keep abreast of the competition - but then Harrisburg doesn't either.
And they don't schedule or make deliveries.

You would think not doing so much of what private store managers do would give them lots of time to be on top of product knowledge. I'm just sayin'...

* Here's the information on management testing. Oddly, the link is no longer working because the page is gone. However, I saved a copy and below is the relevant part.


This test will be administered on a computer.  Information about computerized testing is available online at www.scsc.state.pa.us OR in paper form at any State Civil Service Commission office. 

You will have a maximum of 2 1/2 hours to complete the test which will cover the following subject areas:

Number of Questions by Job Title

Subject Areas
Liquor Store Clerk 2,
Liquor Store Manager 1
Liquor Store Manager 2 and 3,
Liquor Store General Managers

Customer Service

Product Knowledge

Policy and Procedure


Basic Supervision/Management

Advanced Supervision/Management


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

So where did the clamoring go?

One Stop Shops - Wine Kiosks with people.

As I pointed out in the previous blog post the PLCB said that grocery stores were clamoring to get state stores inside their premises.  That was August of 2003.  Jump forward a little over a year and a half to May 2005 and the PLCB says that there have been 16 approvals for a store within a store or what they call a One Stop Shop. 16 seems like a great improvement over the "6 or 7" that the Chairman mentioned in 2003. At that rate one would expect there would be well over 100 by now.

Well, unless I miscounted there are 15 One Stop Shops listed by the PLCB a decrease of 1 over the last 9 years.  So it appears that the clamoring has stopped once stores found out what it is like to have the PLCB crawling around inside them. Of course, ever being on top of things, President For Life DADA Wendell Young IV said just a few days ago  "...we welcome the effort to open more stores inside of or next to grocery stores." Which must be code for next to grocery stores because it is obvious the grocery stores don't want them.

Maybe those 400 sqft stores in a store that Wendell endorsed as part of "modernization" will catch on and store total will skyrocket from the 600 now to 607 or 608 which would still only be 150 or so less then there used to be. Or maybe the legislature will get a clue and realize the PLCB does nothing even remotely as well as private industry (except maybe P.O. the consumer, they excel at that) and get out the booze business. Can we really trust them to do anything for the consumer given the 60 years of past history of doing everything possible to stay in the 1950's only moving forward at the threat of their existence?

Monday, September 8, 2014

The more things change, the more things PLCB

Moving at the speed of the PLCB

Eleven years ago (August 2003) the Chairman said that "Supermarket owners are clamoring to put state-owned liquor stores within their walls" Back then the PLCB wanted 2-3,000 sqft for their "store in a store" Now the latest version of "modernization" is down to 400sqft -  or under 2 aisles worth which is less than the store would offer if the system were privatized.
The store in a store concept had been around for over 20 years even by 2003 so how much clamoring has happened?  Of the over 5,000 grocery stores in the state, only 15 have a state store in them about the same number that had the failed wine kiosks. I think ignoring might be the correct word not clamoring.

He also said that state stores should be open until 11 which is something the PLCB can do without any legislative approval. So far it hasn't happened but hey, it has only been 11 years and we are talking about the PLCB - you know those same people who say they are consumer driven.  Maybe they meant driven to New Jersey or Delaware to get real service and selection since he knows "...the state store system has made it inconvenient to buy spirits."

Just a blast from the past that shows how well "modernization" has been going.