Monday, September 18, 2017

PLCB Stupid Inventory part 100

After five years of saying and showing the PLCB that they were screwing up the listings for their #1 selling "bourbon" — as Chairman Tim Holden likes to call it — the PLCB has almost managed to get their listings for Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey correct. Although in typical fashion they have managed to get the most expensive hard to get JD wrong.

A bit hard to read but NO Jack Daniel's products are a blended whiskey as defined by the US Government.

The 2016 Laphroaig Cairdeas bottling confused them enough that they don't know what specific type of spirit it is, so they left it blank. Guys, it says "single malt Stotch" right there!
Then there is Jim Beam's Eight Star Blended Whiskey (#504228) which the PLCB thinks is also eight years old for some reason - maybe their lack of product knowledge?  And what about Kinahans Irish Whiskey Blended 10 Year Old  (#559929) which is stuck in with the blended whiskies. Now I know you are going to say that the bottle says "blended whiskey" right on it, but foreign whiskey does not follow same the rules as American blended whiskey. Jameson's and Bushmills are blended whiskey too, unless you get one of the Single Malt versions. It should be under the Irish Whiskey section along with all the other Irish. Again, anybody who had any real knowledge of liquor would know this.

Of course, the PLCB has the normal (for them) inability to read product labels. It is just so much trouble to get things right and hey, you can't go anywhere else so what does it matter.
If you don't like using the FWAGS website never fear they screwed it up on the flat file webpage too, calling this a blended whiskey and getting the proof wrong.

And for the last one today there is Whistle Pig 12 year old Old World Whiskey (#559250) which says "Straight Rye Whiskey" right on the label but that doesn't stop the incompetents in Harrisburg from putting it in the blended whiskey section. Here's a tip for you, "Straight" in whiskey means it is a distinctly different product from blended whiskey in US law. But if you are wandering around making up your own interpretations, I guess it can mean anything you want.

There are only 53 records in the WHISKEY (BLENDED) section and I found 5 that were wrong just by looking without really checking into them all so there may be more. So if we apply that ~ 10% error rate across the PLCB catalog there are over 1,000 wrong entries. Way to run like a business guys!  If we could we'd fire the lot of you for incompetence.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Lies My Liquor Control Board Told Me

A nowhere near complete list of the bullshit the PLCB has fed and is still feeding the public.

1. Prior to Act 39, we couldn't negotiate prices.

There was and is nothing in the liquor code that prevented negotiating prices. In fact, all the Chairman's Selections prices are negotiated and have been since inception. In April of 2016, Elizabeth  Brassell, the Board's director of communications said as much: "You are correct that the Liquor Code does not indicate that prices can’t be negotiated or that the PLCB has any obligation to use manufacturers’ suggested retail prices. In fact, as you suggest, the PLCB’s buying power, as well as its discretion to list and delist products, allows for some price negotiation with vendors." Yet we've been told that this is a new power, granted by Act 39.

2. "And, as we’ve said all along, prices will increase for some items, when the supplier and PLCB agree that the market can bear the increase." Chairman Tim Holden.

And as we've said all along, "flexible pricing" means "higher pricing." Today will see the increase of prices on 422 items; prices that are going up because the PLCB alone wants them to go up.

3. "Because of cooperative and collaborative negotiations, we hope to reduce prices on dozens of items in the near future." Chairman Holden again, on October 28, 2016

Here it is over 10 months later and of the top ten selling spirits and top ten selling wines the only thing that has gone down in price are pints of Nikolai 30 cents.  This can only mean one of two things. Either the PLCB failed to get any price decrease on the items they have the most leverage on; or the PLCB kept all the reductions in purchase price they did negotiate and put the screws to us, the consumers. The truth is, we don't know, because the PLCB refuses to release this information. So much for us being the "shareholders" in this state-owned "business."

4. The PLCB and the vendors view pricing information as proprietary. At least that is the reason given for no longer showing purchase and shelf prices on the board meeting minutes and why the PLCB refuses to let consumers know what 422 items are that went up in price.

Yet the PLCB listed pricing information for decades. Act 39 and 166 did not make that same information proprietary nor did they say that the public should no longer have access to that information.

5. Wine Kiosks - "This was not a faulty fiscal decision," PLCB Chairman Aug 17, 2011

Yes it was and so was trying to cover it up.

6. Under oath in front of the House Appropriations Committee in April this year, Board Member Micheal Negra said that the loss of 'the shackles' that had been on the PLCB with regard to product pricing "would deliver better revenues for the commonwealth and better product prices and availability for consumers."

Raising prices on 422 items does not provide better availability or prices for consumers. That's a no-brainer. Higher prices are not better prices. And availability? With under 620 stores in a state this size? Don't even talk about availability.

7. The PLCB operates at no cost to the citizens

We pay for everything with higher prices, less selection, inconvenience, pension debt, few stores, inept management at all levels, nepotism, graft, incompetence, anti-consumer practices and unqualified Boards just to name a few. You might as well try to tell us that the Legislature operates at no cost to the citizens.

8. In 1934 the PLCB said that stores would be located at "convenient places to serve the public."

Wow, that's a whopper that they've never gotten over. From a high of 756 stores, we now have shrunk to 604. To reach the national average -- the average -- the total would have to be 1,800. Having 200% less stores than average is not convenient.

9. We are going to run like a business.

A business is successful when it is run by people with experience in the industry, innovates, provides goods at a better price than it's competitors. Provides better service or other services than its competitors do and is convenient for the consumer. The PLCB does none of these well or at all.

"The PLCB is a cash cow!"
10. The PLCB is a cash cow.

The PLCB is $240 million in debt, had negative assets for three of the last seven fiscal years, and by their own admission saved $110 million every year for the past 4 years (through The Wonder Of Bailment!) but has nothing to show for it, limits jobs and job creation due to monopoly practices, spends more on advertising than education, and still only contributes about 0.3 percent of the total state budget.

Tell me again why we need the PLCB? We don't and never have, they do nothing for the state and only exist as a poorly run jobs program. Privatize.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

So I Went to the Pretty New State Store...

I went to one of the new State Stores. You know the ones, with a new color palette that supposedly offers a warm, welcoming atmosphere for consumers to browse the limited selection. I wandered over to what they call the focal point of the store; a new table, where customers can find staff to answer questions or provide recommendations. Just what I was looking for. 

I waited for somebody to come over to the table.
And waited for somebody to come over to the table.
And waited for somebody to come over to the table.

Did I mention that the table was the focal point of the store?
Looks kinda empty

Ah, a wine person! They wandered over and asked if they could help.
I said, I don't know. I have some questions.
"So what are you looking for?"

"I'll do my best, what's the first thing on your list?"

Can you name one thing that has decreased in price in the past few months?
"Sure, pints of Nikolai vodka. We have a guy that comes in everyday, well, actually we have a few,  and is so pleased that happened.  Probably our happiest customer."

Anything go up that you noticed?
"A few here and there but when the wave of 400+ hits next month I'm sure I'll see a bunch of them"

Since this store was remodeled in the same location, did any increase in products on the shelf come with the remodel?
"Oh no, with the wider aisles, this table stuck in the middle and the plants and all there are less things in the store now then there was before."
Style over substance eh?
"I can't say."
So how long were you closed for the remodel?
"About 3 months."
Doesn't that seem like a long time to be closed? Didn't the Dollar Store close for like 16 days when they remodeled?
"The Dollar Store isn't run by the PLCB."

So is this 'modernization' thing working out, or should the Legislature have gone for more privatization?
"We aren't allowed to talk about privatization"
You aren't allowed to have an opinion?
"We can have an opinion, we just aren't allowed to talk about it."
So, the powers that be in Harrisburg don't have enough faith in you workers to offer a reasonable explanation why State Stores should still exist.
"Could be but I can't talk about it."

Can I ask if you belong to the union or just pay fair share?
"I just pay fair share, most of the people in this store just pay fair share. We have too, not like there is a choice."
So how long have you been here?
"I started as a Seasonal 6 years ago, worked part time while I was in school."
Do you think of this as a career after all that time?
"No way, I'm going to an online school for my Masters. Once I have that and a job lined up where I don't have to wear an apron, I'll let somebody else take this spot."
Maybe then you can talk to me about privatization.
"Yeah, maybe then, ha ha."
I can't talk about Privatization, the PLCB doesn't trust me.

What do you say when people tell you they bought ...whatever for less in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Florida or wherever?
"I'm sure it is true sometimes but those chain stores or Mom & Pops don't have to have a store in Nowheresville, PA like we do. We have to support that somehow"
Why? Don't you think a grocery store would carry the basics if they could?
"You're talking about privatization again, so I can't comment."

The conversation above is semi-fictional. It didn't happen with just one clerk, but every question and answer did happen with multiple clerks over the past six months. I wish I could get managers to answer as truthfully as some of their workers, but they drink the Kool-Aid every day, and won't stand for it.