Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The PLCB. A failure of an idea and the beginning of a fiefdom.

Sometime in December of 1933, then Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot sat down to write an editorial piece for the Rotarian magazine [you can read it, starting in page 12*]. He laid out his reasons for "The Pennsylvania Plan," his reasons why he felt that the government had to restrict alcohol for the citizens, because they couldn't control themselves. Let's look at the points he made in The Pennsylvania Plan, and see if Pennsylvania needed them then...and if we have any need of them now.

Pinchot said that Pennsylvania's liquor control legislation is dependent on five cardinal points.

  1. The saloon must not be allowed to come back.
  2. Liquor must be kept entirely out of Politics.
  3. Judges must not be forced into Liquor politics.
  4. Liquor must not be sold without restraint.
  5. Bootlegging must be made unprofitable.

Ardent environmentalist; ardent prohibitionist
After a quick look, you might conclude that all of his points have failed except #4. (We do our own bootlegging these days, thanks to the big liquor stores on the New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland borders.) However, during the 85 years since Repeal, the meaning of the language in some of the points has changed.

Take point #1: saloons pre-Prohibition were in a large part controlled by the brewers. Prices were kept low, so demand was high. There were enticements like free food or snacks for those buying beer, which is why you see strangely detailed happy hour laws about how much food can be given away, and what kind. Bars were "tied" to the brewer that backed them; the only way you could get a Miller instead of a Bud, for instance, was to go to another bar. The corruption this caused, both in business and in politics from the free-flowing graft money produced, was one of the big drivers for Prohibition. 

That all changed with the three tier system in place in Pennsylvania (and most of the United States) today. That created three defined "tiers:" producer/brewer, wholesaler, and retailer, and forbid owners of one tier from owning businesses in the other two. No "tied houses." So did the saloon come back? Yes, but not in the same way, and that hasn't been all bad for the consumer. We'll call this point a draw.

In point #2, Pinchot was talking about patronage, the "spoils system," in which state jobs were handed out as political favors. He's already planning the huge jobs program of the State Store System of Stores. Point #2 meant that employees would be selected based on skills testing instead of loyalty testing; who they knew and the favors they could do. This was mostly true for the rank and file store workers, not so much for the managers, and not at all for the Board who have all been political hacks, cronies, and lawyerly hangers-on since day one.

He also thought that this new system would keep politicians from buying votes with booze, and thus fall under the control of distilleries and brewers. Did that work? Hard to say, because how people drank changed during the Depression. More drank at home after Repeal, because they could buy at a local store instead of having to go out to a speakeasy or club. This all changed again once the stores were unionized. Now the money flowed from union coffers into politician's pockets to buy votes to keep this archaic system alive. Although the jobs are still subject to civil service rules -- despite recent efforts to change this, under the guise of "improvement" -- overall this has failed.

Money, money, money, moooooney...
Point #3 is keeping the dollars, booze and votes away from judges and their decisions. Now we have judges working for the the PLCB...well, mostly 'working.'  I wonder what Gifford would say about that. This has worked, but largely because judges working on booze have been ring-fenced, as the British say.

Point #4 was probably true for the first 70 years of the State Store System of Stores -- ah, fond memories of the completely customer-unfriendly counter stores! -- but no longer. When the board that was put in place to control drinking is now advertising, having sales, sponsoring fests of various kinds, even trying to sell booze by robot! -- you can say that the restraint is limited at best.

Point 5 is pretty much irrelevant. As we said, bootlegging went from criminal enterprise to an everyday crime cheerfully "committed" by private citizens. Governor Pinchot thought that the state would be able to sell alcohol for less than the bootleggers, and they mostly did. But the power of the police-enforced monopoly and pure greed kept them from selling wine and spirits for less than the border states, which made them complicit in making criminals of everyday citizens.

Governor Pinchot was a leader in the Dry movement and was a teetotaler himself.  He really thought that his plan would have "support of the vast majority of the citizens of Pennsylvania."  But he never actually let the people decide, and as we all know, there has never been a single scientific poll that showed the citizens to be in favor of the State Store System of Stores.

Looking back to what was envisioned by Pinchot, you can see how corrupt the plan became over time. Millions of dollars were "...to be made available to school districts to help schools that were in danger of being closed." Even if we sucked out every penny possible from the PLCB now, it would only be about $90 for every taxpayer** this year. That's certainly not a rate the PLCB could keep up, and not really enough to notice in my almost $5,000 tax bill. Pinchot also suggested that if an item wasn't available the system "would have to get it." Still failing at that one 85 years later. And don't forget: there were THREE TIMES as many licenses available back then as now. Where did we go so wrong, Gifford? A commonwealth turns its thirsty eyes to you.


Unfortunately, not everything he proposed went...wrong. The Governor said that "Whisky will be sold by civil service employees with exactly the same amount of salesmanship as is displayed by an automatic postage stamp vending machine." Sure enough, that is exactly what we have in almost every transaction! He also said that there will be no artificial stimulation of the demand for liquor. No PLCB sponsoring a flower show trying to get women to drink, no staying open longer for hunting season, no bottle signings by third rate celebrities.

As a naturalist, Gifford Pinchot was probably second only to Teddy Roosevelt in public service. (He was the first professional forester in America.) His main fault was that he never actually wanted to know what the citizens thought of his Pennsylvania Plan, because he thought he knew what was best for the masses.

And that is the thing about the PLCB and the Almighty Liquor Code that has changed the least.



*If you get the chance, read the "Regulated Licenses, Retail Plan" by Frank J. Loesch on page 14.

** 10.1 M adults, 68.6% are homeowners, ~90% of them pay some property tax

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Revisiting some numbers that you won't see the PLCB publish

I first posted Numbers, Numbers, Numbers (some State Store numbers that are always missing in the PLCB's annual report) three years ago. It might be good to have a second look to see if there was any improvement at the PLCB.  The original findings are (in parentheses).

1) The average amount of non-tax revenue returned to the state per unit (single bottle or box) of wine or liquor - $1.25 (73 cents) Beware: this is based on the so-called "profit" turned in to the General Fund, which has little to do with actual profit. It's simply the amount asked for by the administration. We know that reserves were dipped into for 2018, so this number is skewed even more than it normally would be.

2) Not counting the actual cost of the item, what the PLCB spends to put one item on the shelf - $2.91 ($3.06)

3) What PA spends to put an item on the shelf, including the average cost of the item - $10.78 ($11.40)

4) What it costs with taxes included to put one average item on the shelf - $14.48 ($15.21)
Note: While it looks like items 2,3, and 4 are an improvement...this is due to the huge numbers around just 3 items: Fireball 50 ml (+750,000 unitls) and Tito's 50 ml (+175,000 units) and Tito's liter (+380,000 units). When you increase mini sales by over 900,000 units, it skews the average cost and tax per unit. 
  
5) Average real estate rental cost per store (2018) - $1663 a week ($1432)

6) Industry average profit margin 8.1%; PLCB 2018 profit margin 8.9% (6%) The majority of this increase is due to the auction of the "Zombie" liquor licenses, not because of actual retail sales.

7) PLCB effective markup, not counting any taxes - 46.7% (45.36%)
This is because of variable pricing. Now that almost all items fall under that, expect this to rise even more next year.

8) State and federal government workers' average benefits as percentage of salary - 36.4%.
PLCB benefits as percentage of salary - 85-104% (as stated by Board members during the Appropriations hearings in the Senate).

9) Percent of sales actually checked for proof of age - Unknown. 
The PLCB did not include any information about carding in this year's summary. It is still probably under 2% as it has been in years past.

10) Retail Wine Specialists as a percentage of PLCB workers: 2.2%  (1.7%) - Only a gain of 20 in three years. Retail Wine Specialist as a percentage of Total Wine store employees - ~20%


Sources

1. - $185M returned to General Fund plus $30.5M for BLCE plus $5.5M for Alcohol Awareness programs plus $2.5M for Drug & Alcohol programs divided by 178.9 million unit sales. We were told "Modernization" will increase profits by $180M. Is anyone surprised that we're not seeing anything close to that? (Keep in mind that the $185 million is a very flexible number, mostly representing what the Legislature requires from the PLCB, whether it's actually "profit" or not.)
2. - Operating expenses (not counting the cost of wine and spirits) of $520M, divided by units sold. The lower this number, the more efficient the organization is.
3. - Operating Expenses plus Cost Of Goods Sold (COGS) = $1.928B divided by units sold 178.9M.
4. - Gross sales ($2.59B) divided by total units sold. $3.47 in tax for every bottle or box sold is the average of sales and Johnstown Flood Tax; more expensive bottles can be much more.
5. - Rental expense for all operating leases $52.2M divided by 604 stores. Of course, this cost will increase as the PLCB tries to move into higher traffic areas.
6. - IBISWorld, May 2013, Operating Income divided by Sales Net of Taxes. With increased pension costs, workers comp, salary, and benefits increasing, this won't improve any time soon.
7. - COGS divided by gross profit. This fat markup of 46.7% still isn't going to be enough to cover increasing operating costs as the PLCB had to go into reserves again to pay the $185M requested by Gov. Wolf
8. - US Dept Of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016 PA Senate Appropriations hearing.
9. - No information about carding is mentioned in this year's documents. You have slightly better than 98% chance of not being carded (compared to a 0.0% chance at private stores like Wegmans), and since the State Stores are never checked by police for underage compliance...how effective are they?
10. - 4999 (2/15/2019) divided by 111 (www.pennwatch) There appear to be no Spirits Specialists in the PLCB.
11. - Over 5000 employees and 800+ Wine Specialists (Total Wine wiki ). The PLCB has ONE retail wine specialist for every 5.4 stores, Total has SIX at each store.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Just Imagine...

Imagine that the Commonwealth controlled meat sales like they do with wine. Crazy, sure, but the State Store System of Stores doesn't make sense either. Just go with it. Along with the butchers who came in every day and cut the steaks and chops and ground the burger, there was this one guy, The Meat Master, who got to select special meats from all over that you couldn't normally find in Pennsylvania, mainly because the Meat Control Board didn't know what they were. You know, like the guy at the PLCB who picks the Chairman's Selections.

This Meat Master, he must really know his meat, right? He should be able to tell Choice from Wagyu with just one chew, have a couple of years as a certified master butcher, so he knows first hand all the different cuts of meat available: beef, pork, poultry, game, sausage and charcuterie. He's the Meat Master, you'd want to be sure he knows what he's doing so that the citizens of Pennsylvania get the absolute best meat possible.

Yeah, except the real Meat Master has only read about meat. He's eaten lots of burgers and pork chops, and even had some fine hand-cut Delmonico steaks. But he never actually had to prove his ability by being able to differentiate different cuts and grades of meat by taste. On top of that, his certification test to identify different cuts was all home study and he never actually did any work in a kitchen or butcher shop. He has the lowest possible certification as a butcher, but he's never so much as boned a chicken.

You've probably guessed; this is about wines at the the PLCB, not meat at the Meat Control Board. The new head of the Chairman's Selection, Josh Hull, is a Certified Specialist of Wine. It sounds pretty fancy, but what does it actually mean?  A CSW is the lowest certification provided by The Society Of Wine Educators (SWE), the bottom rung of one of the four main wine certification organizations. 

The CSW certification has no official class time required to sit for an exam. It is entirely an independent study program. After passing an exam, the credentials are appended to an individual’s name, which is appealing for those aiming to make themselves more marketable in the wine and spirits industry. It's...about one step above being a mail-order preacher. It is better than the in-house PLCB certification, but that ain't saying much.

If you think that this guy is the standard that the rest of the wine world is striving to achieve, that pretty much sums up what a lot of the problems are at the PLCB. Delusion seems to be at or near the top of the list. My waiter the last time I was in DC * had better credentials than the guy selecting Chairman's Selection wines. How do I know this? He had his pin on for completion of the introductory Sommeliers course.

For some of the top wine programs it takes years of study, multiple exams, hands on tasting, and having to prove your expertise. The Institute
of Masters of Wine "seeks to educate those on the leading edge of the wine world." That pretty much explains why there are none in the PLCB. We wouldn't want that for Pennsylvania would we?

The reality is that the Chairman's Selection Program often buys wine that didn't sell when faced with free market competition. Consumers - en masse - already decided that there are or were better wines available at those particular price points. 
That isn't to say they are bad wines, just not popular
 
What do you do when you have a product that doesn't sell?  You put it on sale, perhaps try to offer it in other places that wouldn't normally carry it like...The Dollar Store. Or Pennsylvania. If this stuff was so good, why didn't the super-duper wine selectors at the PLCB select it in the first place?

The PLCB should have hired an already highly certified and qualified person who could then train up their platoon of wine buyers and wine specialists past the "PLCB standards" to industry recognized standards, thereby improving the consumer experience. Remember us? The consumers? 


Pennsylvania is a dumping ground for wine the rest of the country didn't want. Shouldn't we at least have somebody who is the absolute best picking out the gems from the dregs?




*Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons - highly recommended especially if somebody else is paying for it. BTW, they have 3 Sommeliers on staff, the PLCB has none.

Monday, May 13, 2019

How Long Does It Take?

Two weeks ago I posted about how the PLCB inventory accuracy rate is getting worse. As I mentioned then, I wrote them an email with the link to the story, explained what their mistakes were, and gave them the official government regulations that explain how to determine what spirits should be called. If I gave them any more help, I would have to fix the inventory myself.

Anyone with moderate typing skills could make these corrections in about three minutes. Two weeks should surely be enough time, even with supervisory oversight. Let's see how that worked out.

PLCB - third-rate data entry.
1. 510608 Berkshire Mountain Distillers Bourbon Whiskey - This one is pretty easy. If it's a bourbon, it's not a blend: it's a bourbon.
NOT FIXED: The PLCB still calls it a bourbon, but still categorizes it as a blend.

2. 153 Brixton Bourbon Whiskey Mash Destroyer - I could almost forgive this one, because it's a 'blend' of bourbon and rum; where do you put that? But they couldn't even get the name right! It isn't Brixton Bourbon Mash Destroyer, it's Brixton Mash Destroyer. Why do they constantly add words that aren't there? Put this in SPECIALTIES, but it's not BLENDED WHISKEY.
FIXED: While still in the Blended whiskey section they did fix the name and changed the description enough to show that at least an effort was made.

3. 31328 Clyde May's Bourbon Mash Whiskey - There is no Clyde May's "Bourbon Mash Whiskey." The Clyde May brand has a Straight Bourbon -- which is a bourbon -- and a "Alabama-style Whiskey" -- which is bourbon with apple added, which makes it SPECIALTIES -US, or WHISKEY...
FIXED: Amazingly, the PLCB not only corrected the description but put it in the correct category too.

4. 608012 Crater Lake Rye Reserve- Again, not blended. It's RYE. Pretty simple. Who's making mistakes this simple and stupid? Sorry/not sorry: there's no other way to describe that.
NOT FIXED: The PLCB didn't do anything.


5. 559141 George Dickel Whiskey Single Barrel - Reading comprehension and product knowledge required; no wonder the PLCB got it wrong.  If it is single barrel, what are you blending it with? Imagination? There should be a TENNESSEE WHISKEY category. Most other Tennessees are in WHISKEY, which is such a catch-all it's all but worthless.
TOSS UP: They didn't fix it...but they didn't keep the listing either. The item has disappeared.

6. 528555 Hooker's House Organic Rye Whiskey - There is no record of a "Hooker's House Organic Rye Whiskey" on the Internet...except connected to this mistaken PLCB record. Again, why are you adding words that aren't even there? In any case: RYE, not a blend. Okay?
NOT FIXED. Is two weeks just not enough time? This was one of the easy ones!

7. 34278 Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select Tennessee Whiskey 90 Proof - Given their track record, is anyone really surprised that there's a Jack Daniel's bottling on this list? I've been mentioning this particular one for a few years now. Jack Daniel doesn't make blended whiskey, but that doesn't stop the PLCB from getting it wrong for the past 3 years.
NOT FIXED: Was there any doubt the PLCB would continue to screw up this entry? It is part of their DNA to have at least one Jack Daniel's product wrong.

8. 504228 Jim Beam Eight Star Kentucky Whiskey 8 Year Old - They almost got this one right: it is a blend! But as I mentioned over a year ago...it is not 8 years old. Where is that on this very simple label? Nowhere that I can see.
FIXED!
I wonder who had to read the label and make the command decision that it doesn't say 8 years old.

9. 446 Wigle Phil's Shadow Rye Whiskey Finished in Maple Syrup Barrels - Not a blend. Again, at the very least, a RYE.
NOT FIXED: Not one of the three ryes on the list were fixed. Does Rye confuse the PLCB?


It's ONLY been two weeks!
Pretty weak track record. Two weeks, ten whole work days, and only three entries fixed, four if you want to be generous. I guess none of the managers are the "hands on" type, and not very good motivators. Typical PLCB.

There are undoubtedly THOUSANDS of bad entries in the PLCB inventory; I haven't even looked at the wines. If they can't fix even half of a small sub-group when given all the information...imagine how badly they are doing when they have to find out and correct these things through their own means.


This access to 'all the wine and spirits in the entire system' is supposedly one of the advantages of the State Store System of Stores. You don't have to chase supply and price through hundreds of individual stores, like in those terribly disorganized "free" states. If the database is so badly disorganized that you can't find what you're looking for...where's the advantage?

There is none. Privatize now.

Monday, April 29, 2019

They only fix it if you poke them with a stick

Eighteen months ago I wrote in "PLCB Stupid Inventory Part 100" how five out of only 53 items in the "Blended Whiskey" category of their product database were...in the wrong category, about a 10% error rate. If you got 10% of your job wrong every day, would you still have that job? Would your boss who accepted that rate of failure have his job?

That's when I wrote that post; I started poking them with a stick.


So 18 months later...the PLCB error rate in Blended Whiskey is now over 13.8%. Way to go, guys. The PLCB has two ways to look up things. The so-called flat file inventory that I use here, which has everything in one place, or the slower, seemingly less accurate one on the FWAGS website, which is just as bad, in its own way. The flat file inventory also allows you to look up things by type, which is what I'm doing below.

Tell you what. I'm feeling generous today, so I'm going to list a few items that they can't seem to figure out and tell them why they're marked wrong. I'll even send them the list. But you know...I'm pretty sure the next time I check, they'll still be wrong, and there will be new things wrong too. But maybe they'll learn. Maybe.

All the federal regulations that pertain to whiskey classification can be found online in the Electronic Code OF Federal Regulations. That's how you know what kind of whiskey you have, and how it's going to be labeled. Maybe somebody in the PLCB has read it, but I have my doubts.

Most of these won't even require a reading of the regs. They're pretty simple. Let's have a look at what's wrong with these entries in the Blended Whiskey category.

Now this is bourbon!
1. 510608 Berkshire Mountain Distillers Bourbon Whiskey - This one is pretty easy. If it's a bourbon, it's not a blend: it's a bourbon.

2. 153 Brixton Bourbon Whiskey Mash Destroyer - I could almost forgive this one, because it's a 'blend' of bourbon and rum; where do you put that? 

But they couldn't even get the name right! It isn't Brixton Bourbon Mash Destroyer, it's Brixton Mash Destroyer. Why do they constantly add words that aren't there? Put this in SPECIALTIES, but it's not BLENDED WHISKEY.

3. 31328 Clyde May's Bourbon Mash Whiskey - There is no Clyde May's "Bourbon Mash Whiskey." The Clyde May brand has a Straight Bourbon -- which is a bourbon -- and a "Alabama-style Whiskey" -- which is bourbon with apple added, which makes it SPECIALTIES -US, or WHISKEY...

Which leads you to ask: why does this database have a LIGHT WHISKEY category that has no entries, but no WHISKEY (FLAVORED) category...in 2019? 

4. 608012 Crater Lake Rye Reserve- Again, not blended. It's RYE. Pretty simple. Who's making mistakes this simple and stupid? Sorry/not sorry: there's no other way to describe that.

5. 559141 George Dickel Whiskey Single Barrel - Reading comprehension and product knowledge required; no wonder the PLCB got it wrong.  If it is single barrel, what are you blending it with? Imagination? There should be a TENNESSEE WHISKEY category. Most other Tennessees are in WHISKEY, which is such a catch-all it's all but worthless


6. 528555 Hooker's House Organic Rye Whiskey - There is no record of a "Hooker's House Organic Rye Whiskey" on the Internet...except connected to this mistaken PLCB record. Again, why are you adding words that aren't even there? In any case: RYE, not a blend. Okay?

7. 34278 Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select Tennessee Whiskey 90 Proof - Given their track record, is anyone really surprised that there's a Jack Daniel's bottling on this list? I've been mentioning this particular one for a few years now. JD doesn't make blended whiskey, but that doesn't stop the PLCB from getting it wrong for the past 3 years.

8. 504228 Jim Beam Eight Star Kentucky Whiskey 8 Year Old - They almost got this one right: it is a blend! But as I mentioned over a year ago...it is not 8 years old. Where is that on this very simple label? Nowhere that I can see.

9. 446 Wigle Phil's Shadow Rye Whiskey Finished in Maple Syrup Barrels - Not a blend. Again, at the very least, a RYE. 


I bet the answer is down here - I've looked nowhere else!
So there you have it, PLCB. The gauntlet is tossed. Clean 'em up. Oh, and don't fall back on the old excuse that you are told by your suppliers what these are. Just read the freakin' label, and copy it into the database without editorial additions. Easy-peasy. Get it done, or I'll have to get that stick out again. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A Look Back At The Wine Kiosks

We have a guest post today. A member of our Facebook group -- Abolish the PLCB -- Rewrite the Code! -- Wende Phifer Mate, wrote a remembrance of the wine kiosks. It was so good, we decided to run it here (with permission, of course).

Great moments in PLCB history. 

Did anyone ever try to purchase wine from one these kiosks? I lamented the passing of them because they provoked more laughter than most comedians do.
Among the highlights:

  • The instructions - not bad if you had an hour to kill.
  • The ID checker - you had to put your drivers license into a slot, then look into a camera in order to pass on to the next test. Hard to do with a straight face.
  • The breathalyzer - yes, you had to breathe into a weird tube before the machine would allow you to proceed. It did not always register that it had been breathed into until you were about to pass out from trying.
  • Choosing your wine - you had to wade though the whole list of available wines on the touchscreen. There was no other way to make a selection. Needless to say, it took some people FOR...EV...ER to get through this part. 
  • The delivery system - It was like those candy machines that push the item forward until it drops. Has there ever been a more stupid idea! I watched one of my bottles crash to the floor inside the machine before it got to the collection window. I read later that this was a very common occurrence.
  • The bags - Plastic bottle bags were provided but three that I pulled out had slits in the bottom. Bottle goes in, bottle goes right out the bottom. (That's another sale!)
In short, they worked just as you'd expect they would, coming from the masterminds running the PLCB.


We miss them too, Wende, but like some of Joe "Da CEO" Conti's best moments, they are a gift that keeps on giving. Whenever the PLCB starts to seem reasonable, just remember: they're only one brain-fart away from another great idea like the Wine Robot Army. That's why we say:

Privatize.

Monday, April 22, 2019

As required by law......

There are numerous "newswires" available; the majority of them just reprint press releases from businesses. So and so got promoted, Corporation XYZ broke ground for a new building, that sort of stuff.

But in the insecure world of the PLCB, where every single scrap of good news is treated like a cure for cancer, we get crap like this, telling us that the PLCB gave back license fees to municipalities. That's a press release essentially saying "The PLCB is going to follow the law." It even says, right in the release, "As required by law." Imagine if the Department of Corrections put out press releases saying, "As required by law, inmates were released at the end of their sentence." Or if PennDot decided to let us all know, "As required by law, plow drivers will follow traffic signals."

Maybe the PLCB is trying to make up for all the news that's being reported by independent journalists about graft, nepotism, back door deals, lack of ethics, destroying evidence, shoddy record keeping, wine kiosks, Water Heater Joe, overcharging and variably screwing the citizens. I can think of better ways to do it, though. Here's one example for businesses to follow:
Can you imagine the PLCB actually doing this?
Now I'm all for transparency in Government. That's another reason I don't like the PLCB: they are the least transparent of any state organization. Want to find out how much the Department of Education paid for a chair? You can actually look at the bids, see who won, and what the bid was for those chairs. But if you want to find out how much the PLCB paid for that case of vodka...it's suddenly become proprietary information. It wasn't before Act 39, and there is nothing in Act 39 that makes it proprietary; the PLCB just decided it was so. They say this is so Company A doesn't know what Company B is paying, and that makes negotiations fair.

That would be true in the open market...but not in a government-owned and operated monopoly. You see, it doesn't matter if either one of those companies know what the PLCB is paying them - they have nowhere else to go if they want to sell in Pennsylvania. Each product is a game of chicken between the PLCB and the supplier. The PLCB says, we'll only pay this much or we won't carry it, and the supplier says no, you'll  pay this much or you won't carry it.

So who blinks first? The PLCB, because they won't be providing what the consumer wants (even more so than now), or the supplier, who might lose overall sales? Add to that the knowledge that both sides know what a suitable substitute* would cost the PLCB, and you have price competition. The PLCB doesn't know if the price they paid for that substitute is equal to or above what the supplier they're currently negotiating with is willing to take and the supplier doesn't know if the price they are offering is above or below what the PLCB is willing to take. Of course, all that requires work and if done fairly, would benefit the consumer and so is antithetical to the PLCB way of doing things.

Remember: the Board members ultimately make the decisions about what you get to buy. They are political cronies with no experience in the liquor business; almost every one has been a lawyer with political connections. And you don't have any say in who they are. These aren't elected positions, and they aren't hires, subject to the civil service regulations. The one good thing you can say is that they aren't full time employees, so they can't screw things up 24/7.
The lack of qualified people on the Board is mostly the fault of the Governor - all of them since 1934. They could appoint people with industry experience...but they don't. Instead, they use the PLCB to pay back supporters, cronies, contributors, any non-qualified person they can find. And the legislature rubber-stamps them, which makes them culpable, too.

We need to change the system to something that works for the people. A system that allows freedom of choice, allows convenience, allows competition, and allows government to focus on regulation. We need privatization


*A suitable substitute is something that satisfies the consumers desire for a product or type of product. For example, Nikolai would be a suitable substitute for Vladimir vodka on the low end, and Ciroc for Grey Goose on the higher end.