Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Main Street Does It Better"

The National Federation of Independent Businesses did the following video about liquor privatization. It doesn't need much comment. This is all stuff that we see all the time. We know this. Send it to your Senator, and ask them why they want Pennsylvania to continue to lose this tax revenue, and why they want to continue to send Pennsylvanians out of state.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tell your Senator everything the PLCB's doing!

I copied this from a Facebook post; I don't think the original poster will mind. The idea is that while the Senators fiddle and diddle and talk about "modernizing" the PLCB instead of privatizing it -- privatization that the majority of Pennsylvanians continue to support -- we should remind the Senate what a great job the PLCB is doing. So...get on the phone, send an email, and let your Senator know that the PLCB deserves credit for all the things they're doing!
  • Tell them that you really thought the wine kiosks were innovative 
  • that you thought the date-rape ads were on target 
  • that your mother liked the vodka 
  • that you didn't mind that your wine sat in an non-air conditioned trailer in the summer 
  • that you think the PLCB didn't have anything better to spend the now $35 million+ in computer cost overruns on 
  • that bringing back the CEO under investigation for graft is a great idea 
  • that TableLeaf is the best thing since the PLCB spent over $4 million to rename Wine and Spirits to Fine Wine and Good Spirits
  • that you're impressed with the string of record annual sales figures (and the bookkeeping skills needed to explain why the net assets of the PLCB are negative)
  • that thy have an amazing jobs program going that has more employees now with 601 stores then there were with 692 stores in 2000
  • that it's great that the PLCB spend more on advertising than on education
  • that they're saving money as the 3rd largest purchaser of wine in the world by not bothering to have a trained sommelier on staff?
  • that smile training should be mandatory for all state workers (especially when you can keep it "all in the family")
  • that you really appreciate having 90 stores less than there were in 2000 so there wouldn't be a liquor store on every corner. 
Pretty amazing when you add it all up, isn't it? Remember: call your senator today...and then call them again next week. And the following week. And so on, till you get a good reason why they'd rather vote against what the citizens want than for it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Worth posting: a word from an (Anonymous) LCB clerk

This comment and my response from the post just below was worth posting here on its own to get more attention. I've edited my response a little just to polish it. directed at the PLCB employees. It's about how to keep your jobs, and take pride in them.

Anonymous said...
Another word to my fellow LCB employees:
You cannot, and should not, expect anyone to choose sides on the privatization debate based on our losing our jobs. On the positive side, the thing we CAN do is educate ourselves about the products we sell. Product knowledge is a skill that will serve both to break the stereotype of the potable-ignorant LCB clerk AND also to give us a strong leg-up if we end up having to apply for jobs in the private sector.

My response...
Bullseye. The service at the State Stores isn't being talked about in the high-level debate in Harrisburg, for the human and political reason that no legislator wants to be quoted criticizing people's performance, but it is definitely discussed among the people who actually have to use the system.

I've said all along that the service I've received at the register has almost always been satisfactory, and often quite friendly. But the service out on the floor is distinctly sub-par, with a very few notable exceptions. I've been given to understand that there's no real program in place to increase product knowledge, and it shows.

Your union reps may tell you what a horrible work environment Total Wine is, but fail to point out that while their employees complain about their treatment by management, they almost never fail to admit that the training they receive in wine and spirits is exemplary...and they often use it to go elsewhere.

If you get motivated about what you're selling, and get excited about helping the people who need help...that's the very best thing you can do to stop privatization. Much better than the chanting and shouting that the UFCW encourages, much better than the flimsy "control" statistics, much better than allying yourself with anti-alcohol groups (because that just emphasizes the innate and bizarre dichotomy of the whole control/sell dual nature of the agency).

If you want a "modernization" program that could actually save your jobs, look to Sweden's Systembolaget, their state monopoly wine and spirits retailer. I've heard nothing but praise for it from producers (I was on a press trip with the Swedish brand manager for Pernod Ricard, and she never stopped praising it) and from consumers; a fraternity brother of mine now lives in Stockholm -- he's very picky about wine -- and he raves about the service and selection at Systembolaget...and as a former Pennsylvanian pities me for the State Stores.

Real modernization would include linking product knowledge and sales performance to advancement, would include a wine specialist and a spirits specialist at each premium store. It would give the local store managers much more training, and much more control over what's sold at their stores. It would take the control of shelf facings away from the people in Harrisburg and give it to you, the people who are actually selling, and seeing what your customers buy, and what they're not finding.

I don't think that's likely to happen, but if it did? It would go a long way to shutting me up on this issue. It would also help if some of your co-workers would stop trying to tell me that private stores in other states aren't as good as the State Stores, because I go there, and that's simply not true. Doesn't help your case. Instead, do what you can to make your service, your store better. Just do what you can, where you are.

I don't go to New Jersey for the prices. I go for the selection, somewhat, especially on spirits, because the State Store is, for whatever reason, scared of whisky. But the main reason I avoid the State Stores is the service. I get much better, much more helpful service at the private stores in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Delaware. Fact.

And let me add: I've already talked about how to change the State Stores and save them here. Add this stuff, and you've got a good formula for it. But...I still don't think it's going to happen. Because no one in the upper bureaucracy of the PLCB cares -- because their jobs aren't directly at risk -- and Wendell W. Young IV doesn't care, because up until now, shouting and chanting and yellow shirts and campaign donations have been all he's needed to just keep things the way they are. You're being encouraged to keep the status quo, but the status quo is what 60% of Pennsylvanians don't want (and remember: a large chunk of the 40% or so that says they're in favor of keeping the State Stores don't drink, and would really rather just have Prohibition). You can do better. You can do better on your own. Think about it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's Going On

As you know, the House passed HB790. It was clearly an historic day, the first time a liquor store privatization bill has ever passed out of a chamber of the Legislature. Let me say that again. This is the first time a liquor privatization bill has ever been passed in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

And that's great, but now it has to pass in the Senate, and the Republicans there are even more resistant to voting with their party, with their party's governor, and with their party's age-old direction on government functions. Why? Lots of reasons, but it's going to take time, it's going to take work, it's going to take YOU talking to your senator (and other Republican senators), because to pass, a privatization bill that's not watered down to a "modernization" bill will need all but one Republican senator.

Public opinion is energized, newspaper editorials are falling in favor of chopping the system apart, and even the New Jersey papers are getting into the act: they know damned well that privatization in Pennsylvania will mean a loss of business for NJ liquor stores. We need to keep the pressure on, we need to keep talking about this, and we need to be in the senator's mailboxes...and maybe in their offices.

I'm going to be gone for a bit, and the blog will be silent again. I've got another blog going for a project this Sunday -- Session Beer Day, a nationwide, low-key celebration of tasty, low-alcohol craft beers, more about it here -- and then I'm going to Scotland to tour distilleries for a book I'm writing. When I get back, we really need to talk about getting a visit to Harrisburg organized, to show the senators that while we don't have yellow t-shirts like the union, we're still serious about privatization of this fossilized relic of a "system" that should never have existed. And maybe we need to revisit the idea of a large group of people publicly, simultaneously, going over to NJ or Delaware, buying a bottle of booze, and openly bringing it back to PA: if the Senate won't give us privatization, we'll have to go and take it.

Get busy. Stay pumped. And talk to your Senators!