Sunday, May 25, 2014

Abolish the PLCB Q & A

To celebrate somewhat of a small milestone - my 50th story posted here I've decided to open up the blog to hear what you want. I've been writing about and answering the questions that I get from my reading, tips or tidbits of info from unhappy PLCB employees, inspiration from UFCW officials (and some not so official), and the regular citizens like you. These are things that I wanted answered or at least thought about but now it is your turn fellow privateers (or even the other side -- the Control Freaks and the prohibitionists) to ask me something about the PLCB you want answered. I can't say I'll have the answer you want or even an answer but I'll try.

Want to know how many stores are open? I'll go into the whole spiel about how many stores the PLCB says it has vs. how many are actually open vs. how many can citizens go to and not just licensees. Want to know how many stores turn a profit?  It is far less that you would think. Got a favorite bottle you want a better price on I'll compare PA to what I find.

Your turn, your voice, your questions.

As always, all questions/comments will be published (yes, even the Anonymous ones) so long as they are:
  • relevant (don't tear off into rants on politics, or the lottery, and so on)
  • civil: no personal attacks, and please keep the profanity to a minimum
  • one round; don't keep asking the same question

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wendell Young lies and I can prove it Part 2

This will be a continuing series exposing the lies from Mr. Young until the state is privatized or he stops talking, whichever comes first.

Today we have Mr. Young from the PCN call in show of February 19th, 2013 (It could be any show, really, because he just keeps saying the same things). At 28:23 into the show he says: "The bottom line is we have the absolute lowest death rate associated with alcohol consumption of all 50 states."

Nice, except the CDC doesn't agree with him.  Using the numbers from their 2006-2010 study on Alcohol-Attributable Deaths due to excessive alcohol consumption we find that PA only beats two of the six border states, the control state of West Virginia and the quasi control state of Ohio.  All the privately run border states do better.

Perhaps Mr. Young meant PA does better than all 50 states when all alcohol consumption is taken into account, not just excessive consumption? That isn't true either, PA again only beats West Virginia and by less than 2 tenths of 1 percent beats Ohio.

For those of you who don't wish to crunch the numbers I've done it for you.  Population figures are 2010 census data. The key point to look at is for "Citizens per death," the bigger the number, the better the state's citizens are doing. (click on it to see the whole spreadsheet)

Of course, this doesn't include the DUI fatality rate which is higher in PA than 4 of the 6 border states. I would think that those would be associated with alcohol consumption too.

It's not just lies about safety. In this same program, he says there are 40,000 items available through the PLCB, then a year later (as I documented in Wendell Young lies and I can prove it Part 1), he says there are 30,000 items.  Here he says that the smallest stores carry 1,000 items guessed it, says a different number (1,500-3000)  in the linked story later on. He can't even keep his lies straight.

I've been told that if you lie, it is important to keep your lies straight, or else they can come back and bite you in the -- er, trip you up when you least expect it.

Right Wendell?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lets Kill Another Privatization Myth IV

With all this "control", why isn't PA safer?

Converting PA to a private system will put a liquor store on every corner, have drunk drivers roaming the streets looking for victims and packs of wild drunken teens will trod over the desolate landscape. How do we know this?  The state store clerks union tells us in letters to the editor, on-line comments and even senior officials spouting it as gospel.

The truth is none of that has happened in Washington State.  Clerk representatives like to say that Washington State DUI citation data can't be believed because there were less troopers on the road to write tickets.  Never mind that local police write the most tickets since there are thousands more of them than State Police. Or they say that DUI fatalities are going down everywhere which to me means that their dire predictions didn't come about since Washington State did see a decline in DUI fatalities. However, the amount of troopers on the road has little to do with DUI fatalities. People do not die and then try to hide the fact like they do with crashes.

2013 national data has not been released yet so we have to look at 2012 data.  In 2012 17 states reported a decrease in DUI fatalities.  Pa was not one of them.  Pennsylvania's DUI fatalities increased 2,8% overall compared to 2011 and went up over 15% for under 21 drivers while Washington DUI fatalities decreased 7.6% overall and over 30% for under 21 drivers. Now an official representative of the UFCW has said that this represents "statistically insignificant numbers" so I have to wonder how many deaths it takes to be significant (statistically speaking) for him?

It is all because of beer the clerks say but beer is also private in Washington and since they had and continue to have the highest liquor taxes in the country that makes beer the choice for those on a teens. So since the PLCB is in charge of "control" via inspections, complaints, beer registration, and numerous other ways - are they not doing as good a job as the WSLCB? Would they do better if they only had to concentrate on regulation and not retail.  One would hope.

Statewide statistics are not yet available for Pennsylvania for 2013 but they just came out for Washington and the data shows that alcohol impaired driver fatalities have gone down again, this time over 18% for the year. For the past 24 months, 18 of them since privatization, Washington State has decreased DUI fatalities by over 25% and PA has not.

Wake up Legislators.  The PLCB is not the only, nor has it ever been, the best way to do things.

Privatization Is REAL Modernization.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Any of this sound familiar?

Has it been 30 years already?

In 1985 it was recommended that the PLCB implement a paperless licensee image filing system, in 1992 the PLCB said it was in the process of doing so. In 2014, 30 years later, the process isn't finished yet: every store has paper files for the licensees that regularly use them.

In 1985 the PLCB was tasked with developing alternative pricing strategies that fit within the liquor code. This was done but never implemented, and here we are in 2014 hearing that as part of "modernization," they want to develop alternate pricing strategies.

Again in 1985 the PLCB was told to "Improve marketing of PLCB products by responding to customer demand and properly handling wine and spirits." In 1992 the PLCB said that "Store customers were surveyed and customer service training for store personnel has been enhanced." I'm not sure I believe that.

This one is too funny to be anything but true coming from the PLCB.  In 1985 they were asked to "Establish accepted business practices for commercial licensees e.g. credit privileges and product delivery." Now they did eventually let licensees pay with credit cards, but said "The delivery option was tested but not implemented due to lack of interest." They must mean the PLCB's lack of interest since you won't find a bar or restaurant that doesn't want liquor delivery.

You might have thought that TableLeaf and the others were new ideas thought up, as Joe Conti lied about, because there was a glut of California wine. But in the late 80's the PLCB established a wine advisory panel to help with its private label wine program.

After it was recommended that the PLCB "Eliminate the requirement that permanent part-time employees be certified by the Civil Sevice Commission," the PLCB said they were working to improve the process. 30 years later, they are still working on it.

If anybody tells you what a great job our state system does just remind them that: The PLCB -- through the spun-off enforcement arm called the BLCE (Bureau of Liquor Code Enforcement) -- isn't doing their job. Between 1989 and 1992 there were 300 arrests for bringing in untaxed liquor from out of state. Last year there were two and this year just one so far out of literally millions if not 10's of millions of violations.

All of the above was taken from the May 1992 Legislative Budget and Finance Committee performance audit of the 1985 Audit recommendations. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Seriously? This is the agency that wants us to believe that this time they really really are going to do what they said they would. Just trust them this time.

I got a better idea: privatize.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

You can't fix stupid

Yes, it is true: you can't fix stupid. No matter what the clerks' union comes up with, it will never get away from the image of what was quite possibly the most inane advertisement ever to be put on Pennsylvania's airwaves. It is so bad in so many ways that the entire nation is laughing at the state, and the idiots who put this together for broadcast.

That bunch of idiots would be the UFCW Local 1776 media office and an outfit called Strategic Communications (the link is provided in case you want to put this gang of ham-handed 'communicators' on your company's Do Not Call list). It is so bad that one of the union's own members said on Facebook, "I work for this system and I personally find this ad embarrassing. Their true intentions are to keep our jobs (which I do not mind), but Ads like these are utterly ridiculous." Obviously he wishes to remain anonymous.

I have not seen one positive response anywhere. I would like to read one just to get an idea of what kind of person thinks this was a good idea.  Those that don't are legion,  If you haven't seen the stories, here are a baker's dozen of them. Be sure to read the comments: they just don't get any better.







7.) (About 7 minutes in)






13,) And my own lambasting published here last week.

Enjoy, have fun and don't laugh too hard. Remember: this year privatization killed the little girl; last year, they killed her father. If this drags on one more year...that's going to be a pretty lonely ad campaign. But it's still going to be stupid, because there's just no way this line of reasoning is ever going to make sense.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Let's Kill Another Privatization Myth III

Another favorite clerk message is that privatization would kill off the local or craft brewery, winery, or distillery. Not a lot of data out there on this point since the craft movement really didn't exist 25 years ago when Iowa privatized or 20 years ago when Alberta privatized, but there is one current example: Washington State.

How did the craft movement do in Washington from before privatization to after privatization?

In FY 2011, before privatization there were:
  • 739 Winery licenses
  • 151 Brewery licenses
  • 35 Craft Distillery licenses

In FY 2013, the first year after privatization:
  • Winery licenses increased 7.4% to 794
  • Brewery licenses increased 47% to 223
  • Craft Distillery licenses increased a whopping 83% in just two years to 64.
  • While not producers, but indicative of the increased selection available to Washingtonians, the Importers and Distributors licenses increased an incredible 129%.

While it may be true that some in-state sales declined (hard to say since all the data isn't available), that doesn't seem to have stopped the craft movement. One thing you can say about the free market is that people don't start businesses to lose money; they aren't the PLCB, after all, with millions to waste on signs and kiosks and things. If they're starting businesses, they're pretty sure they can sell product.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wendell Young lies and I can prove it.

On a Pennsylvania Cable Network call-in program (you can follow along here) on Tuesday, 29 April UFCW Local 1776 President For Life Mr. Wendell W. Young IV* made the following statements.

At approximately 5:50 into the show, Mr. Young says: “The typical store in Pennsylvania stocks 3,000 to 6,000 items. Our smallest stores stock 1,500 to 3,000 items and our specialty stores, our largest stores stock 5,000 to 10,000 items.” He then goes on to say: “We carry 30,000 items in the inventory...”

We have billllions and billlions of items.
Nice story, but the online database provided by the PLCB as of 30 April lists only 4,262 total regular items; out of that, 1,017 are close-outs, or holiday items not in stock leaving 3,245 regular items available. There are 11,661 items listed as “Luxury Items,” of which at least 25% are not in stock anywhere in the state; thousands more have only a few bottles available, leaving maybe 7,000 items at most somewhere. If they aren’t at a nearby store, you have to pay to have them shipped in -- just like a private store -- so no real benefit there.

So, according to the PLCB itself there are around 10,500 items in stock. We're not done, though. Then there are the inventory mistakes. Items like 34191 (Ehler's Estate 120 80 Red Blend St Helena 2010) are listed, but are not in stock, according to the inventory. Maybe strike a few hundred, conservatively, because of that. me, slick.
But what about those "largest stores"? Mr. Young says that there is a store out there somewhere with everything Pennsylvania stocks, all 10,000 items that are left after the close-outs, not in stock, and inventory mistakes are taken out. I’d like to know where that one store is. Probably next to the store that carries the additional 15,000 items he says are in inventory...that the PLCB's own database  says are not. Looks like Wendell lied.

At 16:45, Mr. Young continues with: “When you look at every state that had a system like ours and two that were very similar to ours, Iowa and West Virginia, went through the same kind of transition at the lobbying efforts, because of the lobbying efforts of people like Kevin (Kevin Shivers NFIB PA State Director) and the folks he represents. Neither of those states ever recovered from what they lost in revenue.” Well, that sounds pretty damning. But for Iowa, at least, it just isn’t true. As I documented in this story, the Iowa Department of Revenue says they made $95 million more because they privatized their retail. Mr. Young lies again.

Privatize, and every job in the state is lost.
When you get to 17:10 in the story, Mr. Young says: “The jobs that Larry talked about will not be there, Sandra the caller was right. The retailers that will take most of these licenses, the big chain store retailers, they are just going to rearrange some of the...shelf space in their stores, reuse the same workforce that they have most of them who are part time, minimum wage or slightly above, WalMart, Target, the supermarket chains mostly non-union chains. Now, you don’t have to take my word for that, the Governor conducted a study on this, he went out and hired a company to study it –they told him the same thing. They said little or no jobs are going to be created by privatizing this.”

The study Mr. Young is talking about was for a completely different plan and has no bearing on current plan under discussion. More relevantly, every place on the continent that has privatized some or all of their liquor system has seen an increase in employment. Jobs tripled in Washington and Alberta, the last two which fully privatized. They doubled in Iowa, and even increased in West Virginia. In any case, 33% of the PLCB workforce is part time already, and that percentage is growing. Another set of lies from Mr. Young.

He goes on to talk about HB790 from last year saying how the bill claimed it would get $800 million for the sale of the system and that at 17:58: “$500 million of that approximately was from licensing wholesalers, an estimated 30 wholesalers in Pennsylvania. Every other state in the country they have 2 or 3 wholesalers.

Hold on, Wendell. Let's check that. I admit I didn’t look at all 50 states, I just looked at the one because I knew he was lying about it. New York has 150 active licensed wholesalers.You can look for yourself here. Washington now has over 500 licensed importers and distributors. I think I see a pattern. Mr. Young lied again. 
I'll spin you right round, like a record, baby.

Of course, not everything he says is a lie. Sometimes he likes to do his second favorite activity and toss in some spin. Disingenuous might be the kindest thing you can say about that. An example of that is at 18:20 when he says: “And think about the Governor's study; said that it would take a billion four to unwind the system.” Of course, he fails to mention it would take over $2 billion to keep the system using those same numbers. Way to walk the fine line, Wendell.

One of my favorites occurs at 19:53 when Mr. Young tells us that: ”The PLCB runs about 20 stores in grocery stores and they would like to have more, but because of Mike Turzai and Governor Corbett they’ve put, they’ve refused to allow changes to the way the liquor board operates that would allow them to put more stores closer to supermarkets, next to them, or inside supermarkets.”

So if I understand what he is saying, the PLCB, which makes its own decisions on where to put and how many stores there are, can’t put more stores near or in grocery stores because of the current administration, even though they have no input on store placement, and have only been around for three years? The PLCB did the first “store in a store” 33 years ago and the have about 20 (I’m pretty sure the number is 17 at the moment) and yet somehow it is the Corbett administration who is holding up doing more. Another lie, a double lie.

That is only the first 20 minutes of an hour long show and Mr. Young continues on about the same pace for the rest of it. But I got tired of listening to and transcribing his lies. If Mr. Young wants to refute any or all of this he knows where I can be found.

Full Privatization is the only REAL Modernization.

*We've jokingly called Wendell "President for Life" at times, but of course that's not actually true. Young's father was president of UFCW Local 1776 for 43 consecutive years, till 2005, and Wendell IV has been president ever since, which might lead one to believe that it's a hereditary position, but he just keeps getting re-elected in free and fair elections. So it only looks like he's the Hereditary President for Life, much like a dictator in a corrupt, oppressive third world nation. He's not, really. He just looks exactly like it. Especially with that haircut.