Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How the PLCB Sells the High End: Badly

All throughout the Pennsylvania State Store System there are pockets of unwanted, unsold products that costs thousands of dollars. They aren't sold because some cube rat in Harrisburg estimated the market wrong, they were sent to some place that doesn't have the demographics to support luxury or niche products (or the sales savvy to match them to the appropriate buyers), or most likely the PLCB didn't have a clue on pricing and thought that since they were the only seller that people would pay three times as much to get these collector level bottles.

Case in point: The case of Chateau Ausone 2003 sitting at Store #3625 in Lancaster County, located midway between the sprawling metropolis of Columbia and Lancaster itself. Just across the street from the Sunoco and  walking distance from the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater (I'm not making this up). Average housing price is $210,000, about 10% more than the U.S. average. Not the place you would expect to find a $36,000 case of wine.  That's right: $3,000 per bottle, plus 6% sales tax. The Amish must be living large.

While Store #3625 is a "Premium Collection" store, one has to wonder why these bottles aren't in Center City Philadelphia, or someplace in Chester County, or even on-line (where the PLCB usually puts booze it doesn't understand), or at least someplace that they could be stored properly. But they're sitting out in the land of scrapple and shoo-fly pies, getting older.

You might be saying to yourself, "Well, it's expensive, sure, but maybe they got a good deal on that case." Nope, not even close. You can go east across the border and save $1,005 PER BOTTLE! Hell, you could pay someone $500 to go get it for you, and still save money! Or drive into New York and get it yourself: you'll pay even more in taxes, but you'll still save a hefty $1,775 PER BOTTLE. As I reported back in February, the PLCB doesn't even attempt to get the best prices; they sure blew it in this case.

People who buy $3,000 bottles of wine don't generally get to the point where they can buy $3,000 bottles of wine by wasting money at the PLCB. Think about it: for the cost of a nice dinner and a night in the city, you could spend a few hundred extra and get TWO bottles in New York. Or you could visit the Dutch Apple and cap off your day by spending far too much at the State Store for one bottle. The PLCB counts on us being stupid. Stupid enough to keep putting up with this. (Stupid enough to not leave the state and break the law, but that's another story.)

Then there are the eleven bottles of Chateau la Mission Haut Brion Rouge 2010 ($1,197 a pop), sitting at one and one store only in Sewickley. It does look like they managed to sell one, so maybe it is a long term thing...except the PLCB doesn't do long term things. If it doesn't sell, it will go on sale and then go on clearance. Even then it won't be as good a price as the under-$600 per bottle (delivered!) you can find in other states. The PLCB probably won't make a dime on those bottles, but that's okay: they don't have to. Being a state-owned monopoly means never having to make a profit.

So on what do we blame things like this? Overly ambitions (or easily swayed) wine buyers? Untrained sellers? Overpriced products? Why not just wrap it all up and say: the State Store System.

Privatization is the only real Modernization. We deserve it.


Anonymous said...

What happened to the lies, damn lies, and Governor Wolf post?

Lew Bryson said...

That was a draft we're working on; it published by accident, and I took it back to draft status. Should be up early next week. Just a Blogger thing.