Monday, July 25, 2016

New Positions, Old Positions

The PLCB says, over and over, they want to run like a business. I did a comparison of how they attempt to go about that in my "Run Like A Business - Really?" post at the beginning of this year.

One of the things businesses do, one of the most important things, is hiring personnel to do the work and run the operations. The PLCB way is not so much to hire qualified people in 99% of those occasions, as it is to prefer the policy of promoting from within. In general, though, those people know nothing about how real retail is run, because all they know is the Socialist Monopoly PLCB retail model, which has little to do being "run like a business." Governor Wolf continues the tradition of hiring hacks, people with no liquor retail experience, with his latest addition to the board.

Who runs the "business"? The Board seems to have abdicated that responsibility, reserving to itself the job of rubber-stamping license applications (and reading letters from the Governor), testifying to the Legislature about how wonderful things are (despite how they look), and hiring people to actually run the "business." People like Joe "Da CEO" Conti and John Metzger and whoever Metzger's replacement will be when he retires at the end of September.. Nice work, boys.

Now we have the new made-up position of COO (Chief Operation Officer), which you usually find in businesses with more than one thing going on. Maybe he is in charge of the liquor testing lounge too. Just another $120+K slot that didn't exist before this year, filled by another born and bred PLCB insider, the former Director of Retail Operations Charles Mooney.

Besides getting paid every two weeks, just what has Mooney done? Not much so far, that we can see. But that's not surprising, considering that he was the guy who took years to replace Renovo's store, a year to move the Mountaintop store 50 feet (give or take), and pulled the State Stores out of downtown Lewisburg and Lock Haven against the wishes of the community, the local Representative, and their state Senator. You can read some other consumer friendly (I'm kidding) things he's had his hands in here. I don't expect much to change in the new position. Charlie's replacement is another brainwashed 30 year PLCB vet, Carl Jolly, so you know there won't be any innovation happening, just like during Charlie's tenure. Same old, same old, that's the way we've always done it here at the good old State Store System.

I'm not sure how this is going to work. In a real business, all the "Chief" officers are higher up the food chain than Directors. But at the PLCB we now have a COO and have had CIO (Chief Information Officer), both ostensibly under the Executive Director, at least according to the PLCB's own wire diagram in their Fiscal Year In Review (page 9 if you are following along). Just like every business you've never seen.

It is a typical PLCB answer to a PLCB problem. Throw money (or in this case, Mooney) at it and see if that fixes it. Adding more bureaucrats to an already top-heavy, incompetent organization is not the fix that is needed. Neither is keeping and promoting the old guard who only know the PLCB way. PLCB lifers have no real business experience, because the PLCB isn't a real business.

But if the PLCB is intent on creating high-paying positions that they don't have anybody qualified to fill, I'll offer these suggestions so they can fully mimic what a real business does.

CXO - Chief experience officer - A chief experience officer is the officer responsible for the overall user experience (UX) of an organization. This executive is ultimately responsible for the strategy and user interface design to connect the consumer to the organization's products and services, and may further oversee marketing communications, community relations, internal relations and HR relations. This would then supply someone convenient to blame for the millions of customers who have and continue to have poor experiences with the PLCB. Very handy for the Board to deflect criticism; this should be someone especially expendable.

CFO - Chief Financial Officer - This person manages the corporation’s financial risk.  They deal with data analysis, financial planning and record keeping. Being $240 million in the hole might require somebody to blame, so who better than the CFO?

CHRO - Chief Human Resources Officer - With all the new hires, the PLCB will need to be open longer hours and Sundays, and deliver products. That's gonna take a CHRO to combat the likely 40% turnover rate for new employees (and to blame for it).

CMO - Chief Marketing Officer - Somebody has to be in charge of the new, exciting coupons (and take the blame for their inevitable failure to meet revenue expectations).

CRO - Chief Revenue Officer - You really need this guy to explain to the unions and other PLCB supporters (and maybe even the Democrats in the Legislature) that "revenue" is not "profit". 

CSO - Chief Strategy Officer - Somebody has to be the point of focus to fight every pro-consumer initiative, every threat to the status quo, and any changes that weren't approved by Gifford Pinchot himself. (This position is unique in that it doesn't accept blame, it creates it. Very useful.)
How a real dysfunctional business works. Maybe the PLCB's not that far off...
Of course, all of these people need to report to a CEO, which they haven't had since Conti smeared crap all over title like an incontinent monkey, so you can add that salary to the total. You should be able to waste at least a few million on these folks and their staff  in addition to your new COO position. To make sure you expend the maximum amount, remember to only hire people with no experience in real life retail or liquor — just like was done over the past 80 years.

The only way the liquor and wine business in this state will ever "run like a business" if it is a business. Even better: lots of businesses.

Privatize. Accept nothing less.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Insider Trading?

We all know the PLCB doesn't do a very good job of selling the high end. One only has to look at the Screaming Eagle fiasco to see that. However, a by-product of their ineptitude is that sometimes... something really high end gets reduced to below regular market value so they can get it off the books. Such is the case (or maybe half case) with Chateau Ausone 2003 (PLCB inventory #18803). The PLCB price is $2999.99 as shown in the Board Agenda for July 20th on page 29. It also shows that the price is being reduced -- by $1700! -- to $1299.99, following Board approval. What a deal!

Have you seen this bottle? We're guessing not.
The only problem is that if you look up the wine by name or code doesn't exist in the PLCB inventory. Not in the product catalog online or on the FWAGS website. Don't take our word for it: try searching yourself: the code, the name, the appellation...nothing. (BTW, the other big sales on the page, even the Chateau Margaux 2000, a $1000 savings? They're all in the system. Just not the one really BIG savings.)

So where did they go, and how many were there? More importantly, who gets these bottles we ordinary citizens can't even see? Did the PLCB just "misplace" a few $3000 bottles, lose them in inventory? Or did somebody get the nod, and will be waiting at the right loading dock on August 1 to get one of the few real deals available in the State Store System? (Maybe they're saving them for their friends at the DNC.) This isn't the first time this has happened, and with a department brought up on graft it won't be the last. Will we ever know the truth? Probably not.


Almighty Liquor Code gets bent for the DNC

It's real and it's happening: the Democratic National Convention got the liquor code exemptions it wanted (and it's in place for any future "national event," which apparently must be a political convention). The details were reported by Angela Couloumbis in this morning's Inquirer

What's the upshot? Well, the DNC will pay $5,000 -- once -- to the PLCB, and then proceed to grant the exemptions to whatever premises it wants, licensed or unlicensed. (I'd link to the application, but hey, they just shut it down. Sorry. The DNC is saying they will put out a list of exempted premises by week's end.)

The exemptions include staying open later than 2 AM, and that's the one everyone's fixated on. It's been reported that the licensed areas (existing licensees, bars, plazas, whatever the DNC wants) can stay open till 4, but the law doesn't actually stipulate that; it's up to the Board, who apparently have delegated all that to the DNC, who have said '4 AM, please.' Pretty good spend of $5,000, really, to get licensing authority in Philly for four days.

And then there's this. (Quoting from the Inky story linked above, and as usual, emphasis is added.)
The reprieve also allows businesses to circumvent the costly requirement that all wine and liquor be purchased from the state-run wine and spirits stores, which automatically mark up products they sell and add various taxes.
Event organizers and others said much of the liquor used during conventions and other big events is donated. And during this year's Democratic convention, other states' delegations might want to host a reception featuring their hometown alcohol.
That's the one that hurts. It's a special exemption from having to get booze from the PLCB. They can bring it in without paying taxes, without paying the markup, without paying the bottle or handling fees, and of course, without having to deal with the ham-handed clowns at the PLCB. Because, you know: they want the stuff to actually be there when they need it. 

Why does it hurt? It's not the revenue, though God knows, we could use it, and the DNC's got plenty. It's the unvarnished unfairness of it. We have to put up with this antiquated, creaky, anti-customer monopoly 24/7/365...but when the politicians come to town, well, loosen up the laws for them, because they deserve a little normalcy, and we don't want them to go home and tell their friends how backwards and boneheaded and provincial Pennsylvania is compared to the modern liquor laws in, say, Indiana.

It also hurts because while the PLCB is crying that it's going to take MONTHS to deal with adding the permission for grocery stores with beer licenses to also sell up to four bottles of wine per transaction -- let me take a crack at it, it ain't THAT hard -- this shit got done in a matter of days. DAYS. And bringing in booze that's not coming through the PLCB certainly seems like a bigger deal. Unless it's for your buddies. 

This is the Legislature admitting that our liquor system sucks. And this is the Legislature admitting that they don't have the guts to put an end to it. Instead, they're nibbling around the edges, and hoping like hell that we'll take our miserable 4-bottles-of-wine-in-selected-stores and go away

Don't be a dumb animal. Don't put up with what we have. We ARE all equal, and we ALL deserve to be free of the State Store System. PRIVATIZE.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How to Lie Spin like the House Democratic Caucus

Way back on May 17th of this year, which qualifies as ancient history in political terms, I wrote to the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus to ask them if they would vote for a bill that gives special treatment to the Democratic National convention above that of the citizens of the state; in other words, the proposal to allow bars in Philly hosting DNC events to bring booze in through non-PLCB channels. Their reply:

"I fully expect the caucus to be fully against any relaxation of PA liquor laws while the Democratic Convention is in Philly. You need to treat all visitors as you do the citizens."

Bill must be from Pennsylvania; who knew?
Well...someone must have forgotten to tell the members in the House Appropriations Committee, since every Democratic member voted for it.

Given a second chance, the bill was then voted on by the House Liquor Control Committee. No Democrat voted against it, but there were four who chose not to vote at all; a clear vote of conscience (or else they were at lunch).

And Vote Number Three, the House Rules Committee? Once again, all the Democrats voted for it.

The last chance to actually do what the Caucus "fully expected" that they would do was the full vote of the House. And again, EVERY Democrat voted for it. At least 41 Republicans voted against. Either the Democratic Caucus has no influence on the Democrats, or they didn't know what they were talking about or flat-out lied, or they thought they had an out.

Because while the DNC will get special treatment, it's okay, because now it is a "National Event License" (that the PLCB makes money off of), instead of just special treatment for the Democrats. Only guess who are the only groups that qualify: the Republican National Convention, or the Democratic National Convention! 
Section 408.17 page 6 line 25: National Event Permit.--(a) Upon  application of the chief executive of a national political party conducting its national convention in this Commonwealth..."  I guess the Libertarians or the Greens could apply, but I don't know if the PLCB would consider them national parties. Probably not.

In any case, instead of trying to slide a one time special use bill that places the political class temporarily above the citizens, they decided to say screw it, let's make it a law that officially places the political class above the citizens any time we want. Now the Republicans are at fault too, although they didn't vote like herd animals to make you second class citizens in your own state. So when election time comes around remember who officially thinks they are better than you are...and who thinks that they represent you.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Another year, another set of predictions

Last year was a pretty good year for PLCB prognostication. I hit most of my predictions. Just shows that if you have no faith in the State Store System, they won't let you down. So what, if anything, has changed this year? 

1. The normal amount of squawking about "record sales and profits" when that isn't going to happen. Collecting taxes is not making a profit even in PLCB Bizarro business world. Of course with a police enforced monopoly, rising prices, and more citizens why wouldn't there be record sales?  A private system would generate even more sales.

2. "Record amounts of taxes collected" will be big in PLCB world, but again, with a police enforced monopoly, rising prices and more citizens why wouldn't there be?

3. I predict that "Net Operating Income" will decrease for the third year in a row, even with "record sales"

4. Prediction: "Store, Warehouse, and Transportation Costs" have gone up for the last few years albeit only 3% last year but I think it will be 5% this year.

5. "Administrative, Alcohol Education, and Support Costs went up over 29% last year and 9% the year before. They will go up again by 8-10% this year.

6. The PLCB finished out last year almost $240,000,000 in the hole. I don't think that is going to change too much so I'll say a slight increase in that number for this fiscal year.

7. Not really a prediction but an observation.  PLCB "profit" return to the General Fund will be less than it was in FY2008 - which has been true for every year since then. Just where does all that record sales money go?

So there you have it. Will we have to wait for 122 days for a computerized accounting system to spit out unverified numbers like last year? Or will the PLCB figure out what button to push before then?  Will I be eating crow or steak?  I'm getting sorta used to steak.

How deep is the hole this year?

Today is day 7 of the countdown.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The PLCB - When, why and how we got stuck with it

A great write up from WFMZ about the beginnings of the PLCB. I recommend giving it a read.

The PLCB and Freedom

Just something to think about while you enjoy our Nation's birthday.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Five years & Two Months

Well, I have to give the PLCB credit.  They said that they were actively looking for a spot to put a new store in Renovo and after 1,887 days they managed to do it. Now that is the customer service we have come to expect from the police enforced "we know better than you" socialist nanny state Liquor Control Board.

SOP for the PLCB
Of course, it is only open 4 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday Saturday) for 7 hours (11AM-6PM) - must be part of the expanded hours "modernization" that was talked about. No Sunday sales here - can't have too much convenience all at once you know.

So congrats Renovo and surrounding area, you have been deemed worthy of buying a legal product freely available in 42 other states without government sales. Enjoy it while you can because if they took it away before, they can take it away again.