Friday, September 23, 2016

Good ol' boys instead of real businessmen

In their continuing effort to change as little as possible (unless forced to by the threat of privatization), the PLCB appointed a bureaucrat lifer with no real world business experience to...ahem...lead them for the next two years (or until Wolf leaves office, whichever comes first). Charles Mooney, newly appointed as the PLCB's COO in July has been named the new Executive Director ("please don't call it CEO, we had one of those"), replacing John Metzger. With 37 years at the PLCB, you know he doesn't have an original idea in him; they've all leaked away years ago.

While the press release makes it sound like he was responsible for all improvement in the last decade, he was also around to agree with the wine kiosk debacle. Perhaps he will claim credit for the year it took to move the Mountaintop store 50 feet and the five years it took to put a store back in Renovo. He should also claim going against the wishes of the citizens in Lewisburg and Lock Haven.

In reality, as recently as 2013 be wasn't even listed as a Director in the PLCB Annual Report for 2012-2013. In fact, the only reason he even was promoted in FY 2013-2014 was that Jim Short (Director of Marketing and Merchandising) was found guilty of taking bribes. Dale Horst (Director of Retail Operations) moved over to that position (even though he had zero experience in marketing), and that left his position open. Just one more chance to get qualified people in the agency, ignored by the puppets on the Board. I guess they needed a "Yes" man instead of a business man.

Now that the PLCB has some breathing room thanks to McIlhinney's Mistake, the "Four Bottle Folly", the PLCB can go back to doing what they do best: as little as possible.

They certainly won't make things more convenient for the consumer (756 stores in 1973, 603 now, a 25% reduction); not using their buying power to keep prices down (as reported here and here). What they will be doing is using "variable pricing" to actually raise prices (as I noted here and here), and generally screwing the populace in order to keep themselves afloat (remember, they still owe almost $240 million and who do you think has to pay for that?)

A PLCB insider who hasn't done anything that isn't 50 years behind what the private sector has been doing is not an improvement. Privatize and rid ourselves of this fiasco of a business and fake business people.


Anonymous said...

I think the Board made the right choice in selecting Charlie. He will oversee the implementation of Act 39 and whatever else comes down the line. He will follow direction without questions and will stay with the ship until it sinks completely. He will be the last man off. His name and legacy will be right up there with the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

"In their continuing effort to change as little as possible (unless forced to by the threat of privatization)"

I have to disagree with your premise in the parenthesis here. If anything, I think the threat of privatization is why the PLCB has been neglecting store upkeep as well as customer service, store security, and any other aspect of their business you can think of.

So why DOES the PLCB make changes to their stores, in my opinion? I get the feeling the PLCB is motivated to make changes to their store network because of several factors: border bleed, pressure from booze manufacturers to display and merchandise products effectively, and pressure from landlords to operate successful stores that are a good fit for shopping centers and neighborhoods. Sure there are going to be state stores that are in awful shape and have been neglected for years, but most of them are in neighborhoods or shopping centers that are in decline overall.

Albert Brooks said...

The pattern of some kind of privatization push and PLCB doing something is far too blatant to be a coincidence. Your explanation falls apart when looking at the first 40 years when there was no privatization on the horizon and yet they still did nothing....for 40 years!

Anonymous said...

Actually I can name two major changes that occurred within the first 40 years: they started opening stores in strip centers in the early 1950s (which at the time was actually a pretty big deal) and started opening self-service stores in 1969. I don't think there was a privatization movement at all until around 1976. Despite their occasional pattern of locating stores in odd locations to deter drinking, I can name a lot of state stores that opened in the 50's or 60's in supermarket-anchored centers (and often the state stores were right next to the supermarkets). So it is kind of strange that the PLCB in recent press releases has been acting like state stores next to supermarkets is something new.

I'm not sure what exactly motivated the change to self-service but I get the feeling that it was an excuse to open larger stores, which of course was a win for the consumer. The counter model required the stores to be very small. Sure the conversion to self-service throughout the chain was gradual and took years, but to their credit, the PLCB was very active in converting stores to the new model in the 70's. And it wasn't just the new-build or expanded/relocated stores that changed over. Older stores that stayed put had their counters removed? I do wish the superstores/premium collection stores had been thought of sooner. It was a very long and unusual process (from 1990 to 2005) that it took to open an adequate number of these stores. Philadelphia and its four suburban counties didn't seem to be a priority to blanket with superstores until around 2000 even though Southeastern PA is such an important chunk of the state, as well as being a region with a huge border bleed problem. I guess we can chalk up that fact to Harrisburg being the capital and home of the PLCB.

Since we're digging up history here, I should bring up a really odd coincidence: the current liquor code was signed into law by Governor John S Fine in 1951. He would have been delighted to know the fact that 60 years later, the stores are called FINE Wine & Good Spirits...

Albert Brooks said...

Actually, Gov. Shapp first proposed privatization in 1973 which is only 39 years - close enough.

Also in 1973 counter stores were still over three quarters of total stores. Why they went to self-service is because of political pressure from mostly the citizens but also the union that saw the writing on the wall. What they saw was WINE. Wine sales had increased 50% in the last decade (1959-1969) according to the TBB and the rate of increase was going up every year. Counter stores were not equipped to handle the increase in SKUs required nor did the vast majority of state store workers know anything about foreign wine let alone how to pronounce them. Not too far removed from today.

So in a sense they did have to open larger stores but it wasn't of their choosing.

I'm not going to agree that moving stores to strip malls was a conscious decision. They rent stores and that is were the space was available. The market changed and the PLCB was just along for the ride.

Lastly, the PLCB has no superstores or at least not in the sense that the rest of the country thinks of a superstore. When you have been starving a loaf of bread looks like a feast but it really isn't.