Monday, March 25, 2019

And the winner is...Everybody but Pennsylvania.

Nice to know that the second largest wine retailer in the U.S. (at the moment) only influences a captive monopoly citizenry and nothing else.

Yeah, the PLCB keeps talking "world-class" and walking "second rate." That's certainly the impression you get from's annual list of the top 100 influencers in wine: not one PLCB employee is among them. Numerous other people in retailers like K&L (California) Total Wine (soon to be the #2 retailer ahead of the PLCB) and Costco (currently #1) made the cut. The list includes Masters of Wine (none in the PLCB - ever), winners of  the James Beard Foundation medal for the nation’s outstanding wine and spirits professional (none in the PLCB - ever), Members of the Guild of Sommeliers (none in the PLCB - ever) and innovators from across the country (none in the PLCB - ever...and no, the wine kiosks don't count).
I was part of the Livestock, Dairy,
and Poultry subcommittee. Of course
I'm qualified to be in charge of liquor!
No, Pewnnsylvania gets brainstorms like "A consortium of control states all buying from the PLCB", Wine Kiosks (never forget!!), using buying power to raise prices instead of lower them, and hiring a probation officer to run the whole operation. Just what are those free states thinking with their convenience, selection, and real certified professionals working to expand the boundaries in wine? Fools. They could be selling their customers wine that didn't make the cut in the real world like the PLCB does, and positioning it as some sort of benefit.

Just more examples of how the PLCB can never lead, never bring the citizens of the Commonwealth the same standard that the majority of people in the US enjoy. Just because mediocrity is well lit does not make it what the people want or deserve. People need government to regulate the safety of products, to make sure they aren't abused by things beyond their control, and to insure clean water and air.

They don't need government to decide what wine they're allowed to buy.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

100 Days and Counting -- Oh, Will You Look At That!

As I write this, former PLCB member Michael Newsome has been off the PLCB board for 100 days. But...his resumé is still on the PLCB website. It must be so hard having to find a page (on your own site) and push the Delete button. Until they delete it, you can see it here. If they finally got to it, here is a snip showing it was still up as of 12:37 March 18, 2019.

I got tired of waiting, so I sent them an email, just a little nudge (sent it this afternoon, March 18). I wonder if they realize that Mr. Newsome isn't coming back. When you can't even keep track of one of the top three guys running your agency, how well do you think they are doing with inventory, product choice, or other personnel?

It's said that if you take care of the little things. the big things take care of themselves. If you can't take care of can always work for the PLCB.

Well, it turns out that poking them with a stick works. After posting about this on our Facebook page and sending them an email, they finally decided to remove the information — without any explanation about why it took so long. They did say that the "hidden page" had been removed, but wasn't hidden, you'd just removed the link. Pretty much the same way it went the last time I poked them about a Web screw-up. I should be getting some of that Joe Conti emergency consultant money!

Monday, March 18, 2019

The PLCB has over $1.6 Billion in liabilities.....and wants to stay that way.

When your business has low debt, good cash flow, a decent profit margin, and service better than the competitors, you can expect somebody might want to buy it, so they can get the benefit of all those good things. And if you're in debt up to our eyes, have crappy management, legendarily bad customer service, your business doesn't look too good to the outside world, no matter how much demand there is for your product.

Yeah, we're talking about the PLCB. After 20+ years of "record profits," somehow they are more in debt now, than at any time in their history. Over $1.6 Billion in liabilities and a total position of $1.1 Billion in liabilities exceeding assets.

Why would any business want to be in that position? They wouldn't, unless they wanted to look like a bad investment to the outside world. If the PLCB was a real money making venture run by at least semi-competent people, then the private sector would have more interest because they know that:
  1. They can run a consumer industry far better than any bureaucrat.  
  2. They are inherently more efficient. 
  3. They wouldn't be saddled with over a billion dollars in debt right off the bat.
YEAH! My business model sucks!
But the PLCB doesn't really care how much or what kind of debt they have. There is no mandate that says they need to be current, no benefit for being efficient, no propaganda value in saying "Look, we decreased our debt!" instead of "We gave 30 million more to the General Fund!" Although this year the amount they "gave" to the General Fund actually decreased $30 million, but you aren't hearing them say anything about that.

Why aren't they worried about their debt? The PLCB has a backup plan and it is called the taxpayers. They can't default - we cover it. Have to pay out more than you take in? No problem, we got it. Can't raise those variable prices fast enough to keep up with rising admin costs? Just give less to the General Fund, the taxpayers will make up the difference!

Remember when the PLCB tried to leech itself onto the state debt with a bond against future earnings? (Don't worry: we do.) Make yourself as unattractive as possible by hanging a 20 year debt obligation to your nose, and the people in favor of privatization (i.e., the majority of the adult population) have one less tool to work with.

Giant leech.  Like the PLCB but more useful.
I'd ask you to stay alert for any hint of debt reduction from the PLCB. With all this money coming in from ACT 39 and variable pricing, it shouldn't be long before you'll hear it every day. That's right, and I have a bridge for sale too...


Monday, March 11, 2019

Jack Daniel's is what's wrong with the PLCB's "catalog"

I've been writing about this for years, and still the PLCB can't quite get the listings for their #1 selling whiskey correct. Just imagine the lack of effort they put into less important items! Or, more likely, probably nothing is considered important and they screw up everything equally.

I like writing about the PLCB's historic inability to get their inventory correct. If I ever need an illustrative example of how incompetent they are, I know I can rely on good old Jack. He never fails me.

And talk about non-responsive! After eight years of pointing out how incredibly stupid the PLCB is with just this one product, you would think they would tire of being beaten up and fix the situation. How many clerks, managers, directors and senior executives have passed through the PLCB in eight years?  All of them learning how to do things wrong, from the people before them who did it wrong, because that is how they learned it from generations of iron-assed bureaucrats, passed on like a broken piece of PLCB DNA.
I work for the PLCB!
Why do I bring this up? Because there are more Jack Daniel's mistakes.

This time we have one listing in the "bourbon" section. Hey, plenty of people argue that Jack can be considered a bourbon, so that isn't bad right off. Only the company doesn't think so, and labels it as "Tennessee whiskey." More importantly -- when you're searching for it -- all the other correct PLCB entries list it as "whiskey." There is the continuing error (going on a couple of years now) of one item listed as a "blended whiskey"  but Jack Daniel doesn't make a "blended whiskey." The confusion Jack Daniel's new rye creates in the PLCB is comical. One entry is correctly under "straight rye," and the other is not.

As they say, this ain't rocket surgery. The sad thing is, an error rate of almost 7% on just one brand family is pretty good when compared to how they've been doing...until you compare it to the inventory accuracy of all but the most poorly run of businesses. People would be fired for years of error rates that high; hell, they'd be shown the door for a few months of it. This is the poster child for "You had one job..."

But that is what you get when they don't have to care. Hang around, get seniority, get a 2% raise, salt away that pension, and wait for your 30.  Confucius said: "It matters not how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop" and it seems the PLCB has taken it to heart.  They certainly aren't moving very fast and they aren't stopping to fix the problem.

I suppose they may finally get this right, and I'll have to find another go to subject. I'll miss it, though. There are dozens of errors in the bourbon and rye categories, but nothing so consistent, so reliable, as how the PLCB manages to screw up JD.
Sounds like the PLCB to me.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

It is to laugh

I don't do much on wine, but every once in a while the PLCB does something with wine to draw my attention. Today it was a document about their wine specialists in the stores.  It started out with "Each one of our highly trained Wine Specialists at Fine Wine & Good Spirits Premium Collection stores can help you find what you need or suggest something..."

There are 111 people listed as Retail Wine Specialists in the PLCB, along with a dozen Wine Specialty Coordinators. Up until mid-February, there was also a Specialty Wine Consultant, but the position is no longer listed; that one guy retired. I guess he took the secret knowledge with him. Most of the 111 are working as wine folks in the stores. I don't know what the 12 "Coordinators" do exactly. 

But I do know that not all the Retail Wine Specialists have even the most basic industry recognized certification, just the "PLCB" training, the kind that is recognized only by the PLCB.
These are real; the PLCB training is not.
At the Coordinator level, not all of them have even mid-level industry recognized certifications.  Remember: these are the folks selecting wine for the entire state, Keep in mind that nobody in charge of the operation has any high-level training. Not even the lowest level of  "
Introductory Sommelier" at the PLCB. Of course, this matches the Board and senior executives who don't even have the lowest level of experience in the non-monopoly liquor or wine industry. That isn't to say there aren't any in the PLCB; they just aren't the ones in charge who make decisions about what the entire state is allowed to buy or drink.

You would think that as the second or third largest buyer of wine on the continent would feel the need to have a
Master Sommelier on staff, but on reflection, you can understand why the PLCB doesn't. They don't have to lead in any category, only follow. They don't have to satisfy ALL consumers, just the majority. They don't have to have a business model that expands the boundaries, just one that pushes unsold wine on the populace and calls it a great idea.
Having 111 people listed as "wine specialists" sounds good, but unless you have 111 people that are actually recognized as wine specialists outside the PLCB, you're just misleading the public again. Are your specialists are as good as somebody whose livelihood depends on his knowledge and return customers? These home-grown 'specialists' are the same kind of internal self-congratulation the PLCB engages in when they "self-audit" their compliance with underage drinking laws. Hey, why not tell the IRS you're going to "self-audit" your taxes this year!

The PLCB has a lot of convincing to do. Convince us that having ten wine specialists in Philadelphia, a city of 2+ million, is better than having 50 wine shops. Convince us that having higher prices for the consumer and pitiful price breaks for resellers is good for us. Convince us that being $1.6 Billion in debt is somehow good for the state. Convince us that having people with no industry experience lead is a good way to run things. That's an uphill climb. We deserve better.

One last thing: if anyone at the PLCB believes that I'm wrong about the lack these certifications, you already have the list of names published. Just put the certifications next to the names. I won't hold my breath.