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.



Unknown said...

They have to go through extensive training to be wine specialists and that doesnt just mean the taste of wines. They are useful during store audits in finding and locating specific wines. There are over 600 stores so 111, you say, is not alot. Besides... state dollars don't pay their salary, nor do you, sales taken in do so dont worry about it so much

Unknown said...

Privatize and there will be no more money for the general state fund, alcohol education, more crimes in stores will occur because of no security in these stores, who will regulate retail licenses. State police control alot but they won't have to if privatized. There will be looseness on regulatory divisions from here on out. Taxes will go by wayside without regulation on that.... johnstown flood tax gone... educate my friend. I've been reviewing plcb regulation for 18 years. Uou really need to educate yourself first

Albert Brooks said...

For Unknown #1 - People in the real world have to go through extensive training THAT IS RECOGNIZED in the industry. It is the PLCB that is claiming to be "World Class" and as such would need world class service, you can't have one without the other which means that 111 in 604 stores is not a lot. State dollars do pay their salary, if they weren't so inept and incompetent with $1.6 billion in liabilities. Who do you think pays for that in the form of higher prices, poor convenience, limited selection and non-industry recognized "wine specialists"? I'll give you a hint - it is the taxpayers.

Unknown #2 - You don't seem to have any idea how little the contribution is to the general fund in relation to the overall budget and how easily that amount and more would be generated by the business taxes the PLCB doesn't pay, the increase in employment, new sales from greater convenience, and a lessening of border bleed.
Fact: Over half the current store have no security guards in them. However if you meant that the new stores won't have video I'd wager that it would be a smaller percent then the number of PLCB stores that don't have video. The state police don't check PLCB stores now for underage sales but they will provide the same level of service as they do other private businesses.

The PLCB will still do what it is supposed to do - regulate as it isn't like the state will decide a free for all. Taxes will be collected by....the Department of Revenue just like they are for other businesses. Just like they are doing in Washington, the last place to privatize in the US and in all the free states. The Johnstown Flood Tax should be gone as it is a temporary tax (which you should know from your 18 years of study) However, the purpose it serves as the alcohol excise tax will most assuredly remain only under a different name like "The Alcohol Excise Tax".

As for educating myself in this area of study - that was good for a laugh, thank you.

Anonymous said...

The PLCB will promote a clerk to a wine specialist that applies. Then scramble to get them at least basic wine training. I wouldn’t go to 100 out of the 111. Let’s see PLCB, let’s hire people with bad hygiene, dirty clothes, totally unkept, they can’t afford the bottle they are trying to sell, that is why they drink some in the back room and get that buzz. It is a fake front. Btw- helping with audit, are you kidding me, every wine specialist hides when audit says “ where are these bottles”, that guess what... disappeared! There is no accountability on any person in the PLCB. Cry union! Privatize!