Monday, April 20, 2009

Grab some pitchforks and torches

If anyone wants to have another tea party, boy do I have a great target: the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. That Pennsylvania's wine and liquor stores should have been privatized years ago is obvious. But the evidence keeps mounting that the politically protected PLCB is the gang that can't shoot straight, and it's costing you and me a boatload of money. The Post-Gazette had a great story the other day by Steve Twedt that outlined the latest shenanigans at the agency. The centerpiece of the story was that the PLCB, despite the protestations of Gov. Ed Rendell, is thinking about changing the name of its Wine and Spirits stores. It may not be necessary, but I'll point out here that the PLCB has a virtual monopoly on wine and liquor sales in Pennsylvania and really doesn't need to "sell itself" to customers. Also, it seems as if calling the retail locations "Wine and Spirits" stores is pretty darned descriptive. The P-G reports that last week, PLCB chief executive Joe Conti called the possible name change just a small part of a move to "rebrand" state stores under a $3.7 million consulting contract with a San Francisco firm. Conti, who got his job in a purely political move by Rendell that forced out board Chairman Jonathan Newman (no relation), the only person at the PLCB who seemed to have any idea what he was doing, refused to offer up any potential names for the stores, but sources within the PLCB told Twedt that one name had been under serious consideration until it was leaked and criticized. Actually, I'm guessing the name was mocked. Any guess as to what it was? Never mind. You couldn't possibly guess, because you're not mentally retarded. The proposed name was ... drum roll, please ... "Table Leaf." Sadly, I'm not joking. It was "Table Leaf." As I recall, a table leaf was something my grandmother put in the middle of her dining room table to expand its size for Thanksgiving dinner. What it has to do with selling wine and booze is anybody's guess. The stupidity over the renaming of the liquor stores follows closely behind the revelation that the PLCB was spending just short of $175,000 to hire a company to train workers on how to play nice with customers. The contract, which went to a company whose president is married to a PLCB regional manager, led to a manual for agency trainers that, according to the P-G, offered the following nuggets of genius in the way of objectives: "To gain knowledge of self, others and develop techniques to utilize during facilitation"; "to enable trainers to use various skills and techniques designed to enhance effective communication and transfer of knowledge"; and "to practice and apply adult facilitation skills." In other words, you give us about $175,000, and we'll tell you how to tell your employees how to talk to customers. Brilliant. And Conti tells the P-G that even if no name change comes to pass, the PLCB is about ready to launch a really sweet Web site and is focusing on such areas as store shelving, layouts and category management. Does anyone else think this sounds a lot like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Enough is enough. We, the people, should demand an end to this anti-consumer joke of a government agency.

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Blogger Ellipses said...

Damnit I was close! I was going to guess "Backhoe Bucket."

Seriously though... they could call it "Piss Trough" and it probably wouldn't affect sales...

April 20, 2009 at 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Brant,

Here's something I don't understate at all. I was under the impression that in the Commonwealth of Pa, six packs of beer were only available in bars.
Beer supply people have to sell by the case/keg. I read where some Sheets gas/conv. locations were selling six packs. If true, is this fair to other food stores such as Giant Eagle and others
Other than that, I live close enough to the WV line that I purchase alchol on the other side of the border.

April 20, 2009 at 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno about you, but "Table Leaf" just makes me want to run out and buy some more heart-healthy red wine!

Why don't they offer up naming rights, the way they have for stadiums and arenas -- Hi-Fi Buys Wine and Spirits, Dick's Sporting Goods Wine and Spirits, Tommy Hilfiger State Store, that kind of thing.

And I laughed at "adult facilitation skills." That sounds as awful as "dynamic synergies."

--Brad Hundt

April 20, 2009 at 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an example of what happens when jobs are given to repay political favors rather than by people who want to serve the people.
What a waste of money

April 20, 2009 at 2:29 PM  
Blogger {cher} said...

Moving to PA from the southside of Chicago, I always thought the bars, distribution centers and the like were all so.. I dunno, strange to me.

In Illinois, you go to a Liquor Store and from there you could get anything from a bottles of wine and hard liquir, to a four or six pack of whatever, to a case or a keg of beer. Beer and coolers were available at gas stations and convenience stores, and even the grocery stores had a liquor section.

I'll always be confused on how PA operates, as when hosting a party, I have to make 3 stops to get what everyone likes, where back home, it was a one stop shop!!

April 20, 2009 at 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a new name for the state stores: Licker R Us

April 20, 2009 at 9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about this one:

"Brown-bagging it"

April 21, 2009 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Good post, Brant. Agreed.

April 23, 2009 at 12:53 AM  
Blogger Shilo said...

Great post. The whole situation infuriates me. I really think someone needs to file a federal law suit against the state for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act and creating a monopoly.

The entire naming the store thing is aggravating for the exact reason you pointed out - they don't have competitors, so why is branding an issue? And the $3 million plus contract with consultants to enhance the liquor stores image is absolutely infuriating. How is the state government allowed to spend TAX MONEY on something that is not needed? Where are our checks and balances? And, even if branding and marketing was necessary for a government entity, why aren't one of the many talented and world-renowned PA marketing and public relations firms being used?

I could go on and on....

But, great post :)

April 23, 2009 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Heidi Price said...

Here's an idea. Why not give it to the Dept. of Ed to keep the Governor's Schools open?

Great blogging Brant.

April 23, 2009 at 10:21 AM  

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