Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Comment from the Employees

Well I received this reply from an employee at one of the state stores. While I'm not sure I can agree with everything this person says I can sympathize with his (her?) situation. State employees are limited in what they can do while working. They are limited by the state and by the union. Wine knowledge is probably very low on the priority list for the day's tasks.

I'm not blaming the employees. These are honest, hard working folks who are doing a job. They sometimes get reprimanded when they are not stocking and shelves and are, in fact, helping customers (I've seen this happen). If the boss isn't around then you may have a better chance at a conversation.

The simple fact is that the state has no business selling any kind of liquor. They claim that this is to prevent under aged drinking yet they allow citizens to own liquor licenses to sell alcohol to the public through restaurants, beer distributors (another rant!) and other qualifying establishments. I don't see that going away any time soon.

A simple answer would be to licenses the state stores to independent folks just like they do restaurants, and to enforce the liquor laws. Then the stores could stock inventory that made sense for that market and stock more variety. Heaven forbid restaurants have wine lists they want instead of what they can get in through the state store system. Customers patronizing stores based service and selection and not hand cuffed by some bureaucrat in Harrisburg.

Wait, I can hear it now: but we hired a wine expert to help us!! Yes ONE wine expert for the entire state. I not sure but it may be possible there are different markets in the state. Markets better served by locally owned stores and independent merchants. I've seen stocks on the website of fine wine that sit for months in a store in north central PA and I can't get it because the stores can't (won't??) ship between stores.

As for my friend who responded - I'm up to 4 very friendly wine savvy employees who risk getting reprimanded every time they stop and talk to a customer. Best of luck, pal.

Cheers -d


Anonymous said...

Dave, I hope that I did not give the impression that I was admonishing you for blaming the employess for the often poor state of affairs that you have witnessed on your trips to the stores. You have made it quite clear that you do not blame the employees.
My initial post/rant was to try to ventilate some of my own frustrations while having to work within such a system and to perhaps enlighten some of the readers as to what we as employees have to deal with from such an organization.
I never served in the military but it seems as if the LCB operates in such a manner. It is all top down management with the people in Harrisburg rarely seeking feedback, suggestions or opinions from the people in the stores as to what is and isn`t working. They do not make an effort to get to know the employees and their backgrounds. Experience,abilities and education never seem to be considered when it comes to staffing stores with people who could make a difference for the serious wine customers seeking assistance with their purchases. Aside from the lone wine specialist/buyer at the Premium Collection stores, the remaider of the staff simply want to have nothing do with the subject for the most part.As I mentioned in my previous post, there is litle reward for doing so. The clerks and part timers are busy enough watching out for shoplifters,operating the cash registers, trying to stock the shelves and performing the numerous custodial duties that are required of us. An employee can easily perform a half dozen menial tasks in a normal day and then is expected to be as knowledgeable as Robert Parker when Mr and Mrs Wine Lover stop by the store looking to restock their cellar with a mixed case or two of 90 point wines that they have seen in the recent issue of the Wine Spectator.
I would love to own and work in a wine shop where I did not have to stock box wines and pints of cheap vodka. I would love to sell just good quality wines in all price ranges to wine lovers similar to myself. Perhaps we could even open a bottle that you were interested in an you could taste it before buying! What a concept! I have been to such stores outside the borders of PA. as many of the readers surely have. What a breath of fresh air indeed! Alas, this is merely a pipe dream as long as I continue to reside in PA. or until our elected leaders finally dispatch the current system that we have had for 75 years.

Lew Bryson said...


Not spamming, but dead-on target with this post: a new blog I've started.

Why the PLCB Should Be Abolished.

Check it out.

Wine Reviewed in PA