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How Can Higher Sales be bad?

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Now this, I don’t understand one bit. A union representative of the union which oversees the workers at Pennsylvania Liquor Stores says increased sales will lead to layoffs and fewer jobs.

To understand this logic you have to know that Pennsylvania’s Liquor Stores are all owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is both good and bad. As a free market supporter I’d like to see the sale of liquor be opened to private stores, but I also see that in some cases large scale management, particularly when it comes to bulk buying power can be an advantage.

From the Penn State Daily Collegian:

A union leader in the state-owned liquor store system said he is concerned that increases in both liquor sales and crime in the State College area may result in store employees losing their jobs.

Ed Cloonan, president of the Independent State Store Union, which represents managers of stores under the control of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), said the agency is sacrificing public safety for profit.

Cloonan said the sales rush may lead to a push by the public to privatize the system because the state is not doing its job by focusing on sales rather than regulation. That privatization, he said, would take away his job as well as many others.

The PLCB, the state’s head regulatory agency of alcohol and overseer of the state store system, has instituted many measures in the last several years to increase sales. These measures have included Internet and Sunday sales, as well as large promotions on billboards and an increased line of products.

“If their first priority is making money and not public safety, then the state should not be in this business,” Cloonan said, citing increased crime statistics in State College that coincide with 17 percent higher liquor sales.

In the mid 90s the PLCB was almost privatized. Stores were losing money, sales were down, and prices and product selection was horrible. After the privatization measure was defeated in the General Assembly the PLCB moved to improve their stores. They brought in outside consultants and people from the for-profit business world to introduce a modern business model to the Liquor Stores. They went from “State Stores” to “Wine and Spirits Shoppe” The improved their selection of fine wines and spirits and recently opened select stores to Sunday sales and opened three stores inside food markets.

What disturbs me is that this union rep worries about profits “at the expense of safety”. First off, the State Stores do a wonderful job of carding people and making sure no minors buy alcohol. Second of all they are state owned, so low profits or no profits at all mean a loss of money and a hit which the taxpayers must make up for.

A lot of the hang ups in this state about alcohol come from the Quaker roots of our state. There are strong religious, Quaker, and Puritan influences on our state. It is reflected in our liquor laws.

There are many of people connected to the State Store system who believe that the state should not make a profit from their sales. They view the state’s job as regulation, not profit making.

But I feel that if the state takes it upon itself to own all the liquor stores in the state, it is their obligation to make sure those stores are profitable. It they aren’t, then the taxpayers pick up the burden of cost.

If people are that opposed to State sanctioned sale of alcohol, then perhaps the stores should be privatized, that way there is no moral problems with a government selling, and therefore condoning, alcohol use.

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