Who Hijacked Our Country

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Boycott Costco

I know this is a non-starter.  Costco has high-quality products at low prices.  Their employees are well-paid (if I’m not mistaken) and there always seems to be a really upbeat vibe inside the store.

Besides, if you do a web search for “Boycott Costco,” not many links come up.

But I’m gonna rant anyway.  Costco spent $22.5 million — the largest election purchase in Washington State’s history — promoting Initiative 1183 to privatize the state’s liquor industry.  Costco funded a similar initiative last year but it got defeated.  So Costco changed the wording a little, quadrupled their campaign spending and — Presto — the voters “saw” things differently this time.  60% voted Yes on 1183.

Currently in Washington you have to buy your booze at a state-run liquor store.  They’re open until 8 or 9 p.m.; closed Sundays and holidays.  It’s a bit less convenient, but I never heard of anyone going through the DTs because they couldn’t get to the liquor store on time.  (You can buy beer and wine at any grocery store or mini-mart; just not liquor.)

Every state is different; I didn’t see why Washington’s approach was a problem.  I spent most of my adult life in California where every grocery store and mini-mart has a full liquor selection.  That seemed like the norm, so when we moved to Washington, their state liquor stores took some getting used to.  (Washington’s system will be similar to California’s when 1183 takes effect next year.)  In some other states (e.g. Wyoming), if you want anything alcoholic — even beer or wine — you have to go into a bar and buy it off-sale.

So every state does it differently.  I don’t see why a huge corporation needed to spend $22.5 million just to change the liquor laws in one state.  And if you shop at Costco and notice their prices going up, you’ll know the reason.

I don’t know whether people voted for 1183 because they thought the price of booze would go down, or because it’s just too difficult to get to the liquor store before 9 p.m.  So far the only effect of 1183 is that about 1,000 state liquor department employees will be out of work.

The Yes on 1183 campaign was a perfect petri dish to show how endlessly-repeated propaganda seeps into the public consciousness.  Washington residents were bombarded for months with TV, online and newspaper ads saying “let’s get the state out of the liquor industry.”

And that exact phrase has been used in countless editorials, answers to survey questions and letters to the editor.  Recite the same slogan often enough and the parrots will repeat it.

So anyway, there probably won’t be any sort of boycott of Costco.  But the nearest Costco happens to be next door to a Grocery Outlet, which also has high quality products at low prices.  And unlike Costco — if you see an item you like at Grocery Outlet, you don’t have to buy fifty of them.

Let’s hope the local Grocery Outlet siphons off a few Costco shoppers.

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Blogger Jerry Critter said...

I suspect they voted for it because why should the State be in the business of selling booze? Regulating booze, yes. Selling booze, no.

Costco spent 22.5 million because they will make more than that back if they can sell liquor. It was an economic decision.

Now, should businesses be allowed to influence elections like Costco did? That's an entirely different question.

November 13, 2011 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Screamin' Mimi said...

I personally don't think increased access to liquor is a very good idea -- it sure causes a lot of problems.

But what I take issue with, as Jerry Critter pointed out, is the influence a big company like Costco had on this election. That doesn't seem like a great precedent to set.

I hope maybe we can try this new situation for a year or two, and then re-address the question of privatization. It may very well turn out to have been a mistake.

In the meantime, what a total bummer for the 800-1000 people who will now be out of a job -- and right before Christmas. Yikes.

November 13, 2011 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

This disappoints me. We don't buy certain things at our local WalMart and instead wait for when we take a trip every 4-6 weeks to Tri-Cities so we can buy those things at Costco.

It disappoints me because while WalMart gives most of its political money to Republicans, Costco gives more to Democrats. Too bad they are using Republican-style methods.


November 13, 2011 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger Jerry Critter said...

Does the Washington law prevent the State from selling liquor or does it just allow it to be also sold by private companies?

I say, let them all compete.

November 13, 2011 at 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom you knew I couldn't resist this one:

It’s obvious that Costco financed this election so that they can now add to their coffers by selling liquor but it may also backfire when discount stores like Safeway’s Bevmo move in and start competing - I think you may find the prices going down.

OK as a Californian and one who did work in a liquor store, I always wondered why the state was involved in the liquor business, why you have to be a civil servant (and take the exam) to work in a liquor store - in retrospect having benefits and a pension (which most liquor stores don’t have) can be attractive.

But I talked to people who ran state stores in Ohio, Massachusetts, and BC Canada. The Problem is the state controls both the prices and the inventory (California’s State Supreme Court threw out the regulation of liquor pricing as unconstitutional in the late 70's and the prices went down. The ABC’s - alcohol beverage control - whose biggest job used to be visiting stores to make sure they were charging the right price was reduced to investigating stores for licence violations - like selling to minors). In my store if someone wanted something we didn’t stock, we could order it from the distributors and have it in a week. Before that people on the Border went to Nevada to stock up. The last change in California was in the 80's to allow the sale of the little mini airline bottles of booze to take away business from Nevada.

In State Stores they would have to send a request to the State - some do special orders, some don’t, and it even then, takes time and has to be priced etc. In some States you are stuck with what the State decides should be stocked and it takes major petitioning to change.

Usually State Stores comes with those “Blue” that wont let you buy on Sunday (too bad if you run out in the middle of the game) Does Washington have any like I understand Oregon does?

Do State stores have sales?


November 13, 2011 at 9:00 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

I doubt the price of hard liquor will go down much if at all in Washington. For years, Washington proudly taxed liquor higher than any state in the nation. Punitively so, some would say. I don't know if Washington still taxes it higher than any other state, but if this change makes it cheaper, I'm sure the legislature will waste no time kicking the tax up a notch, to soak up any potential savings consumers might get and regain the state's dubious distinction.

That said, the state did a good job as a liquor retailer. Its stores were clean, bright and well run. They weren't magnets for crime and scandals, in part because they didn't purposely locate in high-crime areas.

None of which is to say I've been much of a hard liquor consumer. I enjoy wine sometimes, which is much less expensive, so I find the astronomical price of liquor hard to justify.

BTW, when I first came to Washington state, in 1971, IIRC, a fifth of Jim Beam cost $6.50. On a military base on Guam it was $2.95. That gives you an idea what the taxation is like.

The people have spoken, so a boycott isn't going to happen. I agree, though, that a big business' ability to buy the result it wants stinks. That's because of the excessive influence of money on public policy decision making, whether by elected representatives or by a too-malleable (or gullible) public.

November 13, 2011 at 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That said, the state did a good job as a liquor retailer. Its stores were clean, bright and well run. They weren't magnets for crime and scandals, in part because they didn't purposely locate in high-crime areas."

One of the biggest complaints of poor communities in California is about the huge amount of liquor licenses get granted in their neighborhood's as opposed to the suburbs.


November 13, 2011 at 9:18 PM  
Blogger MRMacrum said...

Now that money legally equals free speech, and one half of the country apparently wants to turn over the government to the private sector, I would guess this period is what we will call in another ten years, "the Early Years.

Be that as it may, substance abuse will happen no matter what a state does or does not do. Trying to regulate the act of substance use is silly. Taxing it, or better yet controlling its flow by owning the retail outlets does bring in serious jingle to the state coffers. I use New Hampshire's system as an example. Their prices on hard liquor are maybe the cheapest prices overall in the country. And they often do have sales. Yet their stores are not on every corner, but conveniently located on the interstates to make it easy for the tourists to take home souvenirs that have some kick.

Is it right? New Hampshire does not care to moralize. They just want to make up any way they can for not having a sales tax.

November 14, 2011 at 5:40 AM  
Blogger Demeur said...

I think you'll see an initial increase in teen drinking along with more DUI accidents because of this law. If someone is half loaded they won't think twice about hoping in the car and heading down to the local store when it's closer. We all know how that one works.

November 14, 2011 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jerry: That was my problem, the fact that one large corporation basically purchased a statewide election. I have no preference for whether booze is sold by the government or the private sector. I've been in states that use both approaches.

SM: This election is a perfect example of the 1% trampling the 99%. One large corporation can purchase an election result, and this puts 1,000 people out of work through no fault of their own. This isn't right.

Snave: I didn't know that about Costco, but it's not surprising. As far as I can tell, their employees are well paid and well treated. In our own case, our Costco membership expired several months ago and we didn't renew it. And then a Grocery Outlet moved next door to the Costco, so that's where we go whenever we're in that neighborhood.

Jerry: If I've understood it correctly, the state did have a monopoly on selling liquor, and after I-1183 takes effect, the state government won't be allowed to sell it at all.

Erik: That's true that Costco's low-cost competitors will probably make a large dent in Costco's liquor profits.

I can see the disadvantages of state-run stores, like the ones you're describing. Washington liquor stores aren't allowed to carry beverages that aren't popular. The product has to move off the shelves at a certain rate or the store has to discontinue it. A private retailer might choose not to carry a certain item because it doesn't sell, but at least that would be his/her choice and not the government's.

As far as when you can buy booze, the liquor stores close at either 8 or 9 p.m. For beer and wine, you can buy them at a grocery store any time of day or not (I think).

The liquor stores sometimes have a temporary discount on certain items. They don't call it a sale; it's written on a tiny sticker that you don't even see until you're right up next to the shelf.

SW: That's a good point. There's nothing at all sleazy about the state liquor stores, unlike a lot of private liquor stores in other states.

Those prices you mention certainly show how high the taxes are. With Washington's huge budget crunch, I'm sure the idea of higher liquor taxes won't be lost on our legislators.

MRM: I guess we might as well enjoy "the early years" while we can, before every street, bus line and national park becomes corporate-owned.

I don't think increased drinking will be a result of this state election. That was the big scare tactic used by the opposition to this initiative. I was only against it because I didn't want to see 1,000 people thrown out of work.

Demeur: I don't think there'll be an increase in drinking or DUI. But we'll see...

November 14, 2011 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

you crack me up Tom,as long as it's the state calling for Liquor stores to be closed on a Holy Day it's fine.
I's always fine when it's Unions pumping in millions of dollars which will also have an end result of increased costs on working people and when 80% of Obama donors get green loans or Nancy Pelosi making millions from insider Wall Street tips or Bon Jovi only having to pay $100.00 property taxes because he's raising bees on it.
This is the difference between the Tea Party and the Flea Party.
Looks like Eric just proved the private sector works better than a big over bloated government bureaucracy.

Snave said "Too bad they are using Republican-style methods."
hahaha now that is funny.

November 15, 2011 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Maybe you were so cracked up you didn't comprehend the post. I clearly stated that I have no preference whether liquor is sold by a state agency or a private retailer. The point of the post was that Costco spent $22.5 million on this initiative which will put 1,000 state liquor department employees out of work. I'm glad the teatard mentality finds this amusing.

November 15, 2011 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

They are a private corp Tom. They can spend how ever they want but like I mentioned in my comment when your dear leader and the unions spend they are spending other people's money which affects us more than when companies do it for competition.

November 15, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger cheap skate said...

If it's not as cheap as the states to our south it don't matter to me. i'm buying it where i get the best buy for my money. I was TEA 30 years ago

November 15, 2011 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger cheap skate said...

The government is TOO big and should have never been in the boose business to begin with. It's past time this cash cow has died. They charge twice what other states charge. They add a sales tax on top of that. They they hire extra cops to sit outside the taverns and give tickets. Classes to get your lic. back which they get a kick back on. Not enough room to write the screw job the politicians are doing to us.TEA already. Fire all of them and start over

November 15, 2011 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger cheap skate said...

Boycott Olympia not costco

November 15, 2011 at 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am boycotting Costco because their president supported Obama and contributed greatly to his campaign.

November 30, 2012 at 1:52 PM  

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