Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Washington State: How NOT to Run a Liquor Store

I didn’t think this would make the national news.  With the most volatile mudslinging election EVER coming up in a few months, most Americans could give two shits whether Washington residents purchase their booze at the supermarket or at a state-run liquor store.

Then again, Washington’s newly privatized liquor distribution system is a microcosm of the ongoing Corporate/Rightwing drive to privatize everything from education to prisons to mass transit.  In this particular case, it backfired big time.  It was a gold mine for Costco, which spent $22 million to purchase the statewide election results.  It was a knife in the back for almost everyone else, especially the approximately 1,000 civil service employees of the Washington State Liquor Department who are now unemployed.

Liquor privatization was approved by Washington voters last November.  During the months leading up to the election, the ubiquitous soundbite was “get the government out of the liquor business.”  This phrase was parroted endlessly by millions of Washington residents who probably had no idea how robotic and drone-like they sounded.  Conversations, letters to the editor, opinion poll questions — everybody who was in favor of the liquor privatization initiative used that exact same wording, again and again.  Were they thinking or were they programmed?

Privatization and competition are always better than a bunch of faceless bureaucrats regulating everything.  Right?  Lower prices, more choices.  NOT.  As of June 1st — when this new privatization took effect — liquor prices have gone through the roof.  At the now-defunct state liquor stores, the price on the shelf was the price you paid at the cash register.  Under our new improved system, there’s a whole shitload of new taxes, fees and surcharges.  And these new taxes and surcharges are NOT included in the shelf price.  When you bring your bottle(s) to the cash register — SURPRISE!

At our local Safeway, an employee was stationed in the liquor aisle, with the sole purpose of warning shoppers that the price would be about thirty percent higher than the price marked on the shelf.

Let this be a lesson to people everywhere who have been mesmerized by “Privatization is Good.”  “Privatization means more competition, lower prices.”  Etc.  Think, don’t Parrot.

We’ve all heard stories about reformed drug addicts who travel around the country, warning students not to do drugs.  An old wrinkled toothless former meth addict might say:  “Kids, meth ruined my life.  Don’t do what I did.  And by the way, I’ll be twenty-three next week.”

Washington’s gullible voters who approved the liquor privatization initiative could redeem themselves by traveling around the country, warning other voters:  “Don’t be gullible like I was.”  “If a corporation spends $22 million to purchase an election, ask yourself why.”  “If somebody’s only reason for being in favor of an initiative is a mindless recitation of ‘get the government out of the __________________,’ ASK this person if s/he even knows what s/he’s saying.”

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Blogger Mr. Charleston said...

Too late. Florida has never had state run stores and does have the lowest prices in the South. Why, to attract tourists. Why else?

June 5, 2012 at 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Jolly Roger said...

The elections process, as we saw tonight, is so corrupted as to render the elections themselves to be illegitimate. A Revolution brews, probably sooner rather than later, and the corporations are setting themselves up to be the targets of wrath.

June 5, 2012 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger S.W. Anderson said...

Ha! Look at this: 17-Year-Old Attempts To Steal Booze From Rosauers On First Day Of Privatized Liquor Sales

As I asked when that cockamamie ballot issue passed, "Well, what could possibly go wrong?"

Higher prices for booze in Washington state? Sure, we have a reputation to maintain.

June 6, 2012 at 1:52 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

One bourbon, half a scotch, and no beer.

June 6, 2012 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Trey Smith said...

Those of us who voted against this evil initiative are not surprised at all. We already understood that it was a Trojan Horse.

Too bad there isn't a record of each person who bought the corporate line and voted for this dumb idea. If we knew who they were, then my suggestion would be that they be forced to pay, not the 30% fee markup, but double that! Let them reap in spades what they have sown.

June 6, 2012 at 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Seems to me every time you hear the words privitization of (insert whatever here) it is always about making money for some for profit group. I did not know WA had a state run liquor deal, but that just may be because I can go anywhere and get booze here in CA and relatively cheaply too. Now my weed, on the other hand, my guy has raised his prices and this is not going well for him at all with some other customers of his.

June 6, 2012 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

My wife said the prices on the Costco brands were really low. So, apparently they got this privatization thing rammed through and now will make out like bandits.

June 6, 2012 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mr. C: California (where I lived most of my adult life) has the same system you're describing. I think most states do. It doesn't matter to me whether booze is available only through state-run stores or supermarkets; whatever works. But in this case they had to fix something that wasn't broken, and now it's broken.

JR: These "elections" are determined mostly by which side spends the most money.

SW: That's right, what could possibly go wrong?

Randal: Sorry, only half a bourbon; no scotch or beer.

Trey: It would be nice if it worked that way, if people who made dumb voting choices had to reap what they've sown. Unfortunately we all reap what the dummies sow.

Jess: I was used to California's system until I moved up here. I just figure whatever works. This was working fine until they "fixed" it, and now it's not working.

Good luck with your weed prices.

J: I've heard Costco only has half-gallon bottles available, and not a large selection. (We didn't renew our membership after it expired last year.) No doubt the Kirkland brand will be at a discount.

June 6, 2012 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

wow this sounds like all the surprises in that monstrosity that Pelosi said we had to pass to find out what's in it. It usually sucks.

June 6, 2012 at 8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Perhaps the prices will even themselves out in the future, but in the meantime you want Jess and I to put together a goody bag to hold you over until they do?


June 7, 2012 at 4:02 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Thanks for the offer, but I'm actually more concerned about the selection than the prices. I haven't been to any of the private liquor stores yet, but I hope they'll have the same huge selection that the state-run stores had. Supermarkets -- same as in California -- have the most popular brands, but if you're looking for something less mainstream, you're out of luck.

Thanks for the offer though.

June 7, 2012 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

I was considering buying some Scotch in the Costco in Kennewick, because it was listed at $28. They had it there at a special display. I thought "Wow, this is a good deal!" Then I looked more closely at the display and there was a breakdown of the extra fees... it ended up being lots more than I thought I should have to spend.

June 7, 2012 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Good thing you left it on the shelf. I'm sure it was cheaper in Oregon.

June 7, 2012 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Demeur said...

So with prices so high now it looks like we'll be back to the 1920s with rum running only now it'll be runs to Oregon for cheap booze. I get dibs on the east side.

June 8, 2012 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Demeur: We live 20 miles from an Indian reservation that has a huge complex that includes a grocery store, restaurant and liquor store. I haven't been there since June 1st, but since they're sovereign, their prices probably won't be affected by the initiative.

June 8, 2012 at 2:51 PM  

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