Shop Public Liquor Stores Campaign
The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union ran a radio ad campaign over the B.C. Day long weekend to encourage people to shop public liquor stores — Interior, Vancouver & Victoria. This is not the first time they have had such a publicity campaign. I expect it won’t be the last if they continue to ignore the underlying reason why people are probably abandoning B.C. Liquor Stores for private establishments.
The arguments the BCGEU give for shopping in public stores are larger selection and lower prices. That, however, is very general and doesn’t provide the level of detail necessary to make a proper evaluation. Of all that selection, what is actually relevant to the discriminating drinker? Certainly not the stacks of mass-market lager served six ways.
While there is an overlap in product selection between public and private stores, are people buying mostly from private stores what they can find in public stores? Or are they buying mostly the spec products that the public stores refuse to list until the agent or vendor has actually proven to the BCLDB that there is a sufficient market to warrant it?
Nevertheless, a significant part of the retail equation that the BCGEU neglects to mention in its ad is service. People are willing to pay more for what they perceive as better service. It may simply mean having the ability to buy chilled beer. (In the case of unfiltered, unpasteurized craft beer, however, that is not an option; it is an absolute necessity. Yet, what public store chills their beer?)
More often, people are looking for advice on the right product to buy when faced with much choice. Most public liquor store employees I have encountered know about as much as a Corona connoisseur when it comes to beer. It would seem that their job is more of a warehousing nature than retail service. (“I can tell you where it is in the store, just don’t ask me anything about the product itself.”) Why are public store staff not trained in product knowledge? Is it because the union refuses to take that on? Is it management refusing to incur the expense? Both?
That said, it is true that most private stores are no better with respect to product knowledge. For that, only management is to blame. The only things that seem to be going for these places may be convenient location and chilled product. In that case, you are better off planning your drinking ahead of time and buying from a public store — giving your tipple time to cool — instead of buying from private purveyors of pap on the spur of the moment. These places are merely capitalizing on people’s laziness, not good service.
For my part, I don’t often go into a B.C. Liquor Store these days. The main reason is because they don’t store their beer properly. A secondary reason is because they are not interested in bringing new product in unless someone has already done the work for them to meet their minimum required sales. A handful of private stores are more entrepreneurial and will make the effort to bring in exciting beer. They deserve to be rewarded for the risk, not the public- and private-store Johnny-come-latelys.
For the rest of my beer needs, our brewpubs are more than up to the task of providing fresh, flavourful, natural beer in a variety of styles. They may even have growlers with which I can take a beer home, confident in the knowledge that it hasn’t gone skunky sitting on a warm shelf. Better still, I can talk to the brewer and let them know when I like a beer or don’t like a beer. They may keep what I like or tweak the recipe to achieve something I like. How’s that for service?