My apologies, dear readers. Normally, I avoid discussing the categorically controversial, especially those topics that breach several, like politics, and money, and the smallest hint of religion– rather the one I write about here. Perhaps you will simply understand my concern and leave it at that; I will have no partisan quarrels here.
I was on a midnight munchie raid to the local grocery store last Friday evening and commented to the cashier when checking out about how I was sorry to see the store’s video rental section gone. Besides a few doughnuts and some jalapeño chips, I bought a movie from the racks that were no longer rental extras, but clearance.
She asked me if I knew what the reason was, hinting it had to do with a change that would affect grocery stores next month. I was tired and didn’t want to guess again when my first answer was wrong. No, it wasn’t about competition from Netflix (streaming/mail order) or Redbox (vending machine rentals).
It was that the store was making way for hard liquor. Because a voter initiative passed to put the state of Washington out of the business of selling such, grocery stores would claim that right soon, yes, as I said, next month.
I suppose it would be fair that I be clear about my biases. Perhaps you think it might be about my thoughts on liquor, itself. I am a teetotaler, for a wide variety of reasons, some religious, some personal, and while I did drink for a time, I gave my word to Cimmorene I would not again. I do not deny such considerations are a factor, but they are not the foremost.
I did spend a short time working convenience retail, and it is what I saw as a convenience store employee that concerns me. I thought it difficult enough keeping alcohol out of the hands of those who would obtain it unlawfully. Yes, that would include minors, but it would also include the severely inebriated. I thought the penalties were steep then– $300 in 1993– but they have risen sharply, more to the tune of $1000, and per infraction, if I recall correctly. I recall being tested– one girl coming in with a drunken babble, then returning later and revealing she was part of a police sting operative. How fortunate I did not make few the errors I did at other times then.
Now, I worked ever so shortly at a supermarket, yet I don’t really have a fair comparison. My observations over the years, however, suggest that grocery retail is a little more disciplined than the convenience sector. But I do not believe that it will ever be as disciplined as the state liquor stores were. And I think U & M is making a mistake by deciding to have hard liquor so close to the entrance in that Yoke’s store.
More importantly, I ask, does Costco Wholesale fully realize what they have brought on? They were the ones that contributed the lion’s share of finances to the legislation. Yes, of course, they are a national chain, and I think it stands to reason that they will fight or will have already won the right to sell hard liquor in all their stores and therefore in states other than Washington.
I will ask friends if Idaho’s law still stands, which I believe requires all employees selling liquor to card (ask for identification, that is) anyone buying such. The law is not so in Washington, now.
Forgive me an authoritarian streak– I know my stance doesn’t win me any points with those of the libertarian and anarchocapitalist persuasion, at least not directly. But I know there are others who must feel as I and the Yoke’s checker do. It will put employees more at risk for steep fines– and I would imagine they will rise much higher now that hard liquor is on the table.
I await to see if markets will choose to discipline and regulate themselves. But I do not see any promising indications of such.