Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Harry's vs MLCC

On a trip to Grand Forks (to fly to Vegas on the cheap) my lovely wife and I stopped in at Happy Harry's to peruse the wine selection. No, this post isn't a rant about how cheap a bottle of Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio is compared to how we get gouged back home, but it could be.
No, this post is about my wife's reaction. "Oh my! This place is HUGE! They have EVERYTHING!"
Indeed, Harry's bottle shop is big, and their selection is so far removed from the MLCC's that our "liquor commission" is a joke in comparison.
Granted, there is no "well trained staff", at least none insofar as anyone I'd ask to recommend a "wine for dinner, we're having leg of lamb with Greek style potatoes", sort of way... but at a 60% price saving, I can buy a few bottles and dump the one I didn't like (not that I would ever do such a thing).
Not all prices are better. Perusing the scotch section, a bottle of Glenlivet 18 year old is $93.60 at our LC, and $99.00 at Harry's, but they do sell the Glenlivet Nadurra, which we CAN'T get at the LC. It's an amazing scotch. I bought one at the Duty Free shop in Heathrow a few years back and have been nursing that bottle very slowly... but there's little left.
Why can't I buy it at home?
MLCC keeps good track of what sells, and they only stock what moves, but this sort of dis service is an affront to consumers given their monopoly status. Recently the MLCC wanted to get into selling other items like mixes. I'm totally against such a move. They don't need to increase their profits, and if they want to claim to be "better serving our customers", then have at least ONE store as well appointed as Harry's bottle shop is. Why permit them to sell things that the grocery store does when the grocery store can't sell the items they can? Why permit an organization, with a license to generate money, to take potential sales from a market based business?
I don't understand the MLCC "sponsoring" events like Bomber Games, or even advertising either. There is NO need to advertise anything... I can't go anywhere else. Advertising is typically considered a method used to entice customers, yet we have "sin taxes", presumably designed to act as a disincentive to over consumption. Does this seem like they are at cross purposes? Not if the Government can gouge us it isn't.
I know that almost half of our alcohol pricing is a "sin tax", which in and of itself is an affront, but why can a private business offer a selection for their clients that a government mandated monopoly just won't bother providing.
Seeing the disparity, my wife and I discussed the fact that the MLCC simply doesn't have to provide any service they don't feel like providing given that they are a monopoly. She suggested that perhaps the MLCC could set up at least ONE store with a selection comparable to Harry's and leave the smaller stores with a smaller selection. I suggested that that is probably too complicated, and there's not enough of an upside financially. These are people who don't measure profit in hundreds or even in thousands of dollars... they just don't care.
What we're suggesting is a market solution, to a non market problem. The non market problem is simple... there is no competition, the staff are over paid when compared to the sort of staffing you'd really NEED to sell booze, unions and benefits far beyond what any private sector business would ever pay, yet all are defended in the socialist style government agency that runs the show.
My final comment to my wife was, "Imagine what we could have if we lived in a free country."
At least I know that I don't have to get my Nadurra in Vancouver or Calgary... I can just drive to Grand Forks.
Do I declare it, or try to sneak it in... that's the question. Imagine the duty on a $115 bottle of scotch. Oye. Add $11.066 (yes, the three digit decimal is NOT a typo) per litre, plus the GST and the PST... and the Manitoba rates... I'd have to change to ounces to figure it out. (check out the MLCC website, search for duty, over limit) Nice... MLCC still works in ounces. Clowns I tell you. What was it? 1972 we went metric? .40 cents an ounce is mandated by the MLCC for border collection. there are 33.8 ounces in a litre, so if we multiply that by .4 we get $13.52 additional fees. My $115 bottle has suddenly skyrocketed to about $154 +/- depending on when they add the PST and GST. Remember, these are people who charge GST on the North Dakota sales tax amount of an item purchased and imported. It doesn't matter to them that I can apply to the ND tax department to get a refund on the tax paid on exported items.
I love being a Canadian... could someone remove the "tax me" piece of paper someone stuck to the back of my shirt please?

1 comment:

  1. If Happy Harry's blows your mind, be sure to visit Lee's Discount Liquor next time you head to Vegas - their selection makes Harry look like the slightly flamboyant brother of MLCC.

    Imagine my disappointment to fly back to NDak hoping to pick up a bottle of Smirnoff Marshmallow Vodka that I had seen at Lee's (flew with only carry-on, so no liquids back) to make a S'mores martini that I had invented in my head only to find that Harry didn't stock it!