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April 2017

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Main | Brief consulting advice for the A-B wholesaler »

Have some out there lost their minds?

Have some out there lost their minds?  Across the country, state associations and individual wholesalers are working feverously to defend and strengthen the 3 tier system.  I’ve no problem with that – in fact I support the general goal.  But some of the methods and arguments being used by people on our side are short-sighted to say the least.

In the April 2nd Seattle Times, the executive director of the Washington State Beer and Wine Association penned an op-ed entitled “The Best in Moderation” http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2002903035_satrdr01.html . 

To quote from the first paragraph “Unlike other products we buy in the store, such as potato chips or bran flakes, alcohol is a dangerous and addictive substance, responsible for the destruction of lives due to drunken driving and alcoholism.  And he’s on our side?!

If you don’t think a tort lawyer will sometime in the future being using this quote then you are practicing self-delusion.  Has anyone been paying attention to what has happened to the tobacco industry over the past 30 years?  The class-action lawsuit is just around the corner and we are putting wood on the fire.

What damage are we doing to the entire beer industry (and for that matter wine and spirits) in these attempts to fight changes in distribution?  We are walking the exact same path as the tobacco folks - seeking compromise from our neo-prohibitionist opponents who have no desire for any type of compromise - cowering from an honest discussion about individual freedom and liberty, and the folly of prohibitionist thinking.  Talking about our products much the same as our enemies!  I know the old saying about politics creating strange bedfellows but when we are on the same side as neo-prohibitionists, one of us is WRONG – and in this case it is far too many on our side.  To have state associations talking about how dangerous and additive our products are, how higher prices are a positive thing, how even greater and more restrictive rules and regulations are necessary to protect “the children”.  This is not just a Washington state issue, this insanity is occurring throughout the country.

If I were a politician, after listening to these arguments I would never, ever listen to you again about why I shouldn’t vote to increase excise taxes – perhaps substantially since higher prices are so “good” for all.  And at the same time we’re supposed to go the Washington DC in early May and lobby for the repeal of the 1991 federal excise tax increase?!  Please help me with this logic.  In fact if I were a politician I’m not certain I would listen to much of anything the beer wholesaling industry said.  It seems we will take almost any position in defense of ourselves.

I’m just a management consultant who has worked with beer wholesalers for the past 20 years and for my business’s sake I should probably just keep my mouth shut – but I can’t be silent on the sideline when I witness this insanity.  I’m a strong supporter of the 3 tier system, beer wholesalers, and beer, wine and spirits in general but some of these actions are not thought through.  Change is the law of life.  Wholesalers are not immune.  But in the spectacle that is playing out before us, the attempted cure is probably much more harmful than the disease itself. 

John Conlin, President of Conlin Beverage Consulting has been providing operational and financial management consulting services to the beer and beverage distribution industries since 1986. 

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