Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We've Been Blacklisted!

The ability to sell liquor in our state is a very involved process, one I'm guessing very few of our customers know about. While I'm sure there are some states where it is easier and some where it is even harder, it is a giant bureaucracy either way. It might be the one of the few areas our state has not become "progressive."

Just last month, during New Year's week, we were blacklisted. This might not mean anything to you, but to us it means that no distributor in the entire State of Illinois could sell us liquor, beer or wine.  
YES..... New Year's week we were on the list.


Part of the state liquor statute maintains that if a retailer is 30 days delinquent in paying their liquor bills, they get "blacklisted," and no one in the state can sell to them. This was the third time this has happened to us...from the exact same purveyor each time.  It was their mistake, and to top it all off, we never got a call or any notification.

So the headache begins with us expecting a delivery.  When it fails to show up, we make a call and find out we are on the blacklist. This time the only reason we found out ahead of time was one of other purveyors kindly called us to tell us. It was New Year's week after all. After about 8 phone calls and many !@#$%^&*() choice words, I was able to get us off the list. It took about 4 or 5 days.

Just a little background on being "listed..."

To keep it short, right after Thankgiving we ordered a bottle of Pernod especially requested by a customer for their Christmas party. This purveyor sent us the wrong thing. It was absenthe, the famous wormwood concoction. What followed was like voodoo. 

Jimmy sent many emails and made several phone calls to return this $38 bottle. Each time the delivery came in the following weeks, we asked if there was a pickup only to be told by the drivers, "We don't pick up in December. It's too busy."

As we have always done, if a purveyor makes a mistake, we short pay the bill for that amount. Since we have been blacklisted before, we always pay liquor invoices as soon as our processor can get them there... usually within about 10 days even though we have 30 days to pay it. So they knew the entire time we short paid the bill and for what reason. All this happened for $38.

Gone are the days when we had many local distributors that provided great service and competitive pricing. There was Consumers, Bonucci, Saint Louis Beverage, and Mautino. All local and all a joy to do business with. The major brands have been taken away from these distributors. Today almost every major brand is controlled by one purveyor.

There is no competition for pricing or service.  I often look at pricing when I go into a larger grocery store or a place like a Costco. Sometimes there are items that are priced up to one third less than we can buy it for. It is against the liquor laws for us to purchase product there. In the end it costs us all extra.

It is not as simple as just ceasing to do business with this company. We have to. The two main companies that we have to purchase hard liquor through control almost all the major brands for the entire state. The are very powerful and politically connected. You probably know who they are. It is a good thing that wine and craft beers are now well more than half of our alcohol purchases... these are not so controlled. We deal with one main company for most of our craft beer and one for our wines. Since these companies have to compete, they provide excellent service, great selections and competitive pricing.

To close this episode out, I was able to vent to upper management at the company and was able to replace our sales person by dealing directly with the company. The icing on the cake was when the sales person came in to ask us not to replace him. He walked in unannounced and wanted to talk to us. He did it in the middle of the lunch hour. How is that for understanding your customer?

I don't think many people know how bad this has become or the price we have to pay - in more ways than one - because there is no competition. This incident drove me crazy, and I take it personally. It is embarrassing to be on a blacklist!

In closing, all I am trying to do is dish out a little embarrassment myself. Thanks for listening to my rant.


1 comment:

  1. Ray, my comment would be longer but this situation seems to beg for a conversation over one or more of the tasty craft beers you serve. You should watch Beer Wars on Net Flix sometime; its a documentary that among other things explains the archaic nature of the post-prohibition distribution laws. I'll stop by one of these evenings and buy you a barley pop - you can rant & rave in person.