It’s no secret that I hate Pennsylvania’s liquor sales system. It’s run by a state agency with a mission to make it as miserable as possible to purchase liquor. Now they are pitching pieces to argue that it’s not really any cheaper to buy liquor out-of-state.
The perception in Pennsylvania is that other states have better prices on wine and liquor, so it makes sense to stock up when youâ€™re out of state. Maryland stores near the Pennsylvania line say they get plenty of customers from the Keystone State.
But a survey of liquor stores in four states conducted by The Patriot-News reveals that prices arenâ€™t always better across the state line. In fact, in some cases, Pennsylvania prices are cheaper.
I have no idea how they selected the stores they did to compare prices, because my price comparisons have always saved money in New Jersey. Sometimes, I might only save a buck or two, but if I’m stocking up on several wines, each of those dollars saved will pay for the gas over there. In the meantime, I also have tremendous selection. If I’m lucky (and driving 10 miles out of my way), a state-run store in Pennsylvania will have a <$15 Bordeaux that I find okay. In New Jersey, I know exactly where I can grab a $9 bottle that rates as pretty damn good for a casual dinner wine. Consistency, selection, and prices combine to make the privately run out-of-state retailers a good choice. The PLCB, in defense of their existence, prefers to ignore all of those factors that make shopping everywhere a positive experience.
For the record, the paper really had to have gone to some crappy stores to find prices that are higher than Pennsylvania’s stores. To defend the monopoly, they found two examples of products that are sold $1 cheaper in Pennsylvania. But, on the privatization side, they found a bottle of scotch that sells for $12 less in Delaware. They also interview a woman who cites Massachusetts as the land of the free (liquor & wine) because wines that cost only $3 or $4 there are double those prices here.
The PLCB also likes to tout that they have more buying power than a private entity because they buy for the entire freakin’ state and can pass on the lower prices. In that case, why did the paper only find savings of $1 or $2 over the private stores where they did find a difference in prices? Why didn’t the reporter ask the PLCB to explain why they don’t have significantly lower prices for consumers if this buying power gets them such great deals? We know it can happen – look at Wal-Mart. When you’re a big buyer, you have some room to truly negotiate bigger savings. It would appear that the PLCB doesn’t exactly exert its big buyer status.
Something has gone horribly wrong with liquor & wine sales in this state when we look to states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, and even Hawaii for lower prices.