Pennsylvania Training Its State Liquor Store Employees To Be Nicer

If you buy your devil juice from Pennsylvania, you might notice a difference in the way you’re treated starting later this month. Pennsylvania is spending $173,000 to train employees of its state-owned liquor and wine stores to be more polite, reports PhillyBurbs.com: “The board wants to make sure clerks are saying ‘hello,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘come again’ to customers coming in for wine and liquor.”

The chairman of the state liquor board defends the decision, pointing out, “the reality is that, in stores around the country, customer service is inconsistent and uneven.” We won’t argue with that. We do think, however, you could solve any rudeness problem faster by setting out a cheap bottle of vodka next to each register along with a sign that says, “If our Associate doesn’t greet you with a smile, take a free shot!”

“Pa. liquor board tries to improve worker manners” [PhillyBurbs.com via 9-to-Fried]
(Photo: swearinglibrarian)

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  1. Darrone says:

    I think this great motivational speech works better round these times… “Do it, or you’re fired, and remember, there are 10 people willing to do it for less.”

    • Jake Pavlak says:

      I worked for a company in the service industry and it sent our customer satisfaction ranking straight to the bottom of the list compared to the competition. Treat your employees like crap and they will treat the customers accordingly.

      • karmaghost says:

        @Jake Pavlak: True that. Also, double true.

      • RedwoodFlyer says:

        @Darrone: That’s similar to my attitude towards d-bag employees of any retailer..(yes, I differentiate between incidents in which the employee is at fault, and incidents in which they’re just doing the best they are allowed to).

        My formula is simple:

        I am profit.
        You are overhead.
        Act accordingly.

  2. nrich239 says:

    I live in Philadelphia and it really is hit or miss. I’ve stopped going to the store closest to me because they never have more than one register open and it’s always busy. I’ll drive the extra little bit for the store farther away but with more employees working.

  3. Ninja007 says:

    If we nationalize healthcare this is what we’ll get.

    • floraposte says:

      @Ninja007: Nationalizing health care makes liquor-store employees polite? Boy, this economy stuff sure is complicated.

    • Notsewfast says:

      @Ninja007:

      When did this place become a haunt for Rush Limbaugh Followers?

      Do you have anything to contribute to the comments that isn’t mindless right wing garbage?

      I never thought I’d say this, but where are conservative, but intelligent people like Bladefist when you need them?

      Is this what comes with a Consumer Reports affiliation? If so, I’m willing to ignore these folks for the sake of keeping Ben & co. living in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed.

    • ngoandy says:

      @Ninja007: Yeah, because there are no angry or bitter healthcare professionals in our privatized landscape….

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Ninja007: Well, in that case, sign me up!

  4. Tbdsamman says:

    Screw training, just offer them a nice bonus if they actually do it.

    Very easy to actually check, just pose as customers.

  5. dohtem says:

    Devil juice? I thought we were calling it Jesus juice?!

  6. Wombatish says:

    The only thing that would make this more excessive/ridiculous is if this were a pet project in the stimulus bill…. kind of sounds like one.

    Honestly, are there no unemployed smiling faces out there?

  7. albear says:

    Holy crap! What a coincidence. I’m from Southern Cali (LA) and have travelled to Pennsylvania many times. I have noticed the rude state liquor store employees.

    I hate going, because of the stupid liquor laws they have there. I’m not used to those draconian liquor rules they have there. I want to buy beer and booze in the SAME store dammit! ;)

    On the other hand, I discovered an awesome beer I have only seen in Phil, Yuengling. Good stuff!

    • esd2020 says:

      @albear: Yuengling is extremely common here in DC and I’ve seen it as far north as NY.

      • huginn says:

        @esd2020: it officaly goes as far as southern CT. I’ve tried to get it in MA to no dice. I resort to road trips now and then.

        But nothing beats it from the tap

        • Jake Muha says:

          @huginn: Actually, the alcohol content of dear old Vitamin Y makes it illegal in certain states.

          Which is a damn shame because it’s so much better than those macrobrews that used to be wholly owned by American companies. Damn you Molson, InBev and whoever glommed on to Miller.

          • Sean Reynolds says:

            @Jake Muha: Yuengling is amazing, but it is only in the immediate areas surrounding their brewery(ies). I used to think it was only in the PA area until I moved to Ohio, No Luck…. But now that I’ve moved to FL, we have it here, and I am about as happy as a pig in poop…. That being said, I’ve heard its because there is a Yuengling brewery in Orlando.

    • JmoneyGangsta says:

      @albear: It was sold in Knoxville, TN and was really popular when they first started distributing it. I live in Chicago now and haven’t seen it, unfortunately.

    • ceriphim says:

      @albear: Amen to CA’s liberal liquor laws. *Wipes a tear*

      I love being able to buy my whiskey and my cereal in the same store.

    • karmaghost says:

      @albear: Meh, Yuengling is ok. If you want to try a truly awesome Pennsylvania beer, try a Tröegs. Freakin’ awesome. Especially their “Mad Elf” and Troegenator Double Bock. Sooooo delicious…

      • ratsafari says:

        @karmaghost:

        I’ll second that response. Everytime I hear the Trogenator I sing the strong bad burninator song.

        Yes Yuengling is also brewed in Tampa and tastes different then the stuff brewed here in PA. Was just at Disney, had one and then didn’t drink anymore

  8. Blueskylaw says:

    It’s time for a sip of Ohhhhh be joyful!!!!

  9. rpm773 says:

    If I want decent wine at a decent price, I’ll drive to NJ.

    And then I’ll play “Eastbound and Down” on the CD player all the way back to PA

  10. corkdork says:

    Albear;

    Yuengling has distribution up and down the East Coast. We’ve got it here in Florida. And I agree; it is a pretty good beer.

    As for politeness in industry, I’ll say that when you’ve got no competition, there’s no incentive to… well, basically do anything other than what you must. Think Lily Tomlin’s “We’re the phone company. We don’t care,” bit from SNL. So it’s natural that PA’s liquor stores have crappy customer service.

  11. Jesse says:

    Maybe someone can shed some light here, but can you only buy liquor from state run stores in Pennsylvania? I understand the State has a monopoly on distribution but am not clear on government’s role at the point of sale.

    • rpm773 says:

      @Jesse: Yes. Beer is sold in 24ct cases in one store. Wine and hard liquor in another store.

      You can buy beer in 6 packs from a bar/sandwich shop, but you usually pay outrageous prices.

      • rpm773 says:

        @rpm773: Er.. the beer store and liquor stores are state-run, or at least state controlled (if that wasn’t clear).

        I think the product is actually bought by the state and the resold, but I don’t know all of the specifics. I have a client running trains of wine out of WA and CA, and they ship to the PA LCB.

        • Jake Muha says:

          @rpm773: The PLCB directly sells wines and spirits via the “state stores” while regulating beer and malt beverage sales via the distributors.

          There’s also a 192 fl oz restriction per purchaser per bottle/six-pack shop trip, meaning that’s the MOST you can buy and leave the store with any amount of beer equal to that amount before you can go back and get more. Made college beer runs quite the pain in the ass when the keg got kicked.

          • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

            @Jake Muha: This is why I like living in a state with relatively low liquor taxes and with no sales restrictions (other than the obvious age restriction).

            My parents and their friends — I’m not making this up — used to take all the seats out of their minivans and caravan to the liquor warehouse and fill the minivans with boxes of the alcohol. Who says the suburbs are no fun?

  12. promoboy says:

    The real story here is not that Pennsylvania spent a ridiculous amount of money on what should be common sense, it’s that the firm being paid $173,000 just so happens to be owned by one of the LCB’s top-level employees.

    Anyone think this company DIDN’T have inside information, including the budget??

  13. enthreeoh says:

    yes, they have a monopoly on sales.

  14. natrix964909 says:

    Why does the state own liquor stores?

    • karmaghost says:

      @natrix964909: Because they make a shitload of money from it, that’s why.

      Originally? Dunno, probably from fear of prohibition being repealed back in the day. It’ll never change seeing as, as stated earlier, they make a shitload of money from being the only player in the game.

  15. morganlh85 says:

    I’m from Pittsburgh and the store I usually went to had very friendly employees, and very knowledgeable too.

  16. emilymarion333 says:

    I still do not understand why you have to buy it from state run liquor stores..it is the same thing in WA.

    In WA they are never nice either..and they have the worst hours ever! 12-6 M-F, 12-8 S and closed on Sunday.

  17. chatterboxwriting says:

    @Natrix964909 (sorry, reply button still not working):
    Pennsylvania’s liquor sales are controlled by the PA Liquor Control Board. You can only get liquor from one of these stores, which are not open on Sundays and usually not open past 9 at night (if you’re lucky). The first time I ever went to Florida, I was amazed that Wal-Mart sold kegs of beer and I was also amazed that NYC convenience stores had Heineken for sale at the register!

  18. HiPwr says:

    “state-owned liquor and wine stores”?! What kind of goofy shit is this?

  19. huginn says:

    how about we start with not forcing a ‘Go Eagles” sign in every story. Including the ones in greater Pitt

  20. Batwaffel says:

    I’d be happier if they just get rid of the frickin state stores and let us buy at the grocery store like every other state in this country. They jack the prices up here so much on everything because of our crappy alcohol laws.

    • orlo says:

      @Batwaffel: Many states limit grocery stores to selling beer or wine; some only allow a certain number of private liquor stores.

    • ngoandy says:

      @Batwaffel: I’ve never noticed a price difference between PA and other states.

      The only difference I’ve noticed is that cases of beer are harder to get in other states and selection is much lower.

      Sure you can get a 6pack of Coors at every gas station. I’ve never bad luck finding anywhere with a decent selection of craft beers.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Batwaffel: Plenty of states limit sales to government stores, partially or entirely. And even many of the states with wholly-private liquor sales have silly restrictions on them.

  21. Vilgrom says:

    $173,000 for lessons in manners?

  22. headhot says:

    The PA government has been trying to dismantle the state stores for some time, but the union is too strong.

    Go figure.

    • orlo says:

      @headhot: Looking at Wikipedia, the stores make a profit (albeit small) for the state, so this is one case where unions seem to be working well. Any dismantling would probably involve setting up liquor stores, which would just divert the profits to a private quasi-monopoly.

  23. fisherman23 says:

    A novel idea. I wish more companies would follow this lead and teach their employees to have some manners.

  24. headhot says:

    Um sure it makes a small profit, but then again, private stores could potentially move more product, and thus higher alcohol tax revenue.

  25. mbz32190 says:

    Times are starting to change in PA though…several supermarkets I know of are directly connected to a Wine & Spirits store so you don’t need to exit the building (still got to check it out separately though).

    Wegmans markets has been fighting for years to sell beer (2 6-pack limit) in their stores and are finally being approved one by one.

  26. Preppy6917 says:

    I sure am glad I live in New Orleans. Whatever booze you want, any time, and pretty much anywhere.

  27. SecureLocation says:

    You can’t believe how bad the clerks at these Pa. stores are–rude, dumb, thoroughly unhelpful. Exactly what you’d expect from a monopoly. My mother lives in Pa.–now when I visit I bring my own booze.

  28. Michael Smith says:

    my guess is that works out to *less* then ten bucks a store.

  29. HooFoot says:

    I don’t know about the rest of the state, but the liquor store employees I’ve dealt with around the Pittsburgh area have been friendly and helpful.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I guess we can tax the liquor stores and then pay medicaid to do liver transplants because of the cirosis. Makes sense to me. Just like Nevada, legalize prostitution in a few places and tax it… medicaid can pay for STD treatments, AIDS cocktails and unplanned babies. Really smart!

  31. CamilleR says:

    The employees at the stores around here are really nice. We’ve got a really nice store in Reading that’s open on Sundays and I think until 10 most weeknights. As an added bonus, there’s a beer distributor right next to it so you don’t have to drive to two places for wine and beer.

  32. BytheSea says:

    They’re doing this because PA liquor is the most expensive in the tristate area. PA was founded by Quakers and liquor is high regulated and heavily taxed. If people can, they go to New Jersey or Deleware to get their fix. Instead of fixing the actual problem — like selling liquor in grocery stores and allowing us to buy beer somewhere other than nasty warehouse stores — they’re wasting money with this ridiculous training program.

    I’m 28 and I’ve been buying liquor since the legal age of 21. I’ve never had a bad experience with customer service at a liquor store.

  33. christoj879 says:

    WTF is this? So now I get to pay even more to get sloshed?! I’ve never noticed any issue – if anything, the employees are always friendly and eager to help find whatever it is I’m looking to get hammered on that morning/early afternoon.

    Joe Canal’s across the river is looking more tempting.

  34. Bahnburner says:

    How about a handgun shooting skills course?

  35. docrice says:

    I was just at a PA state store last night picking some stuff up and they were reasonably nice, and I have an in-law that works for a state store and has few complaints. The job sucks around the holidays – they aren’t allowed to take any time off from Thanksgiving until after New Years – when you’re the only place in this state that sells hooch, you get busy around the holidays…

    …although I like visiting family in WA, CA, and FL where you can pick lots of stuff up off the shelf at safeway…

  36. Peach422 says:

    [www.yuengling.com]

    America’s oldest brewery is in PA…

  37. T Axel Jones says:

    THe stores make a profit but at the expense of the consumer, who winds up paying much more for liquor than he or she would in neighbouring states. And the restrictions on beer from grocery stores limit the amount (usually two 6-packs) which may be purchased per person. The result is higher costs for consumers. Pennsylvania’s state controlled alcohol system does no one any favours other than the PLCB and its employees.

  38. Jevia says:

    If you visit the Yeungling brewery in PA (about 2 hours out of Philly) and take the tour, you get 2 free glasses of beer.

    What I don’t understand is why they are bothering all that much with ‘customer satisfaction’ when one can only buy alcohol at the LCB stores. Its not like us consumers have a choice of where to go, or who go to give our business to. If one is buying in Jersey or Delaware, its more due to price, not because the clerks are nice.

  39. HalLaius says:

    I don’t know, the nice lady at the liquor store in Scranton was always very nice to me, greeted me by name when i came in for a bottle. Maybe that was due to the 6 cases of cheap vodka I had bought the week before for our halloween party, but who knows?

  40. Quibbs0 says:

    Those of you asking why the gov’t runs our liquor stores…You are preaching to the choir.

    More interesting facts for those of you that don’t know them:

    - You have to buy wine and liquor at the liquor (state) store. No beer sold there.

    - You can only get six packs at restaurants and six pack stores and you can only take out 192 oz. at a time. You can go out and come back in to take out as many times as you want though as long as you pay in separate transactions and remove the beer from the store.

    - You can only get cases and kegs at the distributor (case store). You can take out as many cases as you want at a time unlike the six pack rule above.

    - No beer sales at grocery stores, Wal-Marts or gas stations (with the exception of Wegmans that was able to convince the state that their grocery store is different than their restaurant section – you can’t buy groceries at the restaurant checkouts though).

  41. quail says:

    VA has state run liquor stores too. Think of the worst possible service you can get, higher than need be pricing and short hours of operation. VA was looking for ways to increase income from the stores but turned down the idea of extending store hours. I think they close at 7PM or some such thing.

  42. MrBryan says:

    I’ve never had any complaints about the staff at the 3-4 liquor stores I frequent. If anything, they already were very friendly. Spending this $170K is ridiculous. Why not lower the tax?!

  43. rmohare says:

    You know everybody is complaining about the “state owned” part of the equation, but we all seem to forget about the selection that is available at the PLCB stores. The PLCB is one of the largest purchasers of wine and liquor in the world. The buy wine by the pallet. This gives people in the rural areas of PA a much greater selection of wines and liquors that might otherwise be available in a grocery store. I know this sounds overly socialistic, but it does seem to be working in this particular case (I’m certainly not arguing that we should start using this model in other markets…). I’ve recently moved to Virginia (originally from Pittsburgh, PA area) and I can tell you that the selection at your normal Safeway (of both beer and wine) is not nearly as large as that in PA. And not to mention, very few states allow liquor sales outside of some type of state run store.

  44. rmohare says:

    Take a look at this link:
    [en.wikipedia.org]

    Note that it may be more common to allow beer and wine sales in grocery stores, but many states prohibit the sale of liquor in grocery stores.

  45. dmuth says:

    I live in Ardmore, PA and the liquor store employees here have always been pretty nice to me.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a regular shopper there. ;-)

  46. gggtur says:

    Hahah, I’m lucky…I live near the Delaware border. I just go there for my booze.