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Tapping the keg of outrage… again


 

Few object to the way alcoholic beverages are sold in Ontario more than I do, as pretty much anyone who knows me can attest. From the endless queues to the clueless staff to the pitiful selection to the price, there’s very little that goes on at the LCBO and The American-, Belgian- and Japanese-Owned Beer Store (as I now call it, at the Toronto Star‘s suggestion) that hasn’t gotten me angry at some point or another. But I can honestly claim never to have been enraged by the simple question, “Do you have Air Miles?”

Not so the Dominion Institute’s Rudyard Griffiths. Time was, he wrote in yesterday’s National Post, he’d just politely decline. Now, he’s considering tattooing “I DO NOT COLLECT AIR MILES!” on his forehead. “It is bad enough that we can’t buy liquor and beer at the corner store like most Canadians,” he fumes*. “But to have a state-run company use its monopoly powers to market the product of a for-profit American business is deeply irksome.” He’s referring to whatever amount the LCBO pays Air Miles’ Dallas-based parent company to use it as a marketing gimmick—buy a bottle of Plonque Estates Pinot Noir and get 20 bonus miles, for example. (Griffiths says the figure is $20 million annually, an oft-quoted figure that’s just as oft-disputed by the LCBO’s friendly media people.)

On many levels, Griffiths is quite right. As he says, “it’s not as if the LCBO is competing with another booze retailer, heaven forbid, who is going to woo away its customers away by providing Air Miles.” Similar arguments were voiced in 1997 when Brewers Retail—now The American-, Belgian- and Japanese-Owned Beer Store—hired John Ratzenberger and George Wendt (pictured above right), at great cost, in a futile attempt to expand its monopoly. But the Air Miles arrangement is just a symptom of the LCBO’s most basic, bedrock absurdity: its mandate is essentially to sell as much alcohol to Ontarians as possible while preventing them from drinking too much of it. All the lesser absurdities are anchored in that bedrock, the way I see it, and I can’t really get too excited about them. Plus, I collect Air Miles.

But the really weird thing about Griffiths’ complaint is the fact that the Star ran a nearly word-for-word identical piece from him… a year ago to the day!

July 29, 2007:

“Having just returned from my weekly visit to my local LCBO store, I have decided to get a tattoo. No, I have not polished off a six-pack of Bacardi Mixx – White Xplosion – and temporarily lost my marbles.”

July 29, 2008:

“Having just returned from a visit to my local government-controlled liquor store in picturesque Erin, Ontario, I have made up my mind to get a tattoo. No, I have not polished off a six-pack of Bacardi Mixx White Xplosion and temporarily lost my marbles”

July 29, 2007:

“But in the past year or so I’ve found myself resenting having a product I have no interest in using (that is, an Air Miles card) getting in the way of consuming other products I am using my time and money to purchase.”

July 29, 2008:

“This summer however I’ve found myself increasingly resenting having a product I have no interest in using (that is, an Air Miles card) getting in the way of consuming other products I am using my time and money to purchase.”

July 29, 2007:

“What will the brain trust at the LCBO think up next? Will they enter into a marketing agreement with McDonald’s where, on the third Monday of each month, Ontarians will have to dress up in clown suits if they want to purchase a bottle of wine?”

July 29, 2008:

“What will the brain trust at the LCBO think up next? Will they enter into a marketing agreement with McDonald’s where, on the third Monday of each month, Ontarians will have to dress up in clown suits if they want to purchase a bottle of wine?”

It’s so odd, I don’t really know what else to say about it. But one thing’s for sure. Henceforth, anyone accusing me of being the most tiresome, repetitive, hypersensitive detractor of Ontario’s liquor control regime will feel my glove across his face. That detractor, I submit to you this 30th day of July, 2008, is Mr. Rudyard Griffiths.

* – He’s quite wrong about where “most Canadians” can buy their beer and liquor, of course, but it hardly seems to matter now.


 

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