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  1. #1
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    182

    Free vs control states

    I think most would agree that free is better than control, but sometimes there are exceptions. Just put a three bottle case of Elijah Craig 18 in the bunker and can't stop grinning about the price: $20.99 per bottle in the neighboring control state. Their regular price is $28.99 and normal sale price is $24.99, which is what it was just last month, but $20.99 for an 18 year old single barrel bourbon that I love? And three bottles! Thanks, control state! Thanks, Heaven Hill and Bettye Jo! (I can see what she meant about packing those bottles: the shape makes them extra work,)
    So here in my free state, the EC 18 is at least $43.99. Hmmm This leads me to believe that control states are not completely bad. Sure, their selection is probably little worse in general, but it is the same for their entire state and their citizens. And their (NH) state web site is always up and almost 100%accurate in my experience. Meanwhile, here in my free state, what you can buy is theoretically more diverse, but what you can ACTUALLY buy depends on what you know about: who sells what, where are they located (driving in Boston is no picnic), and most stores either do not have web site listings of their stock (no need for e-commerce, a simple typical listing would do) or they have cob web sites, out of date by years.
    So,is NH the exception that proves the rule or do other folks find any redeeming value, at all, in their control state? Just curious. Ed V.

  2. #2

    Re: Free vs control states

    I used to live in MA (free) and now live in PA (control). I prefer free. The advantages of free include better selection, usually better prices, more stores, and more varied and interesting stores and proprietors. The advantages of control include one web site/one price state-wide. On some items PA will have a lower price than MD (say), but this is the exception. A disadvantage of control states is that they tend to not allow interstate sales (i.e. mail-order, internet sales, etc.).

    Richard

  3. #3
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Seattle, USA
    Posts
    239

    Re: Free vs control states

    I just did a xmas visit to Michigan (free state), comparing to my home state of Washington (control state). It might just be a shortcoming of Michigan in general, but I wasn't impressed with what I could buy there. The selection in Seattle (at least in the big downtown store) was better and cheaper than what I found in Detroit, by and large.

  4. #4
    Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Pelham, AL
    Posts
    3,889

    Re: Free vs control states

    Maybe it is not entirely a matter of free vs control. New Hampshire is known as a particularly low-taxation state. I am guessing that probably has a lot to do with the low price that you have noted.

    Tim

  5. #5
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,542

    Re: Free vs control states

    As the saying goes, "freedom isn't free."

    The ways in which each of the 50 states regulate, and profit from, beverage alcohol sales are bewilderingly complicated. While it's true that the control states almost universally have poor selection, high prices and inconvenient, user-unfriendly stores, the nature of the regulation in each license state also has a big effect on selection, price and convenience. I can't speak to every state but I know Illinois, for example, permits many kinds of promotion and "free enterprise" that are restricted elsewhere. Indiana, also a license state, has many more restrictions than Illinois. I believe it is still illegal to sell cold beer in Indiana, for example. Taxes also vary widely, which impacts price. Control states do, however, tend to use formulas, based on their cost, to set prices, rather than letting the marketplace influence pricing. They also use sales not in the normal ways retailers usually use them (such as to generate traffic) but simply to reduce inventory in products which their formulas tell them are overstocked, so sometimes there are good deals to be had. Unfortunately, they also use sales to get rid of products they are discontinuing, so maybe you won't be seeing EC18 there again soon at any price.

  6. #6
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,542

    Re: Free vs control states

    Here's another interesting resource for information on this subject.

    The National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA).

  7. #7
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Frankfort, KY
    Posts
    292

    Re: Free vs control states

    They also use sales not in the normal ways retailers usually use them (such as to generate traffic) but simply to reduce inventory in products which their formulas tell them are overstocked, so sometimes there are good deals to be had. Unfortunately, they also use sales to get rid of products they are discontinuing, so maybe you won't be seeing EC18 there again soon at any price.
    Chuck, in PA the vendors decide what items go on sale. Our sales last 4 weeks. Popular items are always on sale. The vendors absorb the lower prices. Jim Beam White 750 ml is $1.00 off right now. There are several popular brands on sale at any one time.
    Fred

  8. #8
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    182

    Re: Free vs control states

    Unfortunately, they also use sales to get rid of products they are discontinuing, so maybe you won't be seeing EC18 there again soon at any price.
    Chuck, that's exactly what I'm worried about! Maybe I should bunker a few more, while the bunkerings good. Right now, EC 18 is 40 cents cheaper than Buffalo Trace, which requires a road trip to RI (about 210 miles round trip). And Tim is probably right about the NH taxes thing: NH folks are consistent about not liking taxes. Right now, though, I'm happy with the situation. Ed V.

  9. #9
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    Sweden
    Posts
    867

    Re: Free vs control states

    Sweden, of course, is 100 % control. Im sure there are pros and cons with any system but what I miss most is the 'sale' phenomenon. This never, ever happens here.

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,044

    Re: Free vs control states

    The Liquor Control Board of Ontario occasionally will mark down a product. Usually, the discount from list is modest but it can vary (5%-15% generally but sometimes more). There seems to be two types of sales: those for products being delisted and those where I suspect the supplier is absorbing the discount because from time to time regular-list items are discounted. I have noticed that when, say, a regular-list Canadian whisky is reduced in price, almost always there will be fewer of those bottles on the shelf than others in its category. Clearly, many people buy, within a given product category, on price alone. This happens with vodka and other spirits but it is most noticeable with Canadian whisky since the prices are virtually identical for the various categories (e.g. Seagram VO competes with the regular CC, CC 12 year old with the regular Crown Royal, etc.).

    We have, at the biggest outlets, a pretty good selection, yet when compared to the largest U.S. retailers such as Sam's or Binnie's, or (in bourbon at least) Premier Liquors in Buffalo, NY, the lack of choice is evident. Currently there is a very good selection of whiskies from Scotland and Ireland but even then only at a small number of stores in Toronto, one has to know which ones, so people who live in suburban or rural areas will have less choice than people who live in central Toronto. In bourbon the choice has varied but I wish it was twice as large as it is. Also, I am waiting for the day when a U.S. straight rye whiskey will be sold in Ontario.

    As it happens, I saw this item on the elevator ad screen coming up to work today: LCBO announces appointment of review panel to advise Government on possible overhaul of the Provincial (Ontario) beverage alcohol distribution system. This is the first such review to take place since the current system, adopted between the wars, replaced a period of Prohibition in Ontario.

    Gary

 

 

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