The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 17, 2009

LCB charting a shaky path | Workshop for clerks raising questions

A Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board proposal to improve the public image of its 650 state stores has become more of a public-relations nightmare.

The goal itself is a good one, but where the LCB runs amok is the way it’s going about accomplishing its objective.

We believe it should cut its losses of time spent concocting this plan and pour the idea down the drain like a cheap bottle of whiskey.

Here is what has been happening:

The LCB announced recently that it wanted to make store workers friendlier and more well-mannered, to make sure there are smiles on their clerks’ faces when they’re meeting the public.

That’s certainly commendable. It’s something every business should demand of its clerks as they interact with customers.

To accomplish its agenda, however, the LCB has hired a company to conduct workshops beginning this month.

The contract is worth $173,000.

While we have complimented liquor officials for making improvements the past few years at the stores, including longer operating hours and better wine selections, we honestly have not heard about any major problems with the clerks.

The board says it wants to make sure clerks are saying “hello,” “thank you” and “come again” to customers shopping for wine and spirits.

Harrisburg good-government activist Eric Epstein calls the idea “a demented interpretation of happy hour.”

He says it’s “a sad state of affairs when you have to train people to be kind and courteous.”

It’s also mind-boggling that the LCB would invest that kind of money at a time when the state is facing huge budget deficits and when so many people are losing their wages because of the massive layoffs taking place around the state.

If that isn’t enough, the contract itself has come under fire. On Friday, Auditor General Jack Wagner said that he would review the board’s awarding of the contract to a Pittsburgh company owned by the husband of the LCB’s regional manager for western Pennsylvania.

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