... the devil is in the details

by Jerry Norton

In an earlier story I mentioned the hardship which was imposed upon my dear old Dad when Melrose was a “dry city” many years ago. He was compelled to drive all the way to a package store in Wakefield or Malden to obtain his John Barleycorn … highly inconvenient. And it was this lack of proximity to the grog shops and my recent voting opportunity which has prompted this anguished tale.

Washington State has for many years been the sole purveyor of spirits for its residents, having operated the only outlets (package stores) available for the purchase of this popular commodity. These state-run stores were relatively few in number, with limited opening time and not always conveniently located. As we all know, whether you’re pedaling real estate or booze, location is everything. Recently our local “big box” and super market chain stores - with an eye to the enormous profits to be realized - succeeded in getting a measure placed on the ballot which allowed for private enterprise to take over this all-important function. They preyed upon a credulous public, promising us a brave new world of ready access and dramatically lower prices. And we voters, to our detriment, voted “yeah - count us in!”

We were made aware that there would be certain additional State taxes imposed by this new arrangement but they would be readily absorbed by the lower prices that these big stores could offer. But alas, like the white man stealing Indian lands…they spoke with a forked tongue. My more astute wife, however, suspected the public was being flim-flamed by the grocery people. She envisioned an increased access to high-octane spirits would lead to more mayhem on the streets and homes of our communities. She was also skeptical of the financial gain promised and she voted "nay!" I, of course, was primarily interested in the monetary savings which would accrue, but never materialized. I have now been compelled to eat political humble pie in the presence of my ever-lovin' spouse.      

Some readers may recall that old-time comedian, W.C. Fields, who lamented that “the cost of living had gone up by a dollar a fifth.” Well something like that became a reality as the additional taxes more than offset whatever savings the stores offered. The customer now walks out of the store having paid considerably more for his libation than he did under the old system. Talk about your unintended consequences! Needless to say, the cries of foul play were not long in coming from the State’s tipplers, suggesting fraud and deception on the part of the grocery people.

I know, readers will probably say... you dummies, you should have researched further before casting your ill-advised vote.”  Well I, for one, now have a deeper appreciation of an old Latin maxim when being sold either a product or a proposition... caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware!”

November 2, 2012

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