Observations from the Liquor Store

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Braak
Tags: , ,

I am working at the liquor store.  Often unfairly derided, the Pennsylvania State Liquor store is, arguably, one of the best things that the state does.  It makes billions of dollars in profits for the state (this in addition to the taxes; and so is the only state agency to cost no money to maintain); it actually has a better selection than all but the highest-end liquor stores in other states, and is typically one of the first places that new wines and liquors are introduced (because if you’re Dan Aykroyd, and you want to sell Crystal Skull vodka, who do you want to go to?  Why, the single largest purchaser of spirits in America:  the State of Pennsylvania).

Of course, because of all that, Republicans want to privatize the state stores.  I mean, hey, the state budget is capsizing, we’re in the middle of a recession, I can definitely see what they’re thinking:  let’s eliminate a permanent revenue stream for the state, fire ten thousand people, halve the wages of another ten thousand, and give all the profits of the store to an investment company based out of Belgium who will use their profits to pay corporate taxes in Belgium.

Seriously, though, between this and basically every other policy Pennsylvania Republicans want to enact (including, but not limited to: imposing a tax on non-profit ticket sales which would exempt sports events; opening up natural gas reserves in the state for drilling, even though the runoff causes tap-water to become flammable), it’s hard to credit the party with having any abiding philosophy except, “We Are A Bunch of Assholes.”

Politics aside, though, here are some observations I have about working in the liquor store:

1.  Opening the store is depressing.  That is when all the drunks come.  I don’t understand exactly the idea here, though, because they come in in the morning and buy a pint, and then come back later and buy another pint, but it’s actually cheaper if you buy larger bottles and then just drink them all day.

2.  Speaking of:  everyone refers to the bottles as “pints” “half-pints” “fifths” and “gallons,” despite the fact that not a single bottle the store comes in those amounts.  Our “pint” is 375 milliliters — an actual pint is 473.  Not only that, but the “half-pint” is 200 milliliters, which is neither half the size of an actual pint, nor half the size of what we CALL pints.

3.  New Amsterdam Gin is made in California, not New York City.  It’s no wonder that a lot of companies that make gin also make vodka:  the way to make gin is to use juniper berries and assorted flavors in order to add taste to a neutral, flavorless grain spirit.  That is what vodka is.

4.  I think only one company still makes vodka from potatoes.  Incidentally, it is not Jacquin’s, even though they are one of the largest distillers of vodka and producers of liqueurs in the world and, did you know!, their plant is right here in the city of Philadelphia.  Buy local, drink Jacquin’s.

5.  Some people wonder what you can mix with vodka.  The answer is:  anything.  You can mix anything with vodka, it is a flavorless grain spirit.  You know what vodka tastes like when you drink it?  That is the taste of alcohol.  You see all those flavored vodkas?  All those liqueurs on the shelves?  Why do you think they need to do that?  Because vodka doesn’t god-damn taste like anything.

6.  The smallest amount of change you can hand out that uses one unit of every denomination of currency in your cash register is $36.41.  It’s unlikely that you’d ever have to hand this out, unless someone ordered a product that was $13.59 and paid with a fifty-dollar bill.  But given the city’s 8% tax, the only time that would happen would be if the sale price of a bottle was $12.58, which is a pretty weird price.  So far, I haven’t seen any two bottles add up to $13.59, but I will keep my eyes open.

7.  People need to stop handing me change after the drawer is open.  I am sorry that you don’t want to have so many fucking coins, but I told you how much it was when you handed me the money.  If you want to give me seven cents, you need to do that WHEN I ASK YOU FOR THE MONEY.

8.  People also need to stop swiping their god-damn debit cards until I ask them to.  Motherfucker, how do you think that debit card is going to work if you swipe it before I’ve even scanned in all your bottles?  Did you even think about this at all?

9.  People ALSO need to recognize that I’ve got a cash register and a counter in front of me, so when the person in front of you in line moves, if you don’t slide your bottles down towards me, I can’t fucking reach them.  As a general rule, let’s say that WHENEVER you need to hand something to me, you can reach out at least halfway.  I don’t mind reaching out halfway, too, this is an acceptable compromise, but I should not have to lean over the counter to actually take your money from your hand.  Just put your fucking arm out.

10.  I am not completely clear why, if I work a seven-hour shift on Wednesday, I get a half-hour break; but if I work a seven-hour shift on Sunday, there are not breaks at all.  I understood that Toiling on the Sabbath was something that religious people were opposed to in general; surely toiling CEASELESSLY on the Sabbath must be much worse.  And, as it’s explicitly prohibited by the Ten Commandments, and is also the sort of thing that happens all the time everywhere, you’d think it’d be higher on the hit-list than gay marriage.  The National Council of Bishops needs to get on the issue of why I don’t get a break when I work a Sunday shift.

BONUS!  A math equation:  in your liquor store, there are three different sized-bottles: 750mL, 1.5L and 3L.  The 750mL come twelve bottles to a box, and they occupy the same volume as the 1.5L bottles which come six to a box.  The 3L bottles come four to a box.  Based on those numbers, how many different-shaped boxes do you need to have, in order to accommodate all the bottles?


  1. Eric says:

    Two things: I swipe my debit card too early half the time, because some machines let you do it anytime, others make you wait and if I do wait I am usually impatiently told by the cashier “you can swipe your card now (you dumb ass). We need uniformly intelligent debit machines.

    Second, and I love the state store system for the most part, but tell me, is it a secret rule that all male employees must wear a tie that is at least 30 years old?

  2. braak says:

    It is a rule that all male employees must wear a tie. But who goes out and buys a bunch of nice ties for your job at the state store? No one — if you’re an old guy, you’re wearing the same ties you started with 30 years ago. If you’re a young guy, you’re either wearing a bunch of cheap ties you bought at the thrift store (thus: 30 years old), or the spare ties they have in the back room, that have been left there by previous employees (thus: 30 years old).

  3. Moff says:

    Erin said what I was going to say about the debit cards.

    Is (7) because you are one of those Young People Who Can’t Do Arithmetic? It’s not your fault; it’s because of computers. (It’s kind of your fault.)

    (1) is because of the addict’s mentality. See, it would be cheaper to buy in bulk. But this is going to be the day you just buy one pint and make it last — and if you don’t make it last, you’ll just have to go without! You need to cut back anyway. If you buy a big bottle, that’s just like admitting defeat. (Also the ability to conceal the smaller pint, either in one’s pocket or bag, or in a separate drinking receptacle, likely factors in.)

  4. John Jackson says:

    I always tell the cashier as I hand them the bills that “oh, I have the change as well,” because if I don’t do that, there’s no point in giving it to the cashier later. Also, as for your assertion that only one distillery still makes vodka from potatoes? Ketel One, Chopin, Monopolwa ($9-12). And that is without a google search. (Oh cool, there’s a potato vodka named Kamchatka!) And yes, it does taste better.

  5. Aaron Gould says:

    I don’t remember you being such a strong defender of your previous employer.

    If you don’t get any ties from Santa this year, you are more than welcome to help yourself to some of my ties, although admittedly some are, in fact, 30 years old.

    I think the actual philosophy of the Republican Party is “We are completely corrupt.”

    I like handing change to the cashiers after they have opened the drawer just to make them do the math in their heads.

    I will try and be more conscientious the next time I am buying wine or scotch.

  6. John Jackson says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention, I love that people still use ‘fifths’. I know 750mL isn’t a fifth, but it’s close enough. (A fifth of a US gallon is 757mL, an imperial fifth is 909mL). Calling a bottle of rye a fifth makes me feel like I’m Van Morrison. And I can’t call anything a pint that isn’t imperial, I’m weird. And an imperial pint is just over a half liter, hence all those British pint glasses with the 0,5 L mark near the lip.

  7. Mary Jones says:

    Fair points,but how do you feel about loosening up laws so that I can buy beer and wine in grocery stores and Rite Aid? Because that’s where I envy other states.

  8. Jeff Holland says:

    On the upside, some alcoholics are as efficient as hell.

    $3.17, one half-pint of Bankers Club vodka, here’s your exact change, no receipt, no eye contact, no chit-chat, same time every night. Transaction done in under 30 seconds. I had to appreciate that.

    And potato vodka does taste better. Though I can’t imagine that would apply to Jaquins.

  9. braak says:

    I have lived both in states where the grocery store can sell liquor, and in states where they can’t (in fact, in the state of Pennsylvania, many of PLCB stores have little outposts attached to grocery stores). I don’t miss being able to buy everything at the same place; I feel like we’re probably all better off if you have to go to a liquor store to get liquor.

  10. braak says:

    @Moff: No, (7) is because I am pretty fast at counting change, so half the time I’ve already got their change in my hand by the time they’ve found enough to make making change a little easier.

  11. Moff says:

    I still want to blame you somehow, though.

  12. braak says:

    Well, the fact of the matter is, basically everything in the world isn’t my fault.

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