Thingamagiggers, Liquor Wholesalers & the Pornographers

"I want to be
treated like a pornographer – sell on the Internet, sell across state
lines, no franchise rules. Anyone over 21 who chooses to buy my product
has it available."

-Chris Pearmund, Pearmund Cellars

Can you imagine? Begging to be treated only as good as a pornographer.

That’s what it has come to in Virginia where rather than doing the noble thing and allowing that state’s wineries to operate in a free market, they force them to work within a structure that can best be termed a "thingamagigger".

Last year Virginia’s wholesalers convinced state legislatures that the dangers inherent in allowing Virginia’s wineries to do what they’ve been doing for years as they grew their industry were so great that the only solution was to force them to take a substantial cut in pay and give that cut to the wholesalers.

The problem? Virginia wineries were selling their wines directly to retailers and restaurants. I know. Pick yourself up. You thought that this sort of evil had gone the way of slavery, that it no longer sullied our civilization.

Well, the legislators came to their senses and decided that their move last year was improper and they needed to give that simple privilege back to their state’s wineries. How would they do this?  Behold, the "Thingamagigger":

"Under the new system, which will go into effect as soon as the governor
signs the bills, and the state can set up the corporation, a restaurant
owner places an order with the state-run wholesaler. The wholesaler
forwards the order to the winery. A winery employee (who has been
"leased" to the corporation) moves the case of wine to a separate
section of the winery (which has been "leased" to the corporation),
then loads it in a truck (which has been "leased" to the corporation)
and delivers it to the restaurant. The restaurant owner sends a check
to the corporation."

I swear, that is not made up.

The whole reason this thingamagigger is in place is because the state’s wholesalers have convince legislators that they are of such feeble means and abilities that they must be protected from the competition that would arise if out-of-state wineries had the same right to sell directly to Virginia retailers and restaurants as Virginia wineries do…a fact of life in the law that resulted from rulings in the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision and another court decision that came down in Washington State last year.

So in order to protect these poor, feeble wholesalers who claim they need protection from competition, the Virginia legislature must create a new thing: a Thinkgamagigger.

Wouldn’t it have been easier to just treat the wineries like pornographers?


6 Responses

  1. Mary B. - February 26, 2007

    Gak. Now it sounds even worse! The wineries are supposed to maintain inventory for the wholesalers AND deliver the wine, and the “corporation” gets the check? If I were a Virginia winery, I would boycott Virginia three-tier altogether, and only deal with distributors in other states. But then, I have an in-state distributor who does it the old-fashioned way–they work for ME, they impress me, they support me. And I am happy to support them. Sad to see that the terms “hard work” and “commitment” are no longer part of Virginia’s political vocabulary.

  2. Randy - February 26, 2007

    Don’t they call this “restricting interstate trade”? I can’t understand why the federal government doesn’t step in and do something about this.
    Oh, and we have to come up with some kind of marker to indicate sarcasm in blog posts.

  3. Sonadora - February 26, 2007

    Sigh. They had a relatively sensible solution earlier in the year. I called and wrote my reps. I blogged about it. How in the world did they go from allowing 3,000 cases of self distribution for any winery that wanted to self-distribute to this nonsense?

  4. Dezel - February 26, 2007

    The 3000 cases are still intact; in fact that is what Tom labels the “Thingamagigger”. Looks like a complicated and convoluted John Madden play on paper, but boils down to a pitch right to the half back or more aptly, the wholesaler. This is all to get the product from source to destination.
    Will this be loss yardage, a 3 yard gain, or a 1st down? Suppose we will have to wait and see. I would agree from talking with some of the wineries about this that it is better than nothing at all, and considering the majority are small (less than 7500 cases) farm wineries, it works out well for some. What we call larger (9500 case +) wineries, and that is not too many, already have distributors and are not moved by these bills or changes.
    The reality of it all is the 1980 Bill that gave free run did what it was suppose to do – encourage growth. There were a handful of wineries then, and now there are some 119 operational wineries. Now that the industry has blossomed and is maturing, politics rears its not so cute head. Problem here is a great number of the small farm wineries built their wineries around the business model of that 1980 bill not expecting change. A great many of them produce too few cases (1k-3k) for a distributor to have the slightest of interest in. The good news is that consumers support their local wineries and most wineries I visit sell most of their wine right there in the tasting room, as well as festivals and events.
    I suppose, the petty wholesalers need love to (not!); and of course a good swift kick in the bottle!
    Happy Sipping!

  5. Ken - February 27, 2007

    I thought Massachusetts was the most screwed up state. The appears to be a new leader in the clubhouse.

  6. Mabus Foo - May 28, 2007

    Damn shame. Looks like they’re in the wrong industry. I’m glad I chose porn instead of booze.

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