The Train to Wonderland & the F-uck You Factor

How does the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America tell American wine consumers to F*ck Off? Like this:

"The American consumer who’s complaining that he can’t get some obscure
frou-frou wine produced and bottled by Croatian virgins is missing the
The reason he even WANTS that bottle of wine is because of the
incredible variety that is already on the shelves! And how did it get
there? WE put it there!"
Jack Goldenberg, Chairman of WSWA at their annual convention in Las Vegas

It’s a pretty simple and straight forward attitude that these wholesalers bring to the table: You want a wine we don’t feel you should have? States need more tax revenue that can come from direct shipping? Fuggetaboudit! Take your "frou frou" wine and keep whining. This is OUR monopoly and we’ll run it the way we want it run!

The very notion that wine lovers want access to the thousands upon thousands of wine wholesalers don’t carry only because wholesalers have provided access to a slim variety of wines turns the idea of reality on its head.

Mr. Jack Goldenberg is now the chairman of an Association who has as one of their primary goals to keep wine out of the hands of legal adults.  They literally believe they can convince consumers that the wines they want, but can’t get because of wholesalers’ efforts to block access to them, amounts to a service they are providing to th public. I have no doubt that Alice from the land of Wonderland is on the payroll at WSWA. Nothing else can explain this absurd line of reasoning.

But here’s the real crack up. At the same convention where Chairman Goldenberg literally told wine lovers across the country to F*ck Off, the WSWA CEO, Craig Wolf, attempted to justify a monopoly system that serves mainly to benefit wholesalers as the only line of defense against people dying from tainted alcohol:

"Look around the world.  People are dying from drinking tainted  alcohol. Just read the news: deaths in India,  Nepal, Paraguay, Nicaragua and elsewhere. And
get this – In 2006, Russia “celebrated” the fact that there were ONLY
26,000 deaths from alcohol poisoning.  A one year drop of almost 30%.
What an achievement…You
just don’t see that here in the United States, because wholesalers deal
exclusively with reputable, licensed suppliers and there is never any
question of the integrity of the product that my members distribute."

Did you catch that? According to the CEO of the WSWA, people will die if wholesalers don’t control all access to alcohol. LAST CALL FOR THE TRAIN TO WONDERLAND. ALL ABOARD!

You are going to be seeing the wholesalers talk a lot about the dangers of any wine arriving in consumers’ hands that did not first get sticky in their hands. If you are in favor of better access to wine and in favor of a rational system of wine distribution that accounts for the realities the new market and new consumer attitudes, then PRAY the wholesalers base their case for keeping total control in their own hands on the idea that people will die without without the wholesaler. If they do indeed take this route, they will be laughed out of the room and change will come even faster.



17 Responses

  1. Arthur Przebinda - May 13, 2008

    Does the WSWA need a President/CEO *AND* a Chairman to push these absurd talking points?
    I’m raising a glass of (potentially tainted) Polish moonshine in a toast, hoping they don’t fall on the idea of hiring anybody smarter.

  2. Randy - May 13, 2008

    Indeed, perhaps the reason there’s fewer deaths from alcohol poisoning is because China doesn’t export wine to the U.S.
    Or do they?
    Anyhow, I’m more than happy to have the lack of wine choice. I mean, with the wholesalers looking out for me and all, I can drink four 750ml bottles in one sitting and feel perfectly safe, because they’ve made absolutely sure that the product in the bottle is safe to drink. Right?
    I’m left to wonder how they open the case, get the foil off, pull the cork, take the wine out, analyze it to ensure it’s safe, put it back in without oxidizing it, stuff the cork back in and replace the capsule and reseal the box without it appearing to have been tampered with. Because if there was evidence of tampering, well, that just wouldn’t look safe would it?
    Oh, I know! It must be the special X-ray wine goggles they use to peer inside each and every bottle that passes through their hands. I mean, how ELSE could they ensure that the product is safe?
    Hmmmm, perhaps it’s something we just can’t perceive. Maybe it’s MAGIC that let’s wholesalers ensure product safety.
    Or is there another explanation, one that says the emperor really doesn’t have any clothes on, one that says the wholesalers do nothing more than provide logistics to get vast quantities of product from points A to points Z, and NO quality or safety checks are performed.
    Yes, this needs some more thinking…

  3. Salmon Leap Consulting - May 13, 2008

    I’m shocked! Shocked! to find out that the WSWA is evil and that the “three tier” system is antiquated and corrupt. Next you’ll be telling me that the sky is blue and water is wet.

  4. Marshall from WineQ - May 13, 2008

    Wow, thanks WSWA! Now I don’t have to lose another night of sleep to the fear of dying from a glass of wine. Thank you also to the War on Drugs for protecting me from those violent marijuana smokers, and to the highway patrol for safeguarding me from people going 78 in a 65!

  5. Matt - May 13, 2008

    Just a guess, but I would think that most of those 26,000 deaths in Russia due to alcohol poisoning were not from tainted booze but more to the quantity of perfectly fine vodka imbibed.
    Nothing like taking an irrelevant fact and using it out of context to make your case and point.
    Cheers to the WSWA!

  6. Cheryl - May 14, 2008

    Somebody was reading their copy of “How to Lie with Statistics”…..

  7. Cheryl - May 14, 2008

    Given their collective brainpower, it must have been the Clif Notes version.

  8. Kevin Finn - May 14, 2008

    It is this sort of tops-down logic that concerns me. Does the WSWA know what consumers want? No. Certainly they cater to demand, but demand (in the true economic sense) is driven by personal taste coupled with selection.
    Now, the two components of demand certainly pose a “chicken or the egg problem”. Do you let selection determine taste (i.e. demand)? Or do you let demand determine selection?
    To answer this question I would point towards the liberal economic thought surrounding free markets put forth by the late Stanford University economics professor Milton Friedman in his book Capitalism and Freedom. Sorry if this is rather abstract, but bear with me.
    Government intervention coupled with monopolistic industry is certainly not a good environment to allow the free market operate efficiently. Let selection reign free, taste (demand) will ebb and flow, and then selection (suppliers) will adjust accordingly.
    With all the resources available to consumers today I highly doubt that a certain wine would not be stocked by a restaurant merely “because the option exists”, but rather because taste (demand) put that bottle there in the first place. Did Pinot Noir become a craze because wholesalers put it on the shelf? Doubtful.
    Now, the argument of who should “put” that bottle there is an entirely different argument, but again, simple economics will determine this argument as well. Just do a quick channel-mix margin analysis. As the legal barriers continue to fall, economics will take hold.
    The question of quality control is a totally separate topic that has been skewered by a number of previous posts…

  9. Wineboy! - May 14, 2008

    Milton Friedman? My hero. Great argument Cheryl. I must concur entirely being a libertarian and an Economist.

  10. Philip James - May 14, 2008

    Unbelievable, but while i’m here, where can i procure this Croatian virgin Frou Frou wine?

  11. Mary Baker - May 15, 2008

    Once again, the WSWA evidences extreme and public disrespect for the very people it claims to serve and protect.

  12. Udi Barone - May 15, 2008

    Small wineries should and can sell directly to consumers. Moreover, such direct sale can boost their profit by factor of 6!
    Hundreds of small wineries already promoting themselves on MySpace to generate direct sales.
    Look at the statistics:

  13. Dan Cochran - May 16, 2008

    As the saying goes, “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” The WSWA is simply anti-constitutional in their stances. “We the people” need to take our country back.

  14. Andrew - May 16, 2008

    and they drove the snakes out of Ireland too thank God!

  15. Golly - May 20, 2008

    That adds insult to injury. By injury of course I mean good old fashioned racketeering, or should I call it monopoly or a cartel to make it sound a little less like fraud/theft.
    Why on earth do Americans put up with this kind of restrictive trade practice – throw their booze into Boston Harbour and lets some some balls on American consumers!

  16. 1WineDude - May 20, 2008

    Sounds like Communism to me…

  17. Jeff - May 22, 2008

    That’s it, from here on out it’s dandelion wine and moonshine for me.

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