This week’s Brew Biz will be shared with other sites: under the banner for another column I have written since 1972 called Inspection. Inspection is my personal forum for discussing societal issues. Because, though it may surprise brew lovers, there’s more to discuss here than just beer.
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
Today’s corporate beer adventure courtesy UPS… and also includes a commentary on the increasingly corporate culture of The United States of America.
I used to work for a record company as a shipping and receiving manager and quality control. At the time the boxes would come in like Godzilla had kicked them around, but the contents were usually OK. My cousin, Joyce, who used to work for UPS told me the old conveyer system would to do that. While I was there our UPS man and I talked a lot. He’d fume about how anal they were: how every little thing had to be just so, despite banged up boxes. Now I believe him more than ever.
It’s been quite a while since those days. I have used UPS, occasionally, for Christmas gifts. I do remember one year an attendant at our local UPS station insisted on tearing apart my package and repacking it because, “It just doesn’t look right.” She made more a mess of it than I did and succeeded in nothing. I could tell she was really pissed when she took it away.
So were the multitude of customers behind me.
“Did you use packing material?”
I had used newspaper, she insisted on bubble wrap… “bubble wrap” I had to buy from her. I had used duct tape. She said it should be another kind of tape and “neater.”
Yup, she did nothing to make me reconsider my box banging, anal nature, image I had been left with after all these years.
Well, being a beer judge and a brewer I have shipped a few entries to distant competitions. I had decided never to use UPS again because they claim you can’t ship alcohol. Not quite true, as we shall see, but true enough for peons like you and me. Usually I just say they’re yeast samples and they question a little more, I hedge around the issue, then they ship it. But why bother? Just go to Federal Express: they don’t interrogate me.
But every once in a while you run into more “anal” than not.
Well I picked up a six of Anchor Foghorn: first time I’d seen it in Tennessee since the 80s or early 90s. Opened up one and felt like I was drinking from a green rubber hose. Opened a second and got the hose job again.
So I E-mailed Anchor and: kudos, they sent me a prepaid shipping box with packing material, and promises to compensate me for the loss. Got to the UPS station and she asked me what was in it. I said, “Bottles, caps…” She noticed it was from Anchor. “Any beer?” “Well, whatever they wanted returned. I’m just bringing it to you. They’ve prepaid, right? Those are your labels? They do ship with you, obviously.”
But she wouldn’t have any of what I was telling her and insisted she’d tear it apart and, “If there’s even a drop of beer in there we can’t ship it.”
Not exactly true. Here’s the law…
Who can ship: There are only two legal ways to ship alcohol in the United States. A retailer must be licensed to sell alcohol by a state that permits shipments in and out of that state and must have an alcohol shippers contract with either UPS or FedEx. The US Postal Service does not permit shipments of alcohol. It is illegal for a non-licensed individual to ship alcohol.
Now I could just smear UPS here, but actually I’m sure she was doing her job. This is how the system is set up for us peons. So as much as the encounter bothered me I hardly blame UPS at all: and certainly nowhere as much as I blame a certain trend in our culture. More on that in a second.
The problem is Anchor was essentially shipping it: their label, identifying them as the shipper. I was simply the delivery boy to UPS: sending them back what they had requested. Obviously they ship UPS frequently. I seriously doubt they lack a contract. But apparently those who don’t have a contract still get to ship. I have heard from mad homebrewers about encounters they have had at the UPS counters when their outgoing competition entry packages were refused. They’ll point to packages from clubs like Beer of the Month, shipped UPS, and without blinking an eye the UPS gal or guy will say, “Oh, there’s no beer in those packages.”
No beer in the heavy package the size of two six packs (or whatever that specific clubs ships: it’s usually the exact same number of bottles) from “Beer of the Month Club?”
Yes, these clubs do ship in and out of Tennessee, so that can’t be the issue.
“No beer? Yous gouys must havea whole state-ah size storage lot yous owns filled wid dohs Brooklyn Bridges yous all hav bought.
Look, sarcasm aside, let’s be honest here. We all know what this is about. This goes far beyond one anal employee and UPS. If you look at the rule it’s based on retailing, sales and certainly has something to do with at least the same mindset that created and supports the three tier system. Yes, the monopoly creating, competition killing, Mafioso-like three tier system. The same system that gets homebrewers harassed when they are asked to pour their own beer: for free, at festivals and they go forth to contribute their talents, and their brewing knowledge, to their community. Or someone who offers samples of beer for educational purposes, for free, at some pub.
There are days I wish those who promote and support the three tier system might find the other end of the horse in their beds. But that would be so unfair to the poor horses. They’re not the ones acting like a horse’s…
The three tier system gives control over retail to one distributor who gets to decide who has, who doesn’t. It’s a case of big business and government walking hand in hand and screwing Joe Public, or Mom and Pop who want to open a small business that sells beer. It’s a corporate godfather doling out permission while beating down on those who displease the godfather. Cooperate, or the thugs are provided: at taxpayer expense by the government.
So, you want to ship beer? You have to have a pricy contract. Let me guess: that contract is loaded with terms that assure a buddy/buddy relationship: big biz/big gov. Some states have what one might call a “closed shop:” the distributor is God.
You know if I had to pay extra for a “personal” permit and leave the box open to be inspected I would have no problem with that. But I suspect I’m simply not a big enough fish so I just get thrown away.
One of the conundrums here is beer competitions exist all over the world. They need entries and homebrewers long for the feedback. Nothing here is sold. Nothing competes in the market place. So, hey, since there’s money to be made for shipping companies and other businesses hosting such, certainly we can come to some compromise?
Doubtful. You see I’m not a big corporation, neither are you. And “retailers” in beer too often act as if they own all beer.
Resolve: I went down the road to Staples and they simply took the package for UPS. Now think for a moment: my package was essentially rejected at the office. But as long as I have a big corporate entity backing me: Staples, UPS gleefully picks it up and sends it wherever. No questions asked.
This isn’t just about beer…
Obamacare, or pre-Obamacare: it doesn’t matter… if you have some health care carrier, insurance company, backing you, you get treated as long as big Daddy approves. Docs get paid as long as they jump through the hoops. Two of the hoops: being paid less and hiring a special employee just to handle the maze these companies intentionally set up to make them hesitant to even request they pay for something. The same maze that can deny life saving treatment.
Corporate profit more important than life itself.
You want to own private property? Well, if WalMart wants it: screw you. Sell or get it taken away for a pittance. In some states companies the size of WalMart get to handle eminent domain. You can keep your private property as long as big business doesn’t feel you’re in the way.
Now: politicians. Think any politician can make it in America without at least some corporate backing? Think again. Think that proposing something Americans desperately need, but that same something big corporations hate, will get you elected? Good luck with that.
Of course you could try to start your own business. Yet there are few businesses one can enter these days which, if it offends mega corporate America, won’t be crushed. Think of the internet. Up until recently we could start a small website and we could be just as available as major corporation for those who surf. A recent decision guarantees corporations get to decide how workable our sites are due to loading issues. Think they will decide this only along monetary issues?
Do we really need American politicians to be far more beholden to international mega-corporations than they are to their own constituents? Do we need our prisons, our elections and our votes owned and run by government approved corporations?
Must we have a government approved corporation sponsor for everything we do?
The three tier system is simply one of the methods to assure corporations and big business control America. We always hear about “nanny Government.” But we certainly don’t need a country where nanny Corporations collude to control who is in office, who we do business with, who gets to serve alcohol and who ships what.
When it comes to the small issue here: my attempt to ship UPS, in a time where craft beer has boomed and homebrewing has become one of the more popular hobbies in the US, finding a way to change the shipping rules, as I suggested, would increase shipping profits, bring homebrewers in the UPS door and further sales for the craft industry. A plus, plus all around.
But I don’t expect it to happen soon, even in my lifetime. When government and corporations walk hand in hand, eventually, the rest of us are far worse, and less free. This kind of senseless nonsense is habitual for those who think control is all that matters.
It’s also called “fascism.”
Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”