Where’s the alcohol section?

The late Bob Dubin once told me a story about the folks he had to deal with at Allied Domecq.

It seems they weren’t very happy with the way their brands were being run in the States (New York in particular) and one of their top ranking marketing people was coming over for a series of meetings to get to the reasons behind the poor performance.

A senior member of the NY sales team met the executive at the airport when he came through customs. He ushered him to his car and told him that the plan for the first day was to bring him to the hotel, get settled and then they would tour the market.

“I hope to see stores as they really are and not have one of your set up visits,” said the marketing guy. To which the sales person replied, “any store you like…you’re staying in Manhattan so lets start there. You choose.”

A few minutes went by and the visitor exclaimed that he needed to go to a drug store right away. “Please find one close by.”

Thinking that he must have had a headache or some other physical ailment from the flight, the salesman pulled off the expressway and stopped at the first drug chain store he saw.

He was gone for about 10 minutes then came storming out, got back in the car and complained loudly and bitterly that he had looked all over the store and couldn’t find any of their brands.

The salesman patiently explained that in NY, the sale of alcohol was not allowed in drugstores.

“But it is allowed in other states isn’t it?”

“Yes, in a few states” said the salesman.

“So, if you and your associates weren’t so damn lazy, you’d get the law changed, wouldn’t you?”

The salesman didn’t bother to explain.

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The Captain and the Retailer

Here is another story from Bob McBreen…

An East Coast retailer persuaded Seagram to hire his son. He started his career like most, calling on stores during the day and doing on-premise promotions at night. On this particular night he was working a Captain Morgan drink night and since he was the “new guy” he had to wear the captain suit.

It seems that he had a bit too much to drink, and in direct violation of company policy he decided to drive home instead of finding alternate means. Shortly after leaving the bar, with his reactions a bit dulled from sampling the Captain, he rear-ended the car stopped in front of him at a traffic light. Realizing that he was in a bit of trouble he decided that his best course of action was to get out of there as quickly as possible. He left the car and ran to a nearby business where he caught a cab home.

Once safely home he made another fateful decision and called the police to report that his car was stolen. This was just about the time that a police car rolled up to the scene of the accident. When the officer asked the driver of the car that was rear-ended what happen he said that he wasn’t really sure but the guy driving the car that hit him was dressed as a pirate and ran away.

As you can imagine it didn’t take long for law enforcement to figure out what happened and a few days later the young Seagram recruit was back working behind the counter at his family’s liquor store.

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Tonic or Toxic?

I once heard a historian/anthropologist describe America as having a love-hate relationship with alcohol. He characterized US history as consisting of tonic and toxic periods

He described it this way…

From the birth of the nation to the mid-1800s, alcohol was seen as a tonic. Think about the traveling “doctors” (aka snake oil salesmen) selling their alcohol-laced elixirs? Among other positive perceptions, alcohol was seen as “good for what ails you” and helped you to remain “healthy.”

After the Civil War, and for the next 60 years or so, alcohol was considered toxic culminating in the temperance movement and ultimately Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.

I found this online about our soldiers in WWI –

During WWI, British soldiers were rationed two ounces of rum or a pint of porter daily. Germans received a pint of beer, half a pint of wine and a quarter pint of spirits. Canadians got shipments of Jamaican rum. But U.S. soldiers, under Prohibition laws, observed a “dry” zone around its bases.

By WWII alcohol was widely available to our GIs and the tonic era started to come back.

The tonic period has gotten stronger thanks to 60 Minutes. The segment in 1991 called the “French Paradox,” described the benefits of red wine and has since extended to all alcohol. Many see moderate consumption as beneficial to health.

And no snake oil salesmen.

Oh, by the way, for some interesting historical trends on alcohol, wine and beer consumption check out the most recent information from Gallup


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