I normally don’t post too much on local news, but this…this was a bit too tempting to resist. And the thing that started it all made me so annoyed, that rather than just rant on social media, I decided to take it to this site to get everything in one place.
So if you’re just joining us, here in Ontario there is a bit of a debate going on between The Beer Store and the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) over selling beer and wine in convenience stores. The Beer Store, owned by Molson-Coors, Labatt, and Sleeman, are, aside from Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores, the only other place you can buy beer in the province of Ontario. Since it’s owned by three mega-beer corporations, you can probably take a wild guess as to what kind of beers you’re most likely to find there and you’d be right to assume that if you’re a small brewer who wants shelf space at their stores, you will not be able to afford it.
So the OCSA wants to open up the market and allow selling of beer and wine in convenience stores. The Beer Store, obviously enjoying the profits it makes on being pretty much the only game in town, is understandably doing everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen. And so, The Beer Store had a few meetings and Ontario Beer Facts was born, “Providing Ontarians with important facts on the consequences of selling beer, wine and hard liquor at corner stores and gas stations.”. The problem is that the facts they give…well, they aren’t really facts. Any points they give can mostly be slapped away by the OCSA or anyone at all who decides to take five minutes to look in to both organizations. Nevertheless, they still trudge on, taking advantage of people’s fear and stupidity as they move ahead. One such move on their part has been particularly offensive.
So above is an ad that The Beer Store just put out, showing the careless Convenience store clerk knowingly selling alcohol to minors. It’s an ad that harkens back to late-80s-early-90s PSAs about drug use and if it wasn’t officially backed by The Beer Store, I’d think it was a joke made by a parody account. The underlying point the video was trying to make was “You can not trust shopkeepers to sell this stuff. The Beer Store’s employees are specially trained so they can sell alcohol responsibly”. Which ok, I can see how that might be a good point to go with…but what if we made it so Ontario shopkeepers who want to sell alcohol in their stores be required to get SmartServe Certification? No one serving drinks in the province can work without one and the penalties for violating are harsh enough for shopkeepers to not want to even chance it. It’s a good response and one that Beer Store President Ted Moroz can’t quite answer back with anything.
Bottom line: No one is taking this new ad seriously at all and there are many people who are actively boycotting The Beer Store because of it’s blatant attempt at fearmongering to keep their profits flowing. If that makes you angry, good. It should make you angry.
So with that busted, the OCSA should have it pretty easy PR-wise, but…well, they’re being kind of disappointing. They have so many things on their side: family-owned business, an active support of local Ontario wines and beers, actual FACTS…but they aren’t using them, instead taking the time to snark on The Beer Store for being wrong, and that’s it. I voiced my frustration and asked questions to the OCSA and was asked to call them, but…I’m just annoyed because I shouldn’t have to call them. I shouldn’t have to dig for answers to detailed questions because they should be shouting them out to whoever will listen as their opposing argument.
In the end, we’re left in the middle of a PR mudfight between two Ontario giants and the only reason people are going with the OCSA is because they aren’t The Beer Store. I’m just suggesting that people should be going with the OCSA because they very clearly offer ________ and _________ and some ________. I suppose I’ll dig and let you folks know how it went.
In the meantime, for more amazing coverage on this debate, read Toronto writer Ben Johnson’s posts on the topic and check out Sun columnist Jordan St. John’s blog for updates. Jordan recently got sick of the commissioned reports brought out by both sides and actually got the ball rolling on an independent survey.
In the meantime, let the message stand to not trust bad PR. Call them out on it. Ask questions. Show them that you aren’t an idiot.