The Beer Store’s latest word on privatization: Boo!

I’m a little late to this (exam season is setting me back), but I figured I’d weigh in on the media firestorm the Beer Store set off with it’s seemingly Regan-era PSA like ad.

If you’d rather not watch, the ad basically shows a convenience store owner selling alcohol to a group of clearly underage boys while a concerned matronly voice expresses concern over the welfare of ‘our kids’. The ad was widely chided for its didactic tone, ridiculous message and general lack of factual basis. Indeed, the OCSA, a group representing Ontario Convenience Store Owners demanded an apology. The Beer store claimed it would not apologize for giving Ontarians the ‘facts’ about putting alcohol into convenience stores. That said, they haven’t really given any.

The ad doesn’t ever directly claim that underage drinking will become more common, that store owners are less scrupulous, or that the beer store does a particularly good job, next to similar, private institutions at preventing alcohol sales to minors. To me, what this ad indicates, more than anything, is that the Brewer’s Retail doesn’t have enough to make a reasoned argument. The facts simply don’t support their contention that this system is the best or only way to prevent underage drinking, and they can’t exactly go into a great deal of detail without outwardly saying “we’re a monopoly”.

Is underage purchasing of alcohol a problem? Absolutely. While you might debate the exact age limit, I think most would agree that minors should not be consuming alcohol unsupervised. I do firmly believe it is the job of parents to educate their children on alcohol consumption (and hopefully the advantages of buying local) and not to scare them into experimenting by themselves with absolutely no clue. In my experience it was always the kids coming from the ‘stricter’ (re: more puritanical) homes who tended to overdo it at any party I attending before the age of 19.

It is this point at which one can really sense the desperation of the Beer Store. In attempting to hang on to their monopoly they’ve had to demonize their own product. While almost all brewer’s websites will now require to age verify, I have yet to see one attempt to lecture me on the dangers of drinking. Ultimately the “our product is so dangerous only we can serve it” line is undermined by the fact that beer is already sold privately in bars and restaurants. If we trust those self-interested parties to serve responsibly, there is no logical reason not to trust the person running the corner store.




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