My own experiences with the LCBO

There has been a lot of talk with the Ontario Auditor Genera’s report that came out this week on the LCBO, their monopoly and their apparent gouging of Ontario consumers. A good place to look is at this story in Wednesday’s edition of the Ottawa Citizen. My own experience with the LCBO has made me shake my head at this monopoly… check that… bash my head against the brick wall in frustration.

Two years ago a friend of mine in Montreal asked if I could get a bottle of this one type of spirit as it was no longer sold at the SAQ but was still by the LCBO. OK fine. I look, I went on the LCBO’s fabulous website but they didn’t have it listed, it was discontinued. I travel to New York State a fair amount so I called a couple of liquor shops that I remember seeing and yes, one of the shops could get it in but there was a catch, they’d have to order a case.

“Do you want 12 bottles of the stuff,” I asked.

“Yup, sure, lifetime supply,” said my friend.

So I called the liquor shop back, said yes order it, the shopkeeper explained it would take a while to get in, three or four days!

A week goes by and I went in to “Carl’s Liquor Store and Smokes Shop” to pick up the case of 12 bottles of hooch.

$179 + tax, US dollars. The dollar was sitting about par so it was just under $200 when I was done.

“Wow, that’s pretty damn cheap,” I said to the storekeeper.

“I hear that alot from Canadians,” was the reply.

Being a good boy, I declared the case to the customs officer at Canada Customs, who gave me this nice yellow slip and told me to park my car over there and come inside. That’s went cheap went out the window.

The customs officer asked what I had bought and asked for the receipt. The usual questions were asked:

Q: Why did you buy it in the US?

A: Because the LCBO didn’t carry it anymore and wasn’t interested in ordering it.

Q: How much did you pay?

A: $179 + NY State tax

Q: Did you obtain an import permit for this?

A: Huh?

According to the officer, had I bought 13 bottles instead of 12, I would have had my entire purchase impounded for lack of documentation. Provincial regulations protecting the LCBO state that for more than 12 bottles, you need the LCBO to give you a permit to import ($75).

As this was for a friend, this did not qualify as a “business purchase” so I could do the 12 bottle max. If it had been a “business purchase”, I would have been 6 bottles max and I would have had my hooch impounded.

Before I continue, allow me to state that the officers there were very helpful and friendly, my anger in all of this was just towards the LCBO regulations. Faceless bureaucrats et al.

Continuing on, I was issued the following:

  • $220 LCBO Markup Fee
  • HST charged on the total, $200 for the hooch and $220 LCBO Markup Fee.

HST I understand, we are Canadian therefore we are taxed. No problem. What I had the issue with was the LCBO Markup Fee or profit.

If the LCBO had done the work as in ordered the damn hooch in the first place, delivered it to my local outlet and put it on the shelf, then ya, the LCBO is entitled to make money from it.

I did the work. I phoned phoned around to liquor stores to see where I could order the stuff from. I went to the store to pay for it and to pick it up and to transport it to Canada. The LCBO did NOTHING.

I made $0, except for the lunch my friend took me out for going through the troubles to get his lifetime supply of hooch. The LCBO made $220 for doing nothing.

Now, I buy as much alcohol as I can from outside of Ontario. I don’t drink much so that isn’t a lot to begin with. But when I go on vacation to the US, I will bring back my allowed amounts. And once a year a case of beer may end up being purchased with gas at a dépanneur along Autoroute 20 on my way home from Montreal.

I figure I’ve given the LCBO already a lifetime of their markup fees.