Saturday, August 29, 2009
MONOPOLY ON TAP
According to Wikipedia, “In economics, a monopoly (from Greek monos / μονος alone or single + polein / πωλειν, to sell) exists when a specific individual or an enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide and a lack of viable substitute goods. The verb "monopolize" refers to the process by which a firm gains persistently greater market share than what is expected under perfect competition.”
Recently, it was announced that Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors were hiking prices in the fall, though it was unknown how much prices would go up. The AP reports that Pete Marino, spokesman for MillerCoors, said the increases would be determined regionally, depending on market trends. The logic behind this, according to Marino, was that pricing was competitive enough that the company could stand a moderate price increase. Call me another crackpot conspiracy guy, but methinks me smells a Monopoly.
Obviously, none of these guys at A-B and MillerCoors are struggling to make ends meet. Most folks have little or nothing when it comes to disposable income, yet the six-packs and 12-packs that most working folk buy on the way home from work on Friday perhaps could sacrifice a gallon of gas or shave $10 off their credit card payment?
I am always baffled by the logic these corporate individuals in the beer, wine and spirits industries use to justify any kind of price increase, let alone one during economic down time. Maybe John Nash can come and explain it to me, or some other whiz Economist, but pricing should remain static for now.
The real problem I have with price increases of any magnitude is that, working in a “bridge” store environment like Northern Kentucky - along with the triple dip taxing that our state government has inflicted on consumers - people who come across the bridge into our store or one of our competitor’s, they will find that beer pricing is actually higher than it is at their neighborhood convenient stores. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about it. The beer guys have the canned “blank stare” when our beer buyers press them on the reasons for any price increases. It is as if the beer guys simply turn on some subliminal radio station playing “Tubthumping” or “Mambo #5”, this voiding out any logical inquiry into the obvious Monopoly gamesmanship going on.
It is interesting to note that, according to the AP article, sales of both A-B and MillerCoors are down during this recession.
I still say, even though the price for it has gone up as well, people should abandon A-B and MillerCoors altogether and support Sam Adams, the only real large-production American brewery anyway, or get into Micros and good import beers. The crap A-B and MillerCoors sells isn’t technically beer anymore anyway, not with all the additives used to allow for those “Born-On” dates. Or maybe we can stage something akin to a Boston Tea Party, chucking Budweiser in the river or driving Miller Beer trucks off ocean piers. Would that make a difference? Probably not. But maybe, it would be another excuse for a party.