This whole liquor privatization racket is turning into a retailer's nightmare. Seems the booze is disappearing from their shelves -- which, of course, is what the Safeway's, QFC's and other big grocery chains are tickled to see. Trouble is, an increasing number of customers aren't paying for it. They're stealing it -- and a whole lot of it. To which we say: Tough luck, retailers. You were warned from the get-go and you did very little about it.
"You can look at his two ways: It's [privatization] not working, or it's going through a transition. And I think people thought it was going to be a lot easier a transition then its turned out to be," assistant Seattle City Attorney Sumeer Singla told the Daily Weekly.
What's happening in Seattle and region-wide, ever since Washington state had its last call five months ago and got of the booze biz, would have been enough to have even kept old Joe Kennedy on the sidelines.
"In the first three months, it was anywhere from $30,000 up to $50,000 [in liquor thefts]," Jana Jorgensen in the Seattle City Attorney's office told KIRO Radio's Chris Sullivan. "Now I'm hearing it can be from $500 to $1,000 a day just walking out of the store." And that's at multiple stores all over Puget Sound.
King County prosecutors, meanwhile, are drowning in cases, too numerous to prosecute, while managers at the big stores rub their hands together and wonder if they might have to move the high-end whiskey and vodka behind their service counter -- as at least one Albertson's had done -- or perhaps lock it up like they do the cigarettes.
Said Singla: "We tried to let the retailers know in the beginning, back when they were first applying for licenses, that security might be an issue."
Singla added that the thieves know well that most of the big stores have policies not to allow their workers to chase down some character running out with a bottle of Bacardi tucked under his arm.
"I just hope they've learned their lesson the last five months," continued Singla. "They need to be able to manage security so we don't have to send officers out into what might be dangerous conditions."
So where is all the liquor going?
"I talked to one of the loss prevention officers who actually went undercover and found a bunch of his own product in this guy's trunk," Jorgensen told KIRO, "and as he's walking away this other guy says, 'Hey did you get what you want because if you didn't I'm going back in that store again. I hit them everyday.'"
But that's a one or two bottle transaction.
Jorgensen speculated that there could be another reason for the spike in theft, and that's bars and restaurants who don't want to pay the high taxes on liquor, and they're stocking their shelves with boosted booze.
"I think that's the reason why they're seeing a lot of that high-end that's going because there's a demand for it from the restaurants, the nightclubs and the bars," she said. "Those are the types of alcohol that they want."
What a mess.