Monday, June 4, 2012

Alice, Let’s Drink

Brave New (Privatized) World (PHOTO: The Herald)
Regular gasoline in my Bellingham neighborhood was $4.49 a gallon last Friday but my purchase of a 750 ML bottle of Jack Daniels from our new privatized retail system was cheaper that the same product from the state liquor store.

The advertised price of $17.99 with “applicable state taxes” in fine print didn’t give much of  hint of what the final cost would be but it did allow some comparison shopping among Rite Aid ($17.99), Haggen ($20.99) and Fred Meyer ($17.49).

I had to grocery shop at Haggen but walked next door to the Rite Aid and my bottle of Jack cost me $24.51, a bit less than the $24.95 charged a week ago at the state liquor store. If I’d shopped at Freddy’s, I would have “saved” a few cents more.

When I’m in Honolulu, Longs Drugs (CVS) and Safeway are next to each other and both use Jack Daniels as loss leaders, selling a 750 ML bottle for $19.99 plus the state’s 4.5% sales tax.

Hawaii retailers include the state-imposed alcohol excise tax in their retail price. In our new privatized Washington system the state taxes are added onto the product cost and retailer markup. (Your next app: hard liquor cost comparisons and tax calculator.)

In either case, if you’re going to drink hard liquor, you’ll pay the state its taxes.

I’m sure a bottle of Jack Daniels in Washington will always be more expensive than in Hawaii, and there will be days here when Jack Daniels will be more expensive than what the state used to sell it for. And there will be days when it’s advertised as a loss leader and may make a difference whether I stop to do my real shopping at Haggen, Fred Meyer or Safeway. Or maybe even Rite Aid.

Hawaii’s a great place to sip Jack Daniels but it’s best not to work, since there’s a state income tax. Washington’s got the highest alcohol tax rate among all the states. Washington’s a better place to work and not pay income taxes, then go to Hawaii to sip Jack Daniels.

Alice, let’s drink.

--Mike Sato

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