Category Archives: rules

An Effective Decoy

Being that I own a bar and restaurant in Portland, Oregon, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission yields significant influence on many aspects of my business.  All sales of alcohol in this state, retail or wholesale, fall directly under the jurisdiction of the OLCC, which is a state agency.  In short, the state of Oregon is in the liquor business.  It sets prices and policy, enforces compliance, and doles out punishment.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission

Oversees all things liquor in Oregon

Rightly so, the OLCC is concerned with underage drinking.  So concerned, that they have implemented a decoy program.  They hire 19 and 20 year old kids with valid ID’s to enter bars and try to order alcohol.  Agents and police officers hide outside so that if any of these young decoys are actually served, they return service with a violation and fine for both the employee who accepted the ID and the establishment itself.  This is expensive for first time offenders and perhaps decimating for repeat offenders.

If your establishment has a spotless record with regards to serving minors, you are awarded entrance into OLCC’s Responsible Vendor Program.  I am very proud to say that my bar has been a part of this program for the last 4 years.  However, I’m not sure about our status after this last Thursday night.  One of my longest tenured employees,  a lovely and responsible young mother and wife who has been working for me for over 11 years, got pinched by a decoy.

The summer months are extremely busy for us.  Our one bartender serves the entire bar and makes all the drinks for an outdoor patio that can seat 80-100 people.  We were not at capacity on Thursday around 8pm, but we were humming for sure.  K simply said that the ’92 in the D.O.B section of the ID handed to her by the young customer looked like an ’82 and she accepted it.  It was nothing more than an honest mistake at exactly the wrong time.

Within minutes the decoy was gone and replaced by two OLCC agents and two police officers.  K was issued paperwork stating she was being charged with a crime, fined $350, and  was ordered to appear in court in about 4 weeks.  I, as owner, will be fined in the neighborhood of $1,100.  For any small business and for any service industry worker, these are no small amounts.  Factor in the current state of the economy and things feel even worse.

I’m lucky to say that this fine will not put me out of business.  I intend to appear in court with K for support and will help her with the fine in any way I can.  The younger man who was me 13 years ago would be arguing and crying foul all day long.  The current me knows to pick his battles better than that and only focus on avoiding the same mistake again in the future.

Yet I can’t help but ask:  is this decoy program entrapment?  And is it an attempt by a government agency to increase revenue in a down economy?  Like other government programs or agencies, they can point to good intentions as their cover.  But my conservative nature knows better than to blindly accept all the consequences of those intentions when they are executed by a resource-devouring government behemoth.

Stay tuned.  There will probably be more to follow on this later.

This Maintains Unemployment Benefits?

Application form for Unemployment benefits

In this economy, a familiar form

Maintaining unemployment benefits is as easy as dialing a phone number, it would seem.  I wish I could tell you how many times I’ve answered the phone at my business, only to hear the person on the other end methodically ask me if we’re hiring.  Regardless of what I say, an overwhelming majority of those calls ends quickly as they hang up.  Now bear in mind, the caller has no idea if I am a hiring authority.  If they call in May and the answer happens to be yes, I can count on one hand how many have maintained the call long enough for me to give details.  It wasn’t long before such calls really began to annoy me.

The frequency picked up as the recession worsened.  Of course, as employment levels suffer, unemployment benefit claims rise.  It then occurred to me that those calls were not sincere attempts to gain employment at my establishment, but rather they were required activity in order to maintain their state unemployment benefits.  Calling me, asking that question, then hanging up constituted a job search, which is the key requirement to receiving the weekly check from the state.

Like every business, I pay taxes to the state.  Part of that sum is put aside by the state of Oregon into an employment account.  My contribution is specified and when someone becomes involuntarily unemployed and they file for benefits, my account is charged if my business was one of the last three to employ them.  That is to say, should I terminate someone who then goes on to get another job somewhere else and they then get laid off there, when they file for unemployment my account is charged.  Due to extensions granted by the state, this can go on for a very long time as long as that person is “looking for work.”  A five second call to me, or to any business that answers the phone, satisfies this requirement.

Although I firmly believe that safety nets of some kind need to exist, I resent that the state behemoth can be so lax in knowing or understanding how so many can manipulate them into free money at no cost, other than to businesses.  Being that I typically employ a younger person, it makes sense to me that a 23 year old just out of a job would be tempted to receive a weekly pay check from the state in return for nothing more than a brief phone call.  Especially when that can go on indefinitely.  Why work when a check just shows up in the mail every week?

Clearly, such a scenario only burdens the private sector even more and certainly does nothing to help that individual in the long run.  A sense of entitlement with no effort sets in, and that can have long term, damaging results to our state and country.  Although I’m unsure how to fix this specifically, I’d start by perhaps requiring that job search efforts be more substantial and that anyone receiving unemployment benefits needs to be required to work for the state in some capacity.  That seems fair and is a good way to at least decrease the burden on the private sector.

I’m amazed at the clarity I gained from taking so many five second calls

Soccer? In America?

 Yeah, soccer and the Timbers work in Portland, but there’s a reason soccer doesn’t work in the US. 

The Portland Timbers are the newest MLS team.  They are thriving in their first season in my home city.  Their new stadium is filled every game and I see Timbers gear being worn by the folks all over the place.  It’s actually quite cool, to see a community rally behind a sports team.  As an avid sports fan, I love it.  But Portland is a weird city.  Weird is our slogan.  (I’m only half kidding.)  And you wouldn’t find this love affair going on in almost any other part of America.  We as a country just don’t embrace soccer like the rest of the world does.  Here, it’s a niche sport and nothing more.  And I understand why.  As a person who played for nine seasons in my childhood, I feel my insight is valid.

Portland Timbers logo

Our city's second pro team. In an irrelevant sport.

In America, baseball, basketball, and football are king.  Sure, they have the benefit of having almost a monopoly on media exposure.  They do well in having their seasons neatly cover our calendar year.  But most of all, they are sports with scoring, that have rules in place to avoid ties, have a clock or check down of game remaining for everyone to see, and are played by big, strong athletes that use their hands.

Soccer is a waste of good athletes.  America is savvy enough to know this.  The rest of the world simply is not.  90 minutes of ebb and flow producing a 1-0 score, or worse, a tie(?!) is not what our country wants to see.  A clock that counts up and never stops leaves way too much room for corruption on the part of the officials (see several of the Euro leagues circa 2009 and 2010), and manipulation on the part of  the players.  I mean, why not fake an injury when your team is losing?  The ref will just add a few minutes to the game, giving your team a chance to score and maybe at least tie the game.  There is something inherently wrong with a sporting event being played in a stadium of sixty thousand people and only one person in the whole place knows when the game will be over.

Soccer has it’s place here.  It’s a good child’s sport in which our youngest can learn the value of teamwork, commitment, and exercise.  But it is no more than a vehicle to better sports with rules and formats more suited to the national audience.  I for one am proud that my country tends to reject a sport with so many flaws.  Let the kids play it.  Then, when they become the greatest athletes in the world, let them play the American sports.