30 November, 2007

Media needs to stop sensationalising alcohol

Am I alone in thinking the attack on the UK drinks industry has gone too far? It is almost impossible to pick up a national newspaper or turn on the television without yet another story attempting to show the dark underbelly of the country's "drink culture".

It would be foolish for me to ignore the fact that alcohol requires careful handling, but surely people need to find their own limits - limits they are comfortable with? The idea that further restrictions should be placed on its sale, accessibility and consumption is ridiculous and again focuses far too much attention on the actions of the minority. The vast majority of the British public is more than capable of doing what it wants and not upsetting anyone.

I can only assume we are suffering at the hands of modern lazy journalism, uninterested in real stories. Today the media appears to be driven by a need to sell papers or increase viewing or listening figures and if that means sensationalising a minority activity and blowing it out of all proportion to achieve their goal, then so be it.

After all, no one is going to buy papers to read stories about nice people doing nice things and enjoying a beer or two. It may even surprise the media to learn that some people are able to consume more than two beers and still manage to be upstanding pillars of their community.

No one is forced to drink. People have a choice. There is more education in society today about the evils of alcohol abuse than ever before, yet some people are still drinking excessively. Will this not always be the case?

I beg the media to do a proper job and look at the root causes of alcohol abuse. I am convinced the media will find it has less to do with the availability of "cheap" alcohol and more to do with the breakdown of society; the breakdown of the community; fear of the state and bureaucracy; stress due to work or lack of work; the lack of role models; the lack of respect given to marriage and the family and what we once called family values.

Please forgive what I can only describe as my rant, but I'm sure that I, like so many in this industry,

am thoroughly fed up with the constant barrage of negative publicity facing us on an almost daily basis.

This industry is one I am proud of. We bring a little cheer to millions of people who work hard, pay taxes and would never dream of doing anything illegal. We - as an industry - have co-operated with all the restrictions we've had placed upon us and accepted our responsibility with good grace.

Yet how much more responsibility must we shoulder because of the consequences of a few people's actions?

I ask myself how long it will be before the authorities demand alcohol-free public houses, where we can all sit around sober and discuss the state of the nation?

I am off now to check my car for "please drive responsibly" messages, my kettle for "contents may be hot" advice and a national newspaper for a "contents may be exaggerated" warning. Like so many things in life, alcohol taken in moderation is fine and the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Mike Teague

Sales director

Bavaria UK

Traveller's tales

I was chatting to some of you on your stand at the London Wine Fair back in May, and I mentioned

that I was planning a trip around the

southern hemisphere, visiting wineries, learning more about the wine trade from the other end, and

would be sharing my experiences in my online journal, as well as using it to review wines I encounter on the way.

For the

past five years

I have been managing a branch of Oddbins wine merchants, and after building a good understanding of the UK wine retail market, I am keen to develop my knowledge of winemaking and get the chance to meet winemakers and hear about different techniques and ideas.

Since leaving the UK back in August, I have

journeyed through South Africa, where I spent several weeks travelling around the Cape, visiting wineries, chatting to winemakers, sampling their wines, and writing about my experiences on my site.

I arrived in Australia in October and since then I have been travelling through some of the main winegrowing regions, and will be working in a wine merchants in Sydney during December.

Then I will be moving on to New Zealand, where I will be working the harvest, both in the vineyards as well as the winery at Matahiwi in Wairarapa.

Then it will be more travel again, making my way back up to the UK through South America, stopping in Chile and Argentina to look around some of their wine regions.

I thought your readers (of whom I was one for the past few years ) would be interested to hear about an ex-Oddbins manager travelling the world, and was hoping that you might be able to include a sideline in OLN to tell people about my trip and my website where they can read about what I get up to over the rest of my year away.

Alex Bazeley

(Former manager of Wellfield Road branch, Cardiff)

Franchise needs an overhaul

The Thresher Group has now called a halt on the franchising of stores while the new management evaluates the whole operation. The new chief executive Yvonne Rankin brings with her a wealth of experience in turning companies around, which franchisees up and down the country hope will revive their fortunes.

One of the problems with the franchise in its current form is being in competition with Thresher Group-managed stores.

Franchisees have to charge more for their goods than


stores in order to take account of the management service fee.

This factor comes into the equation when deciding whether or not to accept the numerous different offers that appear in the newspapers.

In my view every Threshers store should be the identical when it comes to accepting these vouchers and coupons. Although the coupons state "at participating stores only" it is in my view not very customer-friendly to send customers to a managed store in order to redeem them.

If Thresher was not so greedy in ripping off franchisees with

management charges then this sort of problem would not arise. It is just the same when it comes to all the offers

Thresher runs. One franchisee may decide to take part, whereas another will decide it is not cost effective. Again it is not very customer friendly.

The only people making money out of the franchise operation are Thresher themselves. Even the cost of having a box of wine delivered has just increased by


Franchisees have to take Thresher's word for it that the increase is justified.

The running of it needs a complete overhaul as many franchisees are barely scraping a living. The back-up is still very poor as previous correspondents have already mentioned. In fact, the franchise support line should be renamed the "lack of support line" and the management service fee should be renamed the "mismanagement service fee".

The sad part about it all is that the franchise management team honestly believes that they have done a good job.

If only they would take the blinkers off and listen to franchisee's views, then I for one would not feel compelled to express them elsewhere .

Thresher franchisee

Big kids are our problem

I expect I am not the only one of your readers going into this Christmas season strapped for cash because I've unwittingly failed a police test purchase in my shop.

I'm a responsible retailer - I train my staff, I have No ID No Sale and Challenge 21 signs up around the store and I make sure we're never short-staffed so no one feels nervous about challenging someone who looks under-age.

But the "child" who came into my shop the other day looked at least 21 to me - I would have guessed more like 25. He came in early on a Wednesday evening, had a good look at the chiller and picked up a four-pack of Foster's - and the next thing I know, there's a policeman lecturing me for two hours and that's £80 down the drain.

Do any other OLN readers think we're on a losing streak with over-zealous police and great big kids that are starting to look older than we do?

Name and

address supplied



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