Sunday, 3 July 2011

Polish State takes a welcome step back

Pushing the trolley around Auchan this morning, I had a very pleasant surprise. Heading off to buy some decent Cabernet-Shiraz, Carmenere or Pinot Noirs, I discovered that the barriers surrounding the alcohol department and the separate cash tills had disappeared. A large sign above the aisles of wine said that as of 1 July 2011, the Law of 26 October 1982 on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism has been amended (again) so that supermarkets no longer need to operate separate tills for drink.

Hurrah! Three cheers! I remember when the previous amendment was introduced by the AWS government in the late '90s (an interesting administration - proto-PiS and proto-Platforma somehow working together) ushering in this peculiar restriction. The idea that somehow making everyone pay separately for alcohol would reduce alcoholism rates was peculiarly absurd.

The upshot was that for 12 years or so, to buy a bottle or two of wine I'd have to stand in a separate queue, usually just behind a couple who were buying a trolleyful of drink to celebrate their child's first communion. Meanwhile, Pan Heniek, hardened alcoholic, would be saying to Pan Ziutek, "Well, Ziutku, I would have bought a małpka of vodka for immediate consumption outside the shop, but this separate cash-till business has completely put me off the whole idea". Palpable nonsense, eh, readers?

It's hugely convenient to able to place the wine bottles on the same check-out conveyor belt as the rest of my groceries, rather than having to pay at a separate till, bag up the wine and get the goods and receipt re-inspected at the main check-out. This change in the law will save me at least 10 minutes a week (and far more before Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and the eves of those Holy Days of Obligation such as Zesłanie Duch Świętego that result in store closure).

And another step forward for liberty and convenience that took place on 1 July was that beer can now be served on trains. I've written before about this particular absurdity (here and here). On international trains running through Poland, beer, wine, champagne and spirits are freely available - but trains inside Poland have had a ban on all forms of alcohol since the law was tightened up in the late '90s. The last tightening of the law took years to effect. At first, alcohol-free beers were on display but with a nod and a wink the usual-strength sort would appear 'z pod lady' (from under the counter). After a few years however, the restaurant staff on trains would sadly say that there really is no beer on sale on the train.

While by no means would I advocating getting smashed senseless on trains, a gentle state of mild intoxication does help those slow kilometres pass by, engendering creative thoughts and giving rise to a more mellow frame of mind while travelling.

Step by step, though like PKP, far too slowly, the Polish State is becoming more normal, helping to make Poland an easier and pleasanter place to live.

This time last year:
Twin turboprop cargo

This time two years ago:
To Czachówek by train for the Polish countryside

This time three years ago:
Here's looking at you, kid

This time four years ago:
Stormy summer night


Paddy said...

Hurra! This is excellent news - though LIDL as of yesterday have yet to catch up. I assumed this was a legacy of the communist era, paying separately for things.

Anonymous said...

Canada, with the exception of Quebec of course, is still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to alcohol purchase (consumption, not so much).
Practices vary with each province, but, by and large, each province has a government agency (store) which manages and administers the sale of alcohol and beer.

With few exceptions, all beer, wine and spirits must be purchased through a government store:
LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario: The LCBO is one of the largest single purchasers of beverage alcohol in the world and one of the largest retailers, buying wines, spirits and beers from 82 countries around the world for Ontario consumers and licensees)
or the "Beer Store" (original name huh?)

When I was in Uni, I worked part-time as a cashier at the LCBO (they paid well). In those days, no alcohol could be purchased by credit card: strictly cash. The government believed that it would be fostering the sin of drinking by allowing the purchase on credit.
The amount of cash that flowed through our tills at Christmas was unbelievable!!! Cashiers would have to empty their tills every 20 minutes.

I'm still waiting for the day that I can buy a nice bottle of wine at the local grocery store, like the rest fo the civilized world.