toronto lcbo

7 things LCBO employees in Toronto wish you knew

Having spent nearly a decade working for the LCBO in Toronto, I still to this day find myself sympathizing with many of the employees any time I shop there.

While it's a relatively well-paying job backed by a strong union, there are plenty of difficulties surrounding the role of safely providing people with alcohol.

The past couple of years has helped us realize just how valuable front-line retail employees are, so here are a few things you can keep in mind to help make their lives easier.

1. We're sorry for all the questions

Did you find everything you were looking for? Do you have Air Miles? Can I get your postal code? Would you like to make a donation?

LCBO employees ask a lot of questions and dislike it as much as you do. Much like any retail job, upper management is responsible for various programs being stacked onto one another and the onslaught of questions that come with it.

At the LCBO, everything from number of donations to amount of postal codes collected is tracked and employees could face discipline if they don't meet a certain quota. Having customers who lash out from annoyance only makes the whole ordeal worse for everyone involved.

2. All prices are the same throughout the province

Nearly every day at the LCBO, some customer complains that the price of whatever they're buying is cheaper at another location, which is simply impossible as individual stores have no control over price points.

All prices are set directly by the board and when a change is made it applies to not only all LCBO stores, but also any beer store, wine shop, or other retail outlets where alcohol may be sold within Ontario.

A six pack of beer costs the same in the suburbs as it does downtown, at the LCBO, and at the beer store.

The only exception to this is when a store is delisting a product, they may have it set at a clearance rate.

3. If we look tired, it's because we are

It's not uncommon for an LCBO employee to begin their day at 7 a.m., spend three hours moving 40lb cases of wine, and then open the store only to immediately be berated by a customer who was too intoxicated to serve.

The job can make you physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted all within a couple of hours and sometimes it show on an employee's face.

Combine this with the fact that management is incentivized to cut hours and under-staff the employees as they receive bonuses for staying under budget, so chances are the employees are dealing with a lack of bodies as well.

Like any customer-facing job, most people will put on a smile anyway and power through it, but if we let the look of exhaustion slip, please understand why.

4. The more information you can give us the better we can help you

If you went out to dinner and had an excellent bottle of wine, the best thing you could do for your local LCBO employee is take a photo of the bottle with the name clearly visible.

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they had a bottle of red wine with a yellow label they absolutely loved and can't remember the name of, I'd be able to buy out the Vintage section.

If you forgot to snag a photo, then simply knowing the country or even type of grape goes a long way into helping us solve your riddle.

Similarly, when buying a gift, know what the person you're buying for likes. Saying "I want to get a gift for my boss, but I don't know what she drinks" is going to end with a recommendation of a bottle of scotch and a reminder that they can exchange it for store credit even without a receipt.

If they like wine, find out what varietal they prefer, if they're a beer drinker check if that means Budweiser, stouts, or sour craft beers. There's a lot of satisfaction in helping someone find the perfect product, but to do so, your help will be needed.

5. If you see someone stealing, tell head office

People steal from the LCBO all the time, and like most retail jobs employees are taught to stay safe and not get in the way. If a store is getting hit often enough, head office will send security to that location to help protect the product, customers, and employees.

However, the cost of security can cause some penny-pinching from management and as a result, many stores are left unprotected far more often than they'd like to be.

If you've noticed thefts at your local LCBO, know that the employees can't do anything about it, and the best way you can help enact change is by directly calling or emailing head office and letting them know what you saw and requesting they do something about it.

Management is far more likely to listen to customers over employees, so know you actively have the power to make things easier and safer for your local store.

6. Please always have valid ID on you

Even if nearly every employee in the store knows you're of legal age, please play it safe and always have valid ID on you just in case. Much like Air Miles or postal codes, upper management keeps track of how often every employee ID's someone and makes them log it.

As a result, there's a push to ID people — even if you had just ID'd them the day before and remember their face — as a way to drive up the numbers of how often employees check for ID.

If someone doesn't have their ID on them, or if the ID is expired or in any other way invalid, then they unfortunately can't be served, even if another employee knows for a fact the customer is over 19.

Any employee who gets caught serving someone without ID can be immediately terminated and even face legal consequences, so it's best to play it extra cautious.

7. We know a lot, but love to learn more from you

Every employee can earn pay increases by studying thick textbook-like information packages and scoring over 80 per cent on a product knowledge test that quizzes you on everything from food pairings to how climate affects the winemaking process.

In fact, you can even tell what level of product knowledge an employee has reached by seeing the colour of their name tag, with white being a brand new employee and then bronze, silver, and gold name tags awarded for each level.

Needless to say, most employees know a lot about booze, but are always hungry to learn more. If you just discovered a new craft beer that the LCBO doesn't even carry, the store's beer ambassador likely wants to know all about it, and may even call the brewery to see if they could get it in stock.

The resident vintage product consultant is often interested in knowing your review of the bottle you tried at your cousin's wedding a few weeks before.

Having a few minutes to chat with customers and trade recommendations is a welcome distraction from restocking the shelves, and something many employees look forward to.

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