Yesterday's drama is a classic in the annals of boneheadedness:
The MillerCoors brewing company landed in the cross hairs of Minnesota's government shutdown Wednesday when state officials said it would have to stop selling its beer in the state because of expired licenses.So why did this happen?
The Department of Public Safety told the brewer it must stop distribution in Minnesota and devise a plan to pull its product from the shelves, including Coors, Coors Lite, Miller Lite, Miller High Life and 35 other name-brand beers. That would decimate choices for consumers. MillerCoors supplies 38 percent of the beer sold in Minnesota, and the state is one of the top five markets in the country for the brewing giant.
The problem stems from brand label registrations that brewers must renew with the state every three years, showing the label on each brand of beer. MillerCoors attempted to renew in mid-June, but, according to company officials, sent the state a check for more than the required amount. Green said the company followed up with a new check, which the state received June 27.
But on June 30, one day before the government shutdown, the company received a letter from the state that its brand licenses had expired. State employees who would typically renew those licenses have been deemed noncritical during the shutdown and laid off.
There's some astonishing stuff in those two seemingly mundane paragraphs. Let's think about this:
- “MillerCoors attempted to renew in mid-June, but, according to company officials, sent the state a check for more than the required amount.” If someone overpaid you, would you send the check back? Or would you cash it and let the sender know about the overpayment? A normal operation would cash the check and then (a) either send a refund check back, or (b) offer the check writer the option of having a credit on its account. Not the State of Minnesota, though. Accounts receivable really isn't that difficult to master.
- “Green said the company followed up with a new check, which the state received June 27.” June 27 was a Monday. The shutdown actually took effect at the end of that week. I don't know about you, but where I work the expected level of service for handling a routine administrative task would be to handle it within a day, especially if it involved money coming into the organization. Of course, a normal organization with a multi-billion dollar scope would offer the option of electronic payment and wouldn't bother with paper checks, but we can leave that aside.
To sum up, what we have here is a government that (a) cannot get out of its own way and (b) has no compunction about getting in the way of people who are conducting a legitimate business, for utterly arbitrary reasons. I think we call this sort of thing a Teaching Moment.