Such an Abundance of Liquor!

Was shopping this morning at a popular Wisconsin grocery story with a name that outsiders just don’t get: Piggly Wiggly. Haven’t been there for a while. As I went to a few different parts to pick up a few things, it seemed that I ran into beer or liquor at every turn. I wondered how many distinct liquor displays were in the store, so I paid attention and counted. Two aisles were dedicated to liquor and beer: two sides to each aisle for four total separate alcohol sections. But there were prominent end displays for each of those aisles. That’s a lot of space! But it was just the beginning. I noted that there was a big chilled liquor area next to dairy products, and several big central displays scattered along the central lane of the store that cuts across the aisles. Alcohol was being marketed in prominent displays by the produce area, and more by the meats, and more on shelves in several other parts of the store. Liquor was on display across the store from aisle one all the way down to aisle 18; it was at the back of the store, at the front, and in the central lane. As I approached the check out lane, there was a little tub with some more alcoholic beverages.

All told, I counted TWENTY-SIX (26) distinct regions of the store marketing liquor Each side of the liquor aisles counted as one, and the end displays were counted separately. Two non-adjacent floor displays in the produce area were just a couple feet apart, so I counted them as one, but separately counted the cardboard boxes of Schlitz on the shelves not far from those floor displays.

In counting all these booze-pushing sections of the store, by the time I got to 19, I actually came close to swearing. Well, just a fleeting temptation, honestly. Got past that by singing a couple of hymns. Well, beer songs, actually. Was a rough morning.

Our state has a drinking problem. More accurately, our nation has a drinking problem. Who can resist the profit incentive that drives grocers to market booze at every turn, with every expanding sections of the store devoted to pushing this harmful drug? With all the harm that this product causes to so many people, I’m disappointed that so few have the courage to not join in the profiteering. Well, whoever is resisting out there, thank you – and please let me know who you are.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

36 thoughts on “Such an Abundance of Liquor!

  1. It used to be that alcohol was in a special alcohol aisle and minors were not allowed in that section.

    Did your stores used to have the electric-eye alarm that would sound whenever someone walked into an alcohol aisle? Maybe that was just a theft-deterrent.

    What all this is doing is insidious. By placing alcohol next to the “good food” sections, produce, dairy, and meat, children who shop with mom are being programmed to consider that alcohol is “just like other food.”

    It really shocked me when our local chains took alcohol out of the alcohol aisle. The first place they put it, was a wine section smack dab between produce and meat. You couldn’t help seeing it while doing your normal shopping.

  2. I live in California, so I’m used to the liquor displays (I of course ignore the matter as much as I can).
    I actually once had a co-worker I’m nearly certain was not even legal drinking age ask me, with a straight face and apparently sincerely, how I managed to have any fun in life as a non-drinker. I was so shocked that the best response that came up was “I have hobbies”.
    Ever since I joined the Church, I’ve been very deeply grateful for the Word of Wisdom. Alcoholism and other addictions are prevalent on both sides of my family, making me high-risk, but as long as I obey that commandment and stay away from such things, I’m safe from the consequences of getting hooked. (Now to do something about the Mt. Dew… (smile))

  3. Oddly enough, here in Maryland there is no alcohol of any kind in grocery stores, with the exception of some low quality cooking wine. The same goes for convenience stores. The only place to get alcoholic beverages is liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. I was surprised when I moved here to find out that there was a place with alcohol laws that were more restrictive in some respects than Utah’s.

  4. Bentonville, Arkansas also seems pretty “progressive” in terms of not shoving alcohol into your face wherever you go. It’s a “dry county.” Well, I don’t mind.

  5. Y’all should come to Ontario. Prohibition wend a little differently in Canada, and the end of Prohibition wasn’t just “ok, open the floodgates!” There are three places you can purchase alcohol here. The Beer Store, The Wine Store and the L.C.B.O. (Liquor Control Board of Ontario – has beer, wine and spirits). Nowhere else. (Though you can get cooking sherry in the grocery store.) I’m always shocked by the alcohol I see in grocery stores in Maryland.

    While I’m proud of how careful Ontario is with its liquor laws, Ontario isn’t free of the “fun = alcohol” mentality. I’ve been seeing ads for something called “Vex” – ads that depend heavily on puns. Given the name, I’m sure you can guess what the puns tend to be about. I really wish alcohol advertising was more strongly controlled.

  6. Jeff, I love your blog and I am a loyal reader with that said alcohol is not illegal and many people enjoy it responsibly so why wouldn’t a store sell it? I am a vegetarian and have been for 15 years but I in no way bothered by the nasty processed meat products that also plague nearly every aisle or endcap in grocery stores. It doesn’t bother me because I don’t purchase such items now if you wanted to indulge in nasty processed meats then who am I to say anything? I agree with you that alcohol is harmful but perhaps you are being a little too sensitive to it being available for sale.

  7. I lived in Connecticut for seven months, and was shocked and relieved to learn that they did not sell alcohol after certain hours, on the weekend, nor on holidays! That didn’t make my brother-in-law very happy.

    I have to say something to Jason, though: I don’t think we can compare processed meat to alcohol. I say this because you will not hear of an overly-processed meat eater killing anybody in an automobile accident because they were intoxicated, or anyone beating their wives or children because they had over-indulged in eating meat. So, I just don’t think we can take this as lightly as you presented it to be. I will agree with you that the processed meat we eat is not healthy, but it doesn’t alter one’s state of mind and their subsequent behavior. Just my thoughts…

    Peace and Grace!

  8. Most people consume alcohol responsibly, and don’t become drunk driver or spouse abusers or whatever.

    When I first moved from Utah to California, I noticed that a lot of people drink, and nobody seemed to be “drunk.” The (Utah) mormon perception seems to be that alcohol is bad, therefore people who drink it and sell it are bad. That is simply not the case. It’s not corrupting minors to sell wine in a grocery store next to the bread. Most of my son’s non-member school friends are not drinkers.

    Mormons who have moved here from Utah sometimes say things like “Wow, the wine is in the open where anyone can see it.” What did they expect? It’s not porn or something!

    As for meat compared to alcohol…. The Word of Wisdom covers both; one it forbids, and one it forbids eating more than sparingly. I never knew any Utah mormons who complained about the double quarter pounders at McDonalds. 🙂

  9. goldarn – Alcohol causes 2,000,000 deaths each year around the world. Countless people's lives are adversly effected by it. It leads to promiscuity, loss of control and addiction.

    While many people may drink 'responsibly', a person never knows when they take that first drink whether or not they are going to be one of the ones who will become addicted. One of the reasons cited in the WoW (D&C 89) is "evils and designs in the hearts of designing men in the last days."

    There is no doubt in my mind that there are evil designs in placing liquor in many areas of the grocery stores. It may not be 'porn' but it certainly destroys enough lives that it's right up there with it.

  10. Here’s an idea: Stop trying to force people to run their businesses as you see fit.

    It’s one thing to say “I don’t like stores that put alcohol everywhere, and I’d rather shop elsewhere.” It’s entirely another to say “I’m going to support the use of government force to make them stop.” Frankly, the latter position is disgusting.

  11. Anon: The article you cited clearly indicates that the misuse of alcohol causes deaths. “Misuse.” I know that Utah Mormons seem to believe that ALL use of alcohol is misuse, but it’s not actually true.

    The misuse of guns and cars cause many more deaths than alcohol. Should we ban them? Of course not. How many early deaths does sugar and too much fat cause? Should the government restrict them?

    Alcohol isn’t evil, nor is it bad. Misuse of alcohol can cause problems, but that is true with a lot of things, most of which Utah doesn’t want to restrict. If it wasn’t for the Mormon church, alcohol wouldn’t be restricted in Utah any more than in any other state. Use isn’t misuse.

  12. ah yes…i know Piggly wiggly from my days in Nebraska…didnt think the company still existed.

    anyway. does our nation have a drinking problem? Compared to what? Compared to other nations? Compared to our own nation’s history? I really dont know.

    are we a prozac nation, seeking to medicate away our lack of soul, our endless chase of the American Dream? I dont know.

    But what I do suspect is that our nation is emotionally sad. It seems to me that Americans tend to choose consumption of goods to define their purpose in life, their measure of success and their measure of happiness as opposed to offering service and seeking experience.

    there is no personal progression to be had in the consumption of material goods.

    just my 2 cents…

  13. “Stop trying to force people to run their businesses as you see fit.”

    Oops! I keep forgetting that counting things and sharing my views takes away the free agency of others. Sorry about that. You’re the fifteenth person who has told me that, and I think that — oops, there I go again!

  14. The other weekend up here a college student got drunk and stumbled off a cliff (part of a road cut) and died. As is common, they put up a white cross and flowers. Just a tragedy, nobody’s fault right? What if instead, for every alcohol fatality site, we put up the fatal brand’s own promotional posters. The message would be, “Budweiser: we made another $10 here last night.” Give me the chance, and I’ll vote for the prohibition again. I doubt it would pass, but as a matter of principal. And you bet: I’ll use the government to shape society. That’s what its for.

  15. Every major store I shop at has some some sort of alcohol aisle or display, but since I don’t drink, I tend to just ignore those aisles, or rather not think about them in the same way that I never think about the pet food aisle. Personally, I don’t care if a store chooses to sell alcohol, as long as they don’t force me to buy it. I can twist that old seminary maxim to be, “Be in the store, not of it.” 🙂

  16. I would challenge most of the above. The main cause of death among us is heart disease, stroke, and other problems caused by being overweight and not eating right. (not alcohol)
    Should we complain to the grocers to put all processed food on the “unhealthy” food isle?
    The WOW is mostly dietary…little is said regarding alcohol other than “strong drink”. In fact, mild barley drinks (beer) is condoned.
    It’s a bit cynical to feel superior to others if we don’t drink for religous reasons. I wonder what the howl would sound like if they started jerking temple recommends for being overweight.

  17. Thats right—-Condemn the state (especially since the state lets you guys from Utah move in) that feeds you. Alcohol has many good uses. You are giving a blanket condemnation to the good people of the state who drink in moderation. Very typical of LDS people. Not typical of Mormanity.

    here it is called beer. In Utah it is called Xanax, prozac, and arrogance.

  18. I think that maybe you have to live in Wisconsin to truly understand this post. Having lived here the last 4 years, I am still suprised by the amount of alcohol conusmed in this state. And there are a lot of alcohol in the grocery stores here. I am still horrified at the attitude most people here take with drinking and driving…it is no big deal. Very scary.

  19. The marketing of unhealthy manufactured foods is just as much of a public health issue as alcohol. Having reached the age at which dietary concerns are becoming more prominent, I am astounded at how difficult it is for an individual with a limited income to “eat healthy.” I can load up on fat and sodium-intensive calories at any fast-food restaurant for much less than it would cost me to prepare a healthy meal at home. In a society in which so many people are pressed for time and money, especially people that have to work more than one job to make ends meet, “eating healthy” is a very difficult proposition.

  20. Most of us agree that it’s not alcohol per se but the MISUSE of alcohol that causes all the problems. Ethanol has lots of legitimate uses – misuse involves drinking it.

  21. E.D. Malone: That’s just false. You can eat very cheap and still eat healthy.

    You’re going to spend $10 to $15/day at fast food places. You can eat healthily at home for less.

    Even if you eat cheap hamburger (or better yet, 85% lean ground chuck) at home, you can drain off the fat and make it low-fat.

    Frozen vegetables are $1/pound at Kroger, regular price. Canned vegetables are 50 cents/can (1 pound can, or about 2/3rd pound after draining) on sale.

    Lean boneless/skinless chicken breasts can be bought on sale for $2/pound, and individually frozen. They can be ground at home ($60 to $120 electric meat grinder) and frozen for ground chicken.

    If you’re willing to do a little work, you can get chicken breasts (with bone and skin) for $.99 to $1.19/pound when on sale, filet them yourself, and end up with boneless/skinless chicken filets for under $1.50/pound.

    If you bought the heavy duty grinder, then after making your ground chicken breasts, you run the raw chicken bones/gristle/skin through to make dog-food or cat-food ( and feed it to them raw.

    Even round steaks can be bought at $2.00 to $2.20/pound on sale, trimmed of fat, ground, and frozen in individual portions. That can make 90% to 95% lean hamburger that you’d normally pay $3.50 to $4.00/pound for.

    If you’re buying ready-made frozen meals, and other prepared foods, then yeah, I can see how you spend more than at McDonalds.

    But if you know some basic nutrition, and don’t let the TV commercials brain-wash you, you can eat BOTH healthy AND cheap.

    For more ideas, check out:

    http://www.hillbillyhousewife.comI can eat healthy at home on less than $10/day for all meals, including snacks, without even trying. Even just trying a little bit, I can get it down to $7/day. And with a little discipline, I could get it down to $5 or $6/day.

  22. Here are a couple of interesting statistics about drug and alcohol use in Utah from the Utah Division of substance abuse and mental health.

    “In a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Utah leads the nation
    in non-medical painkiller abuse. The information collected in the study infers that most
    prescription drug abusers are under the age of 25. Of those abusing prescription painkillers,
    7.88 percent are 12 to 17 years old, 13.49 percent are 18 to 25 years old, and just 4.32
    percent are over age 25. The Utah Department of Health reported that 308 Utahns died
    from prescription drug overdose last year. That number is twice as high as deaths caused
    from illegal drugs.”


    “Utah is fortunate to experience low alcohol use and low rates of alcohol related consequences
    compared to the nation.”

    Seems like you folks have more of a drug problem than a drinking problem!!

  23. Of those abusing prescription painkillers, 7.88 percent are 12 to 17 years old, 13.49 percent are 18 to 25 years old, and just 4.32 percent are over age 25.Huh? That only adds up to 25.69%, and implies that 74.31% are UNDER 12.

    I noticed that you also didn’t attribute or give a link to your quote.

    But that issue of Utah and medications has been addressed and responded to elsewhere. I don’t think it fits in this thread.

  24. I do think alcohol is a problem in the midwest–but then I grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, where there is a church on every other corner. And on the “other corner” there is a bar.

    If alcohol was less available, would there be fewer problems created by its abuse? I think so.

  25. It’s amazing to me that alcohol is still considered safe by the people of this country. Statistics aside, alcohol causes grown adults and young kids to make decisions and take actions that ruin or end their entire lives. How much longer will we tolerate this injustice? Are we all so selfish and corrupt that we will jeopardize our future?

  26. As others have said, I think we can agree that alcohol is not inherently evil (good grief, it’s not even sentient, last I checked).

    However, I hope we can all admit that evil and conspiring men exploit addiction for monetary gain, and work to ensure they are not held responsible for the damage they (indirectly) cause.

    That’s the real issue, regardless of the vector — be it alcohol, cocaine, porn, sugar, caffeine, Prozac, fast food, gambling, or whatever. Fostering addiction is a really effective way to ensure customer “loyalty” and shrewd individuals and companies exploit it mercilessly.

    Some addictions just pose more obvious and immediate dangers.

    Oh, and to those who say, “but most people don’t have (or cause) any problem,” very few rules/laws exist because of the well-behaved majority…

  27. To: Bookslinger

    I realize that these links are the same. The documents are .pdf files located in this website. Give me an email address and I would be glad to send them to you. I know how eager you are to have this information.

  28. “In counting all these booze-pushing sections of the store, by the time I got to 19, I actually came close to swearing. Well, just a fleeting temptation, honestly. Got past that by singing a couple of hymns. Well, beer songs, actually. Was a rough morning.”

    It’s comments like this that keep me, a non-Mormon, returning to this blog. Am I the only one out there who thinks this is absolutely hysterical?!

  29. Hi All,

    Maybe we should just go back to prohibition, cuz that was such a great idea. Rum running, bootlegging, speak easies, and rampant organized crime. We have such a strong retro movement in this country, lets just go back to those good ole roaring 20’s…what a great idea. Alcohol is not inherently evil. In some countries, its the only thing that’s safe to drink because the water might kill you. That said, I do agree that we have a serious problem with alcohol, but the problem is in our perception of how important it is. But, we should also consider that we are giving our children double messages about drugs and alcohol. We set up DARE programs to combat illegal drugs. We have MADD and SADD to combat drunk driving. But, whenever there’s a problem, be it medical or emotional, the first thing we do is take a pill.

    Anyone see the inconsistent message we’re sending? Oh, you can’t control your behaviour at school…you must be ADHD…here take this pill and you’ll feel better. Oh, your legs keep moving at night, must be restless leg syndrome, try Lyrica, you’ll feel better. We’ve gotten so bad, that we let drug companies push their pills on national television, with very minimal restrictions on when and how they can advertise. Booze is a problem, but its a minor one by comparison to the mindset we’re creating in our children with regard to problem solving through chemistry. We’re raising an entire generation of children who will be prone to addictions because we’ve carefully taught them that the way to fix their problems is to take a legally prescribed pill. That’s a lot more scary than having beer sold in the grocery store aisles.


    Catholic Defender

  30. Update: I was at Copps in Neenah, Wisconsin where I counted only 9 alcohol displays outside of the large liquor room that was set apart from the rest of store. Perhaps an improvement over Piggly Wiggly.

  31. I live in Northern Nevada. Sigh. I love my state. I do not love the amount of money and space that goes into advertising for strip clubs. We have one indoor play place for young children that is free. It is located, I kid you not, right next to an adult store with very racy displays. Alcohol displays are annoying, Mustang Ranch taxi cabs are sickening.

    And whoever says that alcohol isn’t evil should try teaching in title one elementary schools.

  32. We have that in the UK too, soooo many alcohol displays, along with snacks for the impulse buy – Feeding two major addictions.

  33. Moved from Calif to Utah 15 years ago… Love the family-friendly environment, but the self-righteous views and theocratic policy (incl. alcoholic beverage distribution) causes grief to Catholic folks.

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