Friday, November 6, 2015

The Cost of a Typo....Or, How Important it is to cross your i's and dot your t's......

Full disclosure and transparency is important.

I stopped in at my local garage the other day to get my truck worked on. (Urey's Garage in Brogue on Rt. 74--they do a great job!) He mentioned he saw me in the paper. Having been in the paper a lot recently, I asked him what he saw. He said it was for a liquor violation.

Not what I hoped he would say.....but he was right.

Gulp.

Here's the article from the York Daily Record: http://www.ydr.com/crime/ci_28925786/5-york-county-establishments-cited-by-state-police

Here's our side of the story.  The headline makes it sound pretty bad, but it's actually pretty simple. It was an honest mistake.  In fact, it's a typo.

For any off-site event we go to, we have to apply for a permit. They cost us $30 each day (payable to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board), and are usually rubber-stamped by the licensing division in Harrisburg. We will do a total of about 35 days of off-premise licenses in 2015 (some of which are multi-day events.) Since we started doing this in 2002, we've probably filled out over 300 individual permit applications.

These days, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board supplies an online form that you can fill out, which works great if one remembers to over-write every field on the form from the last time it was used. That's what happened for an event in mid-August. We had the license properly displayed and the fee paid for that festival, but unfortunately the form's date was from a different festival. It was a typo, an oversight and it meant that we were in violation of a state liquor law.  A member of the State Police Liquor Enforcement dutifully noticed this violation and reported it.

The date on the license was a month removed from when it should have been, and the officer said that if it had been a little less, maybe he would have just given a warning. PLCB--rightfully so--takes violations like this very seriously and are recommending a $250 fine. We will pay that.

For a typo.

There are, of course, wineries who try to sell wine without licenses. (I have heard of numerous wineries that have knowingly or unknowingly done it.) We, on the other hand, naively displayed our invalid license not knowing it included the wrong date. An honest mistake. Just a bit costly.

Even crazier is the fact that the reporter, Mark Walters (mwalters@ydr.com @walt_walters on Twitter) at the York Daily Record, decided sending a message to our winery's Facebook page at 6:30 PM was enough to justify that he could write that we "could not be reached for comment" a few hours later when he posted the story.

Now, I don't have any journalistic background, nor do I claim to know what journalistic integrity it.  But with a story about something as serious as a violation of a state liquor law, I'm thinking he should have tried a little harder.

(FYI: I posted a comment on his story and emailed him.  Turns out he "could not be reached for comment" either.) (11/7/15: see postscript below)

Anyway, I thought you all should hear our side of it before the rumor mill gets going too far.  And, just to be clear, this isn't about the PLCB or state liquor laws.  They are fair laws, fairly enforced and adjudicated......and we simply screwed up one little part of one form.  This is more about letting you all know that the news story may have made it look like we were doing something illegal--which we were--but there's more to the story than what you may have heard.

So, in the end, feel free to share with me in the comments section any of your stories where a simple typo cost you some serious bucks and mud on your face....just think how you'd feel if you were caught speeding and had it published for the whole world to see.

Cheers!

Postscript: On 11/7/15 Mark Walters called me.  We were both able to tell our side of the story to each other.  I sympathized with his need to make a deadline with his story, while at the same time I tried to stress with him the PR damage this causes a small business.  I'm hoping that in the future this doesn't happen again....mostly because we're going to watch our typos, but also because he has my cell phone number now.  I commend Mark for reaching out today.

26 comments:

  1. Making a mistake, owning up to it, and facing the consequences? How refreshing in today's world when blaming someone else for everything seems to be the norm. Your integrity shows.

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    1. Thanks! I'm not smart enough to cover things up with lies....too many ways to get caught up in them. Honesty is a whole lot easier in the ling run....guess I'm just lazy that way!

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  2. We ALL make mistakes. This will not change my love for your wine or winery. I will continue to be a loyal customer and give your wine out as gifts to help promote you all!. Keep up the honesty and values that you have so I can enjoy your wine for years to come!

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    1. Thanks! Most of my winemaking mistakes are private (send them down the drain.) You'll never see those, rest assured. Thaks for your support!

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  3. With few exceptions, I find YDR to be sensationalist and superficial in the majority of the 'news' that it publishes, especially when using Facebook as the vehicle to promote stories like this. When I read the article, my immediate thought was that there had to be some reasonable explanation. Thank you for your honesty, responsibility, and excellent wines!

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    1. Thanks for hearing me out on this. I know YDR has a job to do, but when it starts to affect reputations and isn't full of integrity is when I start to have a problem with it as well. Thanks for supporting us!

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    2. Sadly that is how most news agencies get their audience. Sensationalism sells these days.

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  4. Well done Carl! I will drink with an outlaw anytime....LOL But seriously, as a business owner myself I know how easy it is to overlook something as simple as that. No worries...Just keep making your exceptional wine.

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    1. I got into this business to be a winemaker...never knew I was going to have to be good at all this other stuff as well! I'm sure you know all about that. Thanks for your support!

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  5. Well put Carl. The press is not out to spread the "honest" truth, just their version. I don't care what they print, they will never stop me from drinking your wines. You one of the best in this state, well actually on the whole East Coast, and I travel to a lot of wineries not only in the state of PA but surrounding states as far south as NC and as far north as Maine

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    1. Thanks, Robert. I always need to remember that the press is also a business, and just like wineries don't make wine, they make profit, so does the media. They need to chase the almighty dollar like everyone else, but we just hold them to a higher standard as they do it (just like I do for myself.)

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  6. Since you asked for stories...

    Mine wasn't a typo, exactly—more like a journalistic nightmare—but certainly resulted in mud on my face in a big way!

    Many years ago I was volunteer newsletter editor for a local non-profit in a small town. I was new to the community.

    An obituary in our local paper showed the unusual name and middle initial (I THOUGHT it was an unusual name) of someone who had been a member of our organization.

    SOooo...without finding out whether there could possibly have been two people with this unusual name living in our small town, I published an "In Memoriam" notice in our newsletter.

    Imagine my shock and utter embarrassment when this very person called me the day the newsletters were delivered! Very luckily for me, she had a great sense of humor—and she is still going strong, many years later! I learned to "fact check" after that, for sure!!

    I sympathize with your unfortunate typo situation. I often re-use forms on the computer and it is so easy to overlook one little piece of the puzzle.

    We are living in Japan for two years, and your wonderful Allegro wine is among the few things we miss here!

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    1. Thanks! That's a great story, something I could easily do myself these days. Reminds me of that famous Mark Twain quote (or was it Groucho Marx) who said, the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!

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    2. It was Mark Twain...and that quote figured very prominently in the following issue when I had to retract said report! :-)

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  7. We stand behind you Carl! It's easy to see that the article wast just plain nonsense. Anything for story, huh!

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    1. Thanks! And not simply nonsense, just very one-sided.

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  8. No worry Carl, it happens. We'll be there to support you this coming Sunday afternoon!

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  9. Honesty is the best policy Carl. I love your winery and reading this blog........just made me love the business even more. (Note: i must visit soon as i am out of wine)

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    1. Thanks! I've always said I'm not smart enough to be good at dishonesty.

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  10. /They can abuse the truth but character always wins out. I don't understand people who get their education to become a journalist and then sell out somehow?

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Check out my reply above. We do hold journalists to some higher ideal, but they are just human and they are just trying to make a buck (they've got to eat, too.) But there should be a way to do all three somehow.

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  11. Mistakes happen and it's refreshing to know there is honesty. I live in Maryland and it's sad to say I don't read the paper, so there is no way i would i of known about this. However, the mistake in this doesn't discount the taste of my favorite Allegro Winery!! Happy Harvest!

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    1. Thanks, Cherece! This is why I like Mondays so much....it's the first day of the week and I haven't screwed anything up yet....now, today is Tuesday and my perfect record is already gone.....

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  12. I respect your organization and your outstanding product line, and I also respect the great job that the PLCB does in administering to its enormous list of responsibilities; but, aside from NPR and PBS, I have zero respect for the media.

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  13. A lot of times, we could learn a lot from walking in others' shoes. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt until I've done that. BTW, I'd add the BBC to your list.....thanks for your support!

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