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Today I have come to realise that in some cases, Sweden is really ahead of the world. While in other cases, Sweden is very much behind.

An example where they are ahead is that today, I arranged for currency exchange (from Swedish Crowns to USD) over the internet, and the transfer of funds was completed entirely using the internet. They will even call me when my currency is ready to be picked up. That's fucking cool. And while internet banking is relatively new in the US, it's been around in Sweden for a long time. And virtually (like 99%) of all companies have the ability to be paid electronically directly from your bank account. Again, pretty damn amazing.

An example of where they are behind is the way they dispense alcohol to the masses. They have this concept called Systembolaget, which basically is the the state-owned and run distribution system for alcohol and spirits of all types. In most of the systembolagets, you stand in queue like you're waiting for free government cheese (is waiting in line for government cheese just a US thing?). Very communist. And the system is set up that way because everyone in Sweden is convinced that it is good for them. Yet I have a personal bar in my apartment that is as well equipped as the regular watering hole you'd find in your local neighborhood. 34 distinct types of alcohol, 25 bottles of wine, and 3 different champagnes, and sparkling wine.

Well, make that 24. Right now I am enjoying the entire bottle of 1995 french chardonnary that i got in 1999 while on a trip through the wine country during a weekend excursion during my time in audit.

Bye for now. Caroline and I are going for drinks and nibbly things at Eken, and then someplace trendy for dinner. I have to take some time so that I look and smell better than I do now. Have to impress the cuties!

Love, Rodney


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 14th, 2003 10:39 am (UTC)
In Ontario, most alcohol is sold in state-run stores -- LCBOs for wine and spirts, The Beer Store for, you guessed it, beer. These stores and ubiquitous and extremely well-run and easy to use. Because the LCBO gets to buy gigabundles of everything it orders, it gets great rates and is able to stock a wide variety from all around the world. In America, where everything is handled by individual stores, they all seem to carry the same things and at the same inflated prices.

The Convertive government who was just voted out of power kept saying they wanted to privatize this system but they couldn't find a way to convince the electorate that this was a good idea.

Too bad about your line-ups. Sounds like a management problem.
Nov. 15th, 2003 07:45 am (UTC)
It does sound like a management problem in Sweden.

To give them credit, there is a wide selection, and the people at the store are very helpful.

What bothers me are things like all of the alcohol being behind glass and having to order by number. It bothers me that they only open to 15.00 on a Saturday and 19.00 during the week.

It bothers me that the tax is 25% to discourage drinking, which is higher than any market price in the United States.

Our hope lies in the fact that alcohol is cheaper elsewhere in the EU and that most people just choose to carry massive amounts of alcohol from Denmark or somewhere else, which means that Sweden loses money because of it's anti-competitive pricing. However, when you are the only deal in town, then pricing doesn't become an issue.

I think that there are upsides and downsides to state monopolization. And as long as oligolopies aren't formed (e.g. the airlines), competition is healthy and market forces also aren't an inherently bad thing.
Nov. 14th, 2003 12:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah, well you'll have noticed that Systembolaget is being shaken to its foundations by a corruption scandal this week.

/malte, who doesn't buy enough alcohol to care
Nov. 15th, 2003 07:45 am (UTC)
I haven't noticed the scandal at all. What's been shaking at the systembolaget?
Nov. 15th, 2003 11:19 am (UTC)
Bribery and corruption, o inaccessible one. Well, free samples, at any rate. And Systembolaget's boss is the prime minister's girlfriend. There's a report in English here [just-drinks.com], or Swedish you could practice your Swedish here [aftonbladet.se].
Nov. 15th, 2003 07:13 pm (UTC)
You are a wealth of information. I read both (well, the Swedish one much more slowly), and I am not surprised at all! :-/

Even the Swedes are human, despite Star Trek movie refrences to them being Borg-like.
Nov. 15th, 2003 12:58 am (UTC)
or you can go to germany, where everything is cheap, including alcohol.
Nov. 15th, 2003 07:46 am (UTC)
I think I will be visiting Germany in December. Just because I haven't been in a year and it would be good to get a proper beer. Like a heffeweisen or something like that :-)
Nov. 15th, 2003 01:04 pm (UTC)
oo where in germany?
Nov. 15th, 2003 07:12 pm (UTC)
Wherever you live ;-)

Seriously, Robin likes Germany a lot and he says I have to see it. And it would be cool to tool around Germany with another American.
Nov. 16th, 2003 10:55 am (UTC)
I live in Leipzig. Come around whenever you want and visit, you're definitely welcome. (Just let me know ahead of time so I can cram my homework during the week and leave the weekend open)

Allow me to whet your appetite.
Nov. 16th, 2003 01:28 pm (UTC)
Cool...well, I will really look into flights....how about the last weekend in December (Friday 26 - Sunday 28)? The the second weekend in January (Friday 9 - Sunday 11)?

I could fly into Berlin and take a short drive. At the speeds I go, it would definately be short ;-)
Nov. 17th, 2003 08:54 am (UTC)
december - bad. in italy with mom for christmas/new years

january - good. back in leipzig.

driving from berlin should take nothing, especially since they let you drive as fast as you want here!
Nov. 18th, 2003 02:37 am (UTC)
Cool...then let's plan for Leipzig in January. I am going back to the US this Thursday. Do you need anything whilst I am there?
Nov. 18th, 2003 10:01 am (UTC)
oh god, what don't I need!? Lemme think about this one for a while.
Nov. 21st, 2003 02:18 am (UTC)
Hee hee...well you have T-minus 9 days and counting, and would be greatful if you could let me know by Monday, so that I can make arrangements. :-)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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