Liquor Store Math

The Next Level column in this week’s Transistor answers an important question for Duluthians:

Is it worth driving to Superior to save money on off-sale alcohol?

22 Comments

Barrett Chase

about 15 years ago

I have to say that I think your equation is insufficient.

For one thing, it pays $6.15/hour for the trip to the liquor store in Superior, but not to the one in Duluth. It should pay for the difference between trip times, unless of course that it assumes a 0-minute trip on the Duluth side, for example if you live upstairs or next door to a liquor store.

Second, it fails to take into account wear-and-tear on your vehicle. The IRS's mileage reimbursement rate (for wear-and-tear plus gas) is currently 55 cents/mile. This boosts compensation for your 8-mile trip from $.90 to $4.40 -- a substantial increase.

I posit that the Superior trip for financial reasons is invariably a falsely perceived savings. It's only after 10pm and on Sundays that the opportunity cost outweighs the extra financial loss.

jmcc

about 15 years ago

Superior's always worth the trip for just about any purpose.  And MN's sales tax is going up to 6.875% in July.

Chester Dark

about 15 years ago

What is the value of immediate thirst?

The Big E

about 15 years ago

Sundays are the big exception.  Thank goodness for German culture.

Chester Dark

about 15 years ago

oh my god! nice photo, Big E! That would never happen with a nordic family!

Barrett Chase

about 15 years ago

Also, there's the legality factor. You are only legally allowed to bring one case of beer or one liter of liquor per person from Wisconsin into Minnesota, unless you pay the associated MN taxes. So, unless you're going for top shelf stuff, and overpriced at that, $45 worth of beer is most likely an illegal import. 

Not that anyone's going to arrest you for it, but still.

lojasmo

about 15 years ago

It is unlikely that they sell Surly Furious in Superior, so it would certainly be an exercise in futility for me.

Rob

about 15 years ago

Barrett's first post is 102% correct.  His second post is incalculably wrong.

Barrett Chase

about 15 years ago

Wrong? How so? If that isn't the law, please tell me what is.

Rob

about 15 years ago

BC - my swing and a miss re: humor.

Paul Lundgren

about 15 years ago

My calculation of a four-mile trip in the story problem is the four miles from Liberty Liquor to Keyport. The miles driven to get to the closest Duluth liquor store are the miles you have to drive/walk/bike no matter what. The Superior miles are the extra miles.

Neglecting mileage reimbursement was an oversite on my part, though. I guess that can happen when you drink on Memorial Day weekend and then quickly write a column that involves math.

The Big E

about 15 years ago

Mileage reimbursement is pretty artificial though.  A more accurate model would probably have to involve a sliding scale based on the age/value/current mileage/whatever of the car in question.  I'd hate it if my employer did that, but if we're talking about going over the bridge for beer, I'm more willing to be scientific about it...  and I think the extra 20 miles might fall into the Water Over Dam category for my elite automobile.

Barrett Chase

about 15 years ago

Rob: Ah, I see now. I thought you were going to say that $45 for a case of beer wasn't overpriced. To which I would say: Well, then what do you care about saving two bucks?

My comments were not meant to disparage the hard work Paul has done, either. I just think it's funny to complicate matters. This matter still isn't complicated enough for my tastes. There needs to actually be an equation, with variables for distance, gas price, gas mileage, and so forth.

Chester Dark

about 15 years ago

I agree with Barrett - a formula would be helpful. I like to find wines and beers at sale prices and often drive to Surdyk's just for their wine or beer sales. 

Good selection is another factor. Many Wisconsin places "feature" cheap stuff - which is ok but not worth it to me to travel out of the way. For instance, I've been looking for Surly Darkness, Smoke and Bitter Brew locally but to no avail.

oldknifey

about 15 years ago

How do $2 Summit Pints at the Hammond Bar factor into this equation? If you stop to get a bottle of booze and some beer at the Hammond, you might as well stop in the bar and have yourself a couple of tall cold ones before heading back home. Considering that Summit taps in Duluth run from $4 to $4.50, you're saving $4-5 if you have two beers. I think that puts the advantage definitely in Superior.

adam

about 15 years ago

We need a Drake equation for this shit.

Jim Myers

about 15 years ago

I would consider buying the 12 pack at Mountain Spirits in Proctor.  There is no extra city tax on liquor, and it is closer than a round trip to Superior by two miles (assuming the starting point is Liberty Liquor.)  Using your formulas, I came up with a Proctor price of $12.29 versus a Superior price of $12.47 per 12 pack.

Chester Dark

about 15 years ago

You know, it might save us all more time and money if someone would have a website posting the current cheapest prices for various alcoholic beverages and then coordinate carpooling to the destination of choice.

I'd offer but I'm too busy drinking.

Jester

about 15 years ago

I've found that if you're looking for certain wines-Coppola or Sebastiani come to mind-Superior is well worth it. Example: Coppola claret at Cash Wise goes for $22.99, whereas a few places in Soup town sell it for $16.99. I agree that beer is not worth the trip unless spending $50.00+.

Paul Lundgren

about 15 years ago

I've now published an official equation for this problem, taking some comments to this post into account.

http://nextlevel.perfectduluthday.com/2009/08/liquor-store-math-revisited.html

Barrett Chase

about 15 years ago

Using new your equation, if I bought $9.99 in alcohol at the Shanty on East 4th Street, the actual cost would be $11.54. Purchasing the same $9.99 item just across the bridge at the Hammond would amount to an actual price of $15.99. That's $6 MORE to purchase my beer in Soup Town. Now, the retail price of the exact same item might be cheaper at the Hammond, but it sure isn't going to be $3.99 or less. 

I calculated that I'd have to spend $89.75 (in a single trip, mind you) before I would even break even buying liquor in Superior instead of Duluth. 

(My distances and times were estimated using Google Maps' Driving Directions feature. I paid myself minimum wage to make the purchase.)

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

I should probably acknowledge the illegality of buying a hearty stock of booze in Wisconsin and transporting it to Minnesota without paying MN sales tax. Barrett mentioned it above, but I ignored it in both columns due to my word limit and the fact that no one would actually go through the process of paying that tax.

However, if you would like to become the only honest lush in Minnesota history, you may fill out Minnesota's Alcoholic Beverage Excise Tax Return form. Enjoy.

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