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Memo sent to Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries staff after Pallister’s ‘customer service’ comments

A Manitoba Liquor Mart location in Winnipeg.
A Manitoba Liquor Mart location in Winnipeg. Randall Paul/Global News

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has sent a memo to Liquor Operations staff thanking them for their hard work a few days after Premier Brian Pallister questioned their customer service skills.

The memo, obtained by 680CJOB, compliments workers for going “over and above to do the best possible job.”

“We know how you build relationships with our customers,” it reads.

“We’ve heard about the employees who run outside in the cold to return a forgotten payment card to a grateful customer. We know how you will ask smart, probing questions to help someone find the right wine to celebrate an achievement, or the perfect whisky to gift a loved one.”

Read more: Pallister explores private-sector involvement in Manitoba’s liquor system

Pallister made the comments to 680CJOB earlier this week after the Throne Speech when asked about the possibility of the privatization of some liquor services.

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“If we can give people better choice and a competitive price on a liquor product, on an alcohol product, that’s a good thing, and that’s where we need to be looking,” Pallister said.

“Customer service is the key to whatever success I’ve found in the small business world … and government delivery, by itself, hasn’t always been famously associated with customer service.”

The president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, Michelle Gawronski, said Wednesday that customer service at Liquor Marts is exceptional.

“To me, this is ridiculous that it’s even being hinted at or brought up again,” Gawronski said.

She said profits from liquor sales help provide for the province’s hospitals, healthcare, and roads.

“At a time when we’re in the middle of a pandemic, where the premier keeps talking about the millions and millions it’s going to cost us to get over COVID, why would we even think to have any of the profits from this go into private pockets?”

While the memo doesn’t specifically mention Pallister’s comments, it does go on the offensive.

“As a Crown corporation we are a highly visible target for criticism. People often think they know, and could do, better than us.

The memo, signed by Robert Homberg, vice president of liquor operations and Rob Campbell, vice president of human resources, cites the challenges faced by employees during the last few years, including a rise in violent thefts.

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In one case, an employee was seriously assaulted in the store.

Click to play video 'Thieves assault Tyndall Park Liquor Mart employees' Thieves assault Tyndall Park Liquor Mart employees
Thieves assault Tyndall Park Liquor Mart employees

“The installation of controlled entrances introduced new sticking points for customers and staff alike, even as they relieved serious safety concerns.

“While we worked through these growing pains, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and brought on new procedures and safety measures to help protect the health of you and our customers.”