As a fairly frequent traveller on the Tallink routes over the Baltic sea I recently noticed some alchohol related changes on their ferries. I.e. the price of beer and the alcohol content of the bottles offered in the tax-free boutique.
(In order not to go into tedious detail I shall assume that the readers are familiar with the the tax-free shopping situation on and around the Baltic sea.)
Anyway. During the last cruise I first observed that the extra-strong 160 proof vodka was no longer available in the tax-free shop. Among the vodkas the strongest offered were now mere 40 % Vol (80 proof). The same limit as in the Swedish government alcohol monopoly (Systembolaget), as we shall see this is probably no coincidence. For normal consumption this is no big problem since 160 proof per se is undrinkable – unless you are Stalin, Churchill or Yeltsin. However I was a tiny bit annoyed because the stronger vodka is excellent for making licors.
A bit shaken but not yet stirred I went to the ship’s pub to enjoy some tasty Tartu beer. Indeed the beer was yummy and the bartenders were as always correct, competent and calm. However the price had been hiked some hefty 21 % since last time. In fact the price was now closer to what you could expect to pay in a standard Stockholm pub.
Kurat, I didn’t say, because I don’t speak Estonian. But such were my feelings. Fortunately after some time the soothing effect of the Tartu hops calmed me down and I began analyzing the situation.
It would be tempting to first explain the whole thing with corporate greed. After all that’s what we like to blame when prices are hiked. But I don’t think this is the case here.
A second explanation could be the return of inflation. Although normal people haven’t noticed much of it the big central banks, FED in the US and EZB in Frankfurt have been creating huge amounts of money ex. nihilo the last years. The economists will probably argue whether this was good or bad. I personally belive they did the right thing. Creating all that money has probably stopped the western world from falling into depression and risk chaos. However that medicine is very strong and may have some serious side-effects in the long run, mainly inflation. But I digress.
At this point the economy is defintely not experiencing general 21% inflation. Instead I suspect the reason for these changes to pertain to the unofficial “Social License to Operate”. This is no formal thing but rather something like the general reputation and acceptance of a company. Of course unliked companies in many cases can still operate and sell their products. However things often go much smoother for them if the surrounding population and authorities accept and preferably like a company.
In the case of Tallink who provides a useful, enjoyable and affordable naval infrastructure there’s a lot to like of course. However Tallink has recently gotten some negative media publicity in Sweden. According to Swedish television many persons are kind of getting to drunk and tend to cause problems on the Tallink ferries. I personally have never seen anything bad happen and I suspect the media as often exaggerate in order to sell a good story. Journalists are among the absolutely least respected groups in Sweden but they got a huge impact on the public opinion.
So the conclusion is that the people at Tallink noticed the bad publicity and decided they better do something about it, so to say in order not to jeopardize their unofficial “social license to operate”. Thus the new alcohol related situation on board which now is closer that that on mainland Sweden. In my opinion a good pro-active move from Tallink’s side. Though the more expensive beer sucks:p When I make future trips I’ll follow up and see how the situation develops.
Have any of the readers here seen drunk people causing trouble on the Tallink ferries recently? Maybe I’ve just been lucky every single time I travelled but I haven’t noticed anything.