Low spirits at Systembolaget

Tuesday's Dagens Nyheter reported on the latest developments in the so-called 'Systemet bribery mess'. Over a year ago, ten shop managers were fired for allegedly favouring certain suppliers' goods in return for holidays, concert tickets and (shock!) free booze.

They denied the allegations and said they were simply following the alcohol monopoly’s standard practice. One was reinstated and two others accepted an out-of-court settlement. The remaining seven want their jobs back and had hoped that the industrial tribunal would begin next week.

“Now they’re going to have to wait until the autumn,” said DN. “For the second time, Systembolaget has demanded that the case be delayed.”

The organisation says that they need more time to prepare for the twenty witnesses that the union wants to call before the court, but Eva Eklund, one of the “Systemet Seven”, was unimpressed.

“This is a farce – I’m angry and disappointed,” she told DN. “Anitra Steen and the rest of the management are terrified because they’ve finally understood that we’re going to win.”

She may have a point. According to the paper, Systembolaget stands to lose 2 million crowns per person if the tribunal finds in favour of the seven former managers.

That’s money that the organisation can hardly afford to lose: a study carried out by Stockholm university has shown that Swedes now bring more alcohol home from abroad than they from their local Systembolaget.

Monday’s Aftonbladet said that in the first two months of the year, Swedes brought home 3 million litres of booze from abroad. During the same time period, Systembolaget sold only 2,850,000 litres.

With such “private importing” likely to rise dramatically as neighbouring countries reduce their alcohol taxes, many commentators are wondering if this could be the first signs of last orders at Systembolaget.

Torsten Nilsson, writing for Svenska Dagbladet this week, certainly hopes so. He dedicated an entire article to the dreadful service he received in his local store in Höganäs, on the south-west coast, last Saturday.

“There are 23 people in front of me in the queue. A bold customer leans over the counter and looks around – but there are no staff to be seen. People gather in small groups as they do at a bus stop when there are no buses. What’s going on? Is it a coffee break?”

After a thirty-five minute wait, Torsten was finally able to buy his bottle of wine and cycle home.

“Through the haze I catch a glimpse of Denmark. Anitra, we can’t take this any more.”