The snobbery gradient

firebus's picture

I've had two completely separate conversations in the last couple of weeks about the advisability of importing beer you can't get in San Francsico and then selling it (this is totally illegal) at a huge mark-up.

How awesome is this business?


Let's assume we're going to drive the beer from Michigan (for example) to SF in a minivan, and then sell it at a 100% markup (assuming we have to buy it at full retail price).

It's 2,262 miles from SF to Kalamazoo.

We can drive 8 hours per day, need to eat three meals per day, and stay in a motel each night.

We're going to buy a used minivan and throw away all the seats. It gets about 25 miles per gallon, highway, but we'll say 20 since its going to be full of beer all the time.

Each trip takes 4.5 days to drive each way. Let's budget half a day for buying or selling on each end, so it's a 10 day round trip. Let's take 4 days off after each trip to make up for lost weekends. So we can do a full trip every 14 days.

According to the internet, minivans usually have around 1000 lbs max load. Let's pretend we can fit 1000 pounds of either coffee or beer in the van. Maybe we can remove the roof.


2,262 miles / 20 miles per gallon * $3.50 per gallon * 2 = $791 per trip.

9 nights in a motel * $50 per night = $450 per trip.

$20 per day for meals = $200 per trip.

A 6-pack of bells is 4.5 pounds, and costs about $10, or about $2.25/pound, so $2,250 per trip.

Total costs, $3,691 per trip.

Income is $2,250 * 2 = $4,500

Profit is $809.

We also need to deduct insurance and maintenance for the van, and probably amortize the cost of eventually getting indicted by the ATF. We should pay taxes. This is not an awesome business.

We could double our profits by importing higher-end, more expensive beer, but it's hard to guarantee a supply, and even doubing our profits does not make it work - we might be able to barely break even hiring an employee at minimum wage in this case.

It would be great if there was something, other than marijuana, that we could take to Kalamazoo to sell there - do you think Michigan would by 1,000 pounds of Sightglass coffee every 14 days? At $8/pound wholesale we could clear $8,000 per trip!

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