Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Sharp Practice


History repeats itself, or at least, things that have happened in the past bubble up to the surface again. Sometimes they creep under your skin and cause annoyance. Now when I was a lad it was simple. If you bought a pint of beer, the corresponding half was exactly half the price. It was an easy to understand system and it worked. Of course there was always a little bit of margin creep. When I worked in the pub, most beers were priced in odd numbers. We didn't deal in half pences - and yes we did have them under decimalisation - and thus the odd half pence margin went the publicans way. Nobody liked half pence coins, so it was almost a public service and everyone was reasonably content with it.


I wrote in this piece here about what I called "Irish Arithmetic". That is charging a wildly different price than half the pint price for a half pint. I was and am agin it, with the proviso that a little light rounding in favour of the publican is OK. Like the old half pence, nobody is that keen on having a pocket full of five pences, so being consistent, I don't mind a pint at, say, £2.75 being charged at £1.40 a half. This came to my mind once more when I was trying a new beer recently. Tasters weren't offered, so wisely I chose a half. "One fifty" chirruped the barmaid. I liked the beer, so ordered a pint. "£2.75 please" quoth she.

Now don't give me all that guff about it costing more to dish up a half than a pint and other such mealy mouthed excuses. Or to accuse me of meanness or cheapness. It is sharp practice. It discriminates against smaller measures or those wishing to try several beers; it is annoying and most of all, it just isn't right.

So, publicans. Please keep the little mark up in your favour within bounds. My contribution from now on, will be to name names where it happens to excess.

Look at  the comments on the previous piece about this. Interesting comments from the Beer Nut.

21 comments:

py0 said...

Very generous of them to give you a 25p discount on each pint, no?

Tandleman said...

I knew some idiot would come up with that.

The Beer Nut said...

"all that guff"
"mealy mouthed excuses"
"some idiot"

Way easier than reasoned argument, eh?

Tandleman said...

Well it is my blog. I don't recall it having to be written to your rules. It is a bit of a rant and written as such. I set it up, in my own way, giving what I thought was a reasonably argued position, but let more reasoned arguments come forth if others so wish. You don't offer any I note.

You were chippy about it all way back then too.

py0 said...

I really don't see the difference between this and a "3 for the price of 2" offer at Tescos. Retailers frequently offer a discount if you buy a larger quantity of the good, in this case you pay less per unit for buying a full pint rather than a half. Its just a glass half empty/half full scenario as to whether you see this as generous or exploitative.

The Beer Nut said...

Heh heh. No, I'm just noting the rhetoric.

I think the reasoned response in Tandlespeak would be along the lines of "If you can't see the reason pubs charge more than half the price of a pint for a half then... something something... [personal insult]... All good knockabout fun."

As I'm sure I said back in 2010, I think proportional pricing is great, but it's just a nice bit of custom-and-practice held in place by customer sentiment and which generates goodwill. Like free tasters.

Tandleman said...

pyO.I think you have picked a false analagy. More directly comparable would be if you wanted 50 grams of ham for your butties at £1.20 per 100g and you were charged 80p for 50g? You might find that more than inconvenient I'd suggest.

This is clearly a penalty for buying halves, not a discount for buying more I'd say. If it was an incentive, they'd surely say as much.

BN: Tandlespeak? Personal insults? Clearly you are in the mood to have a pop at me. It isn't the first time, but if it bacause you don't like mt tone, do carry on. That's fine.

On the other hand if you have some kind of underlying rancour for insults passim, I am unaware of why that should be. If so do share.

Steve Lamond said...

Supermarkets always charge more for smaller servings of the same product if its prepackaged...

Was in zero degrees at weekend and they do have a price diference of 25p on two halves vs a pint, but at least its clearly stated in the bar menu

Dave Unpronounceable said...

exactly, if prepackaged.

a big tin of beans costs little more than a small tin, and a 500ml bottle of beer costs not much different to a 330ml one

conversely, a pound of loose bananas costs the same whether you buy quarter of a pound or ten pounds.

draft beer is in effect a 'loose' product. you don't get a bulk discount for buying a round of several pints, so nor should one be penalised for having a smaller serving (and yes, some pubs knock off 20p for buying 4-pint pitchers, but generally nowt worth drinking so we'll ignore that... ;-) )

Curmudgeon said...

This does seem to be a growing practice. However, I wonder whether it will be covered by the current legislation in Scotland, also proposed for England, outlawing multi-buy discounts for alcoholic drinks. In general, an anti-drink measure, but may have a small silver lining.

Dominic, Thornbridge Brewery said...

Nice use of the word 'Passim' Tanders. One doesn't see it wrote often these days.

ShadowHider said...

Just over a week ago I called in The Carlton in Llandudno. Wells Fathers Day Ale advertised at £2.75 a pint. I'll have a half I said as I'm not a big fan of Wells beers, that'll be £2 said the barman. Don't be ridiculous I said. No it's not he said, the pint is on special offer. So I had a pint whilst pointing out that nowhere in Llandudno have I been charged £4 a pint in public bar (I have in a hotel, thieving sods). Especially not in somewhere which is almost next door to the Palladium which is a JDW.

Tandleman said...

Dom: I have a Latin O level you know. I like to mix my generally abrasive tone with a little culture now and then. :-)

RedNev said...

I find it strange that there are always some drinkers who leap to the defence of beer pricing, as in previous comments, and also in saying things like we don't pay enough for our beer in general. In 1972, I was paying 13p for a pint of bitter. With inflation, that should now be around £1.41 (courtesy of the Bank of England inflation calculator) but, as we all know, in reality it's around double that. This rip off only makes the upward pressure on beer prices even worse, and I find all attempts to justify it unconvincing.

Stono said...

2.80 for a pint I wish :( I was in a pub recently for their beer festival who were charging £1.80 for a half pint of beer (& yes their pints werent quite double the price either) and £2.00 for a half of cider !!!

Ive always thought on this subject the more savvy publican, would work out the cost to serve a half, include all the 'guff' they feel they need to and just double that cost to get their price point for a pint.

that way they dont lose out on selling halves, make a bit extra on pints if it really does cost less to sell them, and the customer feels happy because they dont feel they are being ripped off.

so in the £1.50 half example, then the pint costs £3.00, ok that may be considered too expensive in some parts :) so plan b work out the volume of pints and half pints you shift and work out a happy average that covers the costs of both based on what you sell, but hides the financial horse trading from the customer who really doesnt care about the overheads involved, they just want to be served beer and dont want to feel ripped off in the process

I mean Ive never looked at the cost of a pint of beer and thought nope not having that because its 10p more than I really think it should be, 30-50p more then I question and choose carefully, but the difference between 2.75 or 2.85 a pint isnt enough to push custom away IMO, whereas 10-15p extra on a half is more than enough to make me upsticks and find a more equitably run pub

Phil said...

This was one of the many things I whinged... er... commented on after my first and probably last visit to BrewDog Manchester. In my view £3.95 for a pint (at the lower end of the blackboard) was already taking the p., and £2.15 is not half of £3.95.

Downside of complaining (even complaining much later on a blog): it makes you look mean-spirited and humourless.

Upside: who the hell wants to look generous and fun-loving if it means saying "hey, everybody, feel free to rip me off!"?

(Not that I'm still bitter or anything.)

RedNev said...

Thanks for the warning, Phil. I shan't be visiting Brewdog.

Tiny Clanger said...

Some of the margins are definitely ridiculous.

The main point I'd like to make is that if your price for a half isn't exactly half your price for a pint, and you're displaying the price for a pint (which you should be!) then you should display the price for a half equally prominently.

Dave Unpronounceable said...

funnily enough the latest Sheffield CAMRA rag has posed the question as to whether they should name & shame the culprits, as they're getting an increasing number of e-mails from readers who have suffered this disparity.

i tend to agree with Phil though, complainging about prices does make you look like a skinflint, regardless of the value or otherwise of the offering but, quietly (or even cheerfully!) accepting high prices will only encourage them. Personally, I'm happy to pay a higher price for a better product, but not happy to pay more for the same product to line someones pockets...

as a beer scooper of course, I'm 100% against a half-pint mark up!

Tandleman said...

Dave: I understand the skinflint point, but I assume it is what these pubs rely on. I'm not hugely price sensitive (within reason) but I do object to being shafted.

While not a ticker, I often have half pints and if you must screw more out of us, do it more subtly as Stono suggests.

Tiny: Very fair point.

Tyson said...

There isn't any sort of proper defence available for the practice. It's clear profiteering, plain and simple. However, live by the capitalist sword etc.