An artisanally crafted blog curated by Cooking Lager for discerning readers of beer bloggery

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Big Lout Weekend !

The big event in Lout Appreciation approaches, folks. The bank holiday weekend. As any cooking lager enthusiast knows this is the time of year to stock up on the lout! It's bargains bargains bargains.

We’ve been here before, and we will be here again, but No1 resource is my supermarket. Also check out leaflets posted through your door and adverts in tabloid newspapers. Play the game, pick your favoured grog and get working out the cheapest deal. There is no easy answer, it depends on grog.

For the example we will work with Carling.

A quick rundown, Tesco have a 2 for £16 offer on various boxes. The Carling is a 15 box, making 53p a can. Other boxes include 18 packs of Carlsberg Export Bottles & 15 packs of Becks Bottles

Sainsbury’s have the glory of 3 boxes for £20. The Carling is a 15 box, making 44p a can. Other boxes include 15 packs of Carlsberg Export Bottles & 15 packs of Grolsch Bottles, & 15 packs of Foster’s cans.

Morrison’s have 3 for £18 offer. The Carling is a 12 box, making 50p a can. Other boxes include 15 packs of Carlsberg Export Bottles & 15 packs of Grolsch Bottles, & 15 packs of Stella Bottles.

Asda have a 2 for £15 offer. The Carling is a 15 box, making 50p a can. Other boxes include 15 packs of Carlsberg Export Bottles & 15 packs of Stella Bottles, & 15 packs of Foster’s cans.

Aldi have an fruity little offer on 18 packs of Carlsberg Export Bottles. £5.99 each

I can’t do all the sums for you, choose your poison and do the maths. But the weekend starts now cooking lager fans. Cheap Grog, stock up!

Got any cheap lout news? Post a comment and share it with your fellow lovers of cheap booze!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tutored Lout Appreciation

I have to confess to a degree of disappointment in the result of the latest poll to grace the tosh that is Cooking Lager. 24 people have a low regard for tutored beer tasting and only 12 people held the activity in esteem.

One of the things I’ve learnt from reading beer blogs and beer writing is that people need educating about beer in order to make informed choices. That is not make the choices they want as free individuals for let’s say a nice glass of chilled white wine alfresco in the garden to accompany a light seafood salad, but make a choice that beer geeks think they should. People make the wrong choices because they don’t know any better and any choice is wrong that I don’t like or approve of. If better educating people about beer can make them drink a pongy nasty tasting foul glass of shed brewed muck that smells like old socks and tastes like an error of judgment, just think what a proper beer education could do? It could open people’s eyes to the glory of ice cold fizzy dirt cheap lout!

Much tosh is talked about the growth of pongy ale, and credit has to be given to those that campaign for it with a passion. All the great beer writers from Protz to Cole cite tutored beer tasting (where they teach people how to drink beer) as a useful market expanding device that encourages the presumably previously ignorant that didn’t know how to drink beer how to do so. To think, all that time the reason why people were not drinking beer was because they didn’t know how to? Just think of the possibilities of teaching people how to neck a lovely pint of ice cold lout.

With lout back in growth, see here, we as lout enthusiasts can replicate the success of the great iconic Carlsberg to other fantastic examples of lout like Carling and Foster’s. Lout succeeds when all lout succeeds. We cannot leave to whither on the vine any of our traditional and much loved lout brands. By better educating people we can ensure a wider appreciation of the lout.

So with that I’m going to have to ignore the poll and plough ahead with a tutored guide to necking cooking lager. If your average wine drinker can be taught to drink pong and face a glass of “aromatic golden ale” asking themselves “what is this muck I’m necking?”, they can be taught to drink something nice. Even pong drinkers recognise that pong isn’t always a winner. The thing about a nice can of Carling is that it always is a winner. The truth is being recognised, many pong drinkers are ready to turn to the lout, as we can see here, and here.

So with such a challenge, here is how to learn to love the lout. Firstly the thing to recognise is that a pint of lovely cooking lager isn’t just appreciated by taste, smell and appearance as are the crude attempts at pongy ale appreciation. Cooking Lager is appreciated by all the senses. You feel a pint of lout from the tips of your toes, to the extremities of your fingers, in every essence of your very being. Lout is food for the soul.

You might look at the picture on this blog and think “cherry vimto?” that is a betrayal of lout. It isn’t. Unlike other forms of beer appreciation, the appreciation of dirt cheap lager can accompany a liking for other things. Indeed, drinking fruit cordial out of a pint pot can be the start of lout appreciation. First take the pint of vimto and raise it to your mouth. Take the biggest gulp you can and keep gulping. Neck the whole thing in one. Have a slight belch if you feel the need. Feel the liquid course through you and feel the sense of achievement in having necked a whole pint of liquid in one.

You have taken the first step to cooking lager appreciation. Next up take an ice cold can of fizzy lout. Stick with the iconic greats of cooking lager for now. Walk before you run. A can of Carling, Foster’s or Carlsberg. Pour into the pint pot. Hold the pint up to the light and appreciate its golden hue. Notice how condensation forms on the outside of the glass. Appreciate that the look of this delicious glass of wonder can instantiate a longing and deep desire to neck it.

Raise the glass to your mouth. Take the biggest gulp you can. Breathe out. Sigh in deep satisfaction. Feel the lout in every part of your mortal being and notice how it touches that within you that theologians assert exists, philosophers ponder and scientists doubt. Take another gulp. It is important to gulp, to swig, to neck. This is lout, this is how lout is drank. It is separate in its majesty from lesser beers or drinks that you might sip slowly. As you sink the pint, notice the joy it gives you as inch by inch the liquid disappears. Appreciate the buttons it has cost you and as you approach the pints end, ask yourself a question. Do you fancy another? The answer will not come from cognitive thought. You have touched a part of your psyche you rarely communicate with. The answer will be yes, it will be hell yes, it will damn hell yes. Now you have learned to love the lout, don’t let your ignorance push you towards those inferior drinks that are not dirt cheap lager.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Summer of Lout

I haven’t blogged in a while. That’s because I’ve been drinking lout and not writing about it. The lout is a personal pleasure, and I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for cheap lout, but sometimes it’s just a personal pleasure. I’ve been enjoying the 2 for £16 offers at Tesco and have been necking Carlsberg Export & Becks. You have to be careful with these offers because it’s been clear for some time the price of lout is increasing. The economy has been buggered by a profligate labour administration, and we are in the age of inflation & austerity. Not to worry though, the sun is shining and the lout is still cheap enough to well and truly pissed up for buttons on a lovely cheap, pure and healthy product whilst sitting in your garden. It’s not all bad. The way the price of lout increases is quite subtle. 24 packs become 20 packs which become 18 packs which become 15 packs. The price per box remains, the amount you get decreases. You have to do the maths to figure out whether the offer is really a bargain. A bizarre offer recently was Sainsbury’s 2 for £18 offer. A week ago it was 2 for £16. On the offer were boxes of the lovely Carlsberg Export. Both boxes of 15 & 18, 275ml bottles on offer. If you’re not careful you’ll pick up the boxes of 15 and miss out on 6 bottles of lovely lout. Keep your eyes on the prize, cooking lager enthusiasts.

A feature of cooking lager enthusiasm is to share it with your fellow man. Always point out the offers to fellow shoppers. Recently I saw a woman buying a 12 can pack of Carling for £9.99. Next to it was a 24 pack on offer at £10. Not everyone does the maths. An “excuse me, that one’s twice the size and 1p” more usually elicits thanks and gratitude with your fellow shopper and rarely a “mind your own business”. Cooking Lager enthusiasm is an approach of sharing the joy with your fellow man and helping your brothers and sisters get there lovely lout as cheap as you do.

Tesco have put a 4 box limit on the lout offerings, which to be honest I’m not too sure about. On the positive side I understand that Supermarkets want the offer to be there for retail customers and want the stock to be there when punters punt up. If they advertise an offer and the stock is gone because money grasping pub landlords cheating on their tied contracts have filled the van up, they are not meeting their customers need. However cooking lager enthusiasts do use these offers to fill the garage up with cheap stock to enjoy over a prolonged period where cheap offers may not be forthcoming.

Also don’t panic about government plans to ban below cost selling. A myth put about by people with beards is that supermarkets give their products away below cost. No business does this to any great degree and when it does it is usually on lines that are not moving out of the door. That stock is shunted out at whatever price it goes for and not replaced.

The reason why the lout is so cheap in supermarkets isn’t because they sell below cost; it is because they accept low margins. They pile it high and sell it cheap. You can accept a low margin on a high turnover and maintain an acceptable overall profit.

A ban on below cost selling will do nothing to hamper cooking lager enthusiasm. So what are you reading this rubbish for? You’ve got a fridge of lovely lout. It’s a sunny day. Sit in your garden and enjoy all that is good about the summer. Cheap lout and ladies not wearing a lot.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


What a bunch of klepto thieves you all are. All barring one. That's 23 out of the 24 people that read this tosh. Well done.

It would appear beer mats are the most popular form of thievery, followed by bar maids, then beer glasses. It was unclear whether thieving barmaids involved inducing them to alternate employment, chatting them up and pulling them, or throwing them in the back of a Ford Transit and putting them in your underground dungeon. The choice is yours and all are included in the option.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Stealing beer glasses

Since starting this tosh up, to share my joy of cheap lager with anyone that wanted to read it, one aspect of my world view has arguably generated a degree of disagreement. Not only do I like drinking dirt cheap lout on special offer at supermarkets but I like drinking the lout from branded glassware. My acquisition of branded glassware comes from three sources, buying it, getting it free and stealing it. It is the stealing of glasses, primarily from pubs, that some commentators, kind enough to comment, take issue with. I think it worth addressing those concerns.

Firstly why drink your cheap can of lout (or any beer) out of a glass branded to the lout you are necking? This is a difficult one to answer, and I’m not sure I can fully explain it. It’s just better. That’s the only argument I can make. Nice glassware adds to the appeal of the drink you are drinking and I happen to prefer a can of Foster’s in a Foster’s glass. The beer is no different, for sure, and the glass isn’t in or of itself an object of beauty. I just like it. I think just liking it is enough of an argument. One aspect of European beer I like is the glassware it comes in, from the unusual glasses of Belgium in wooden frames, the Maß glasses of Germany and a particular favourite of mine, tall Weissbier glasses. I think they are neat. Those are objects of beauty. I just like them. It’s a free country, I’m free to like what I like, and I don’t think I need any more justification.

Next, how does one acquire beer branded glassware? There are plenty of legitimate routes to acquisition. Especially if your prime interest is craft beer. All the websites flogging interesting and relatively more expensive craft beer do indeed appear to stock the branded glassware of the beer brands they are retailing. I would suggest that this is often the best route to acquisition. Many of these beers are difficult to find in pubs, occasionally available in what you might call specialist beer enthusiast multi beer houses, and in all probability you won’t be served it in the snazzy glass. You might be, and if you know of such an establishment, nicking one is a route to acquisition. Be prepared to pay through the nose and be stung for P&P, though. Might as well get a collection all in one go if this is your preferred route. If you only want one, nicking remains the intelligent choice.

For mainstream beers the prime legitimate route to acquisition is the beer gift pack or box of lout offer. At Xmas for instance, beer gift packs appear in supermarkets with a glass or two and couple of bottles or cans. It is a relatively expensive way of buying the lout, but you get the snazzy glass you were after. Also through the year you often see an offer of a free glass on a big box of lout if you buy a couple of boxes and send the tokens in. Also a fair enough offer, though consider whether the box of lout is on special offer or not. If not, this can be a box of more expensive lout bought for the free glass. But if you covet one, you covet one. Who can really say where the desire for the acquisitions of mortal man originate, in a world only of process and impermanence?

I feel I have to mention EBay. EBay is not a source of legitimately acquired beer paraphernalia. It is nothing more that the contracting out of theft by those too scared to steal their own booty from boozers to people stealing from pubs for profit not pleasure. I feel this is a corruption of the noble art of the amateur petty pilferer. A removal of the amateur ethos and Corinthian spirit of petty theft. It represents an attempt to professionalize a sport played for fun not profit. That is only my perspective, but buying a Carling pint glass off EBay represents to me a slightly dirty, squalid and repugnant approach to a sport played for its highest ideals. There is no victory if in winning the game if you cheat.

Next up comes the matter of stealing glasses, and I think I’ll attempt to justify it. I could mention all property being theft and paint myself as an exploited member of the proletariat striking a blow but that would be disingenuous. We all know that is bollocks. It’s theft. For the record I also download free music and that is theft. I don’t shoplift from shops, but I do nick pens from the stationary cabinet at work. I would not steal money from your wallet and if you knew me you would consider me trust worthy but if a shop gives me too much change I keep stum and pocket it. Morality isn’t an absolute. It isn’t black and white. I think there is a scale with shades of grey. Otherwise I would feel guilt wouldn’t I? The absence of guilt may be a poor excuse, for it can be said that the definition of evil is not philosophical or theological but merely the absence of empathy. Empathy allows us to see and consider others as we do ourselves, and without it humanity is able to commit all manner evil upon his fellow man without an ounce of guilt. Anyone from serial killers to suicide bombers to concentration camp guards do not feel empathy for their victims, do not see their victims as fellow humans requiring the dignity they afford themselves, and thus are able to do as they do. Thus is my absence of guilt in and of itself a moral or psychological deficiency? Is it a pathological condition requiring correction? I cannot say, as I do not possess the self awareness to analyse myself to that degree. I guess I am grateful my deficiency is restricted to pub beer glasses and company pens, and does not extend to listening to the voices in my head that tell me to kill, for I know that to be wrong.

Actually my only justification is that for some glasses there appears no other way. Once you’ve checked out the brewer’s website, googled the object of desire, you discover there isn’t a legitimate way of acquiring say a stemmed Stella glass that you might covet. You could live without it, or you could choose to nick one. A difference I have noticed in UK bars to European bars is the reaction you get when you ask a member of staff whether you can buy one of the snazzy glasses. I’ve never been refused when abroad. The card I play is one of a tourist after a souvenir, with a polite demeanour and smile. I have a bit of a collection of tall weissbier glasses, all of which I didn’t actually rob. My prized one was given to me free by the proprietor of a German restaurant after I enquired about buying one. He wouldn’t hear of it, and wrapped up a clean one in paper and gave it to me gratis, nice man that he was. Probably because I ate in his restaurant a few times, on company expenses, tipped well, spoke a bit of his lingo and never mentioned the war. The answer you will by and large receive from a British pub is “no”. Why that is the case? You tell me. Maybe they are offended I want to drink a cheap can at home (why else covet a branded glass) and think I should always drink in pubs. I don’t know. But by and large it is a waste of time asking a UK publican for one of his glasses. Like asking for a free glass of water for the driver with the 4 pints of lout you are buying or expecting the toilet to be clean and contain toilet paper, UK publicans are a miserable bunch who think they are doing you a favour in serving you a pint. A smile costs extra. If you want one you have to nick one.

So how to nick one and not get caught? Stealth and discretion is the key. A useful tool is to have a receptacle to take it home in. Don’t just do a runner down the street, glass in hand. Men don’t usually carry bags, and I find the squeezes handbag a useful tool. When she powders her nose (lady talk for having a slash) slip the glass in her handbag if she leaves it, or shopping bag otherwise. Upon arriving home you might get a bit of earache about her handbag and its contents smelling of beer, but ignore that, you have your prize. For some reason lasses are a bit embarrassed about nicking glasses from pubs so don’t expect a partner in crime. If you regularly drink with a male friend, you can corrupt your friend into the twilight world of nicking glasses from pubs if you suggest robbing a couple of Guinness glasses. Everyone wants a Guinness glass, even people that don’t like Guinness. Girls don’t really get it though. Sit in a quiet part of the pub where eyes are not on you. If without the company of your woman, carry a small rucksack or briefcase. Bob is your proverbial aunty. Often beer gardens provide a route to take your drink outside, offer access to the road, and are beyond the eyes of bar staff. Walk calmly out with your booty. Always monitor quality control. Often pubs and bars are quite lax when it comes to giving out the proper glassware and when they do the glass can be tatty or scratched. That’s the lay of the land. There is no point in nicking crap so be prepared for both minor disappointments and grasping an unexpected opportunity when a piece of quality comes your way. Like the Boy Scout motto, be prepared. If you have a local you are fond of, do not nick from it. Keep your nicking to establishments you are not known. This is minimising risk should you be unsuccessful in an attempt, and avoiding empathy towards the proprietor of the establishment. If empathy is a problem, drink somewhere expensive or that you do not like. Your theft is thus a statement of protest. Remember that stealing glasses from pubs is an art that requires regular practice, and be pleased rather than disappointed when breakages or a new style of glass emerge that require your Raffles like ingenuity. Never let success go to your head and get sloppy. Treat your prey with respect, and always apply caution to your endeavour by disguising your activity and planning your escape route. Oh and if nicking more than one glass, be aware of the golden rule. Glass makes a “chink” noise in your bag when glassware touches. For the price of a newspaper you can avoid this.

If asked where you acquired the glass, never be ashamed to admit to the truth of its origins. You got it free with tokens, it was in a beer gift set or you nicked it from a pub. Nicking glasses from pubs informs your guest that you are a bit of a geezer. Be proud and unashamed. Most of all enjoy it. Sit on your sofa, pour your lovely ice cold fizzy lout into your snazzy glass, and try to quantify the extra pleasure you have gained. If you can quantify and explain that pleasure I suspect you could also look deep into the very essence of the quandary of existence and come up with an answer that would astonish and perplex theologians and philosophers alike.

EDIT : Thank you to The Beer Nut whose standard of English exceeds my own.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The British Pub will live!

My inspiration to put finger to keyboard, today, comes directly from Mudgie, Dredgie & Tandy. I particularly liked Dredgies post in regard to the death of the British Pub, and can see where he is coming from. Whilst seeing little to disagree with in his perspective I have to disagree with the overall assessment. I do not believe the British pub will die.

A factor I have noticed within my fellow human species is the propensity to assume that the truth is the perspective from which you see the world, and that others see the world as you do. Whilst not relevant to this, I have also noticed the propensity to assume in some that those that see the world from a different perspective are wrong (thus asserting yourself to be right), and assuming that being for something makes you against its opposite. Mudge, Tand & Dredge, articulate well how they use pubs, and what it means to them.

I am happy to admit I don’t have much use for pubs. I do on occasion find myself in one, but by and large they are not my cup of tea. I don’t believe for one moment that the pub is in any danger of death. My opinion is based on the following perspective, my own, and you are free to see the world differently.

I am of the view that pubs are by and large for losers, and there are no shortage of losers in the world. QED, there is a sustainable market for pubs. A number of years back, I did work out that I spent an inordinate amount of my then graduate starting salary in pubs, and that I didn’t much like them. What I liked at the time was a social environment in which I could meet girls. Girls that were interested in getting pissed and copping off with blokes like me. Thus the brightly lit bars and pubs of city centers held a magnetic appeal for myself and mates. Prior to meeting my lovely lady squeeze, I was never what you might call successful with the ladies, but I did have the odd moment. Like a gambler that by and large loses on the horses but occasionally gets a win, and that win sustains a belief that winning is possible and likely and thus sustains the will to have another bet. Most evenings I went home to sleep alone. On rare occasions I bagged one. I remember reading an article in one of the lad’s magazines of the time, that I used to read as they were a socially unembarrassing source of soft pornography, in regard to an interview with the actor Ray Winstone. Ray Winstone is one of my favourite actors. In this article he was asked what he drunk down the pub, to which he replied he didn’t go into pubs as pubs were full of losers. He also answered the question “If we were to get you a gift what would you like?” with “I’ve got everything I want but you can give me meat, I like meat”. If you don’t like the guy after an answer like that, then why not? He’s a geezer.

My admiration of Ray Winstone increases with every part he plays, and I confess that he is a hero of mine. That was not the reason I found myself agreeing with him. It simply was that his assertion of pubs being for losers was self evidently true. If you are one of life’s winners you have little time to go into pubs. You have a life, whatever that life is, and it will keep you busy living it. If you don’t have much of a life, you think going sitting in an establishment that is by and large someone else’s (tatty and run down) living room (a public house) and buying an overpriced drink, and sitting in the company of strangers in the hope that a group of hot looking girls will come in and you and your mates will bag them. They won't so you'll sup up and head into town, to a brighter lit place, where the chicks are. Not the activity of winners.

Now you might assume that I am asserting myself to be a winner here. I am not. I cannot assert myself to be a winner when as much of my life is enjoyable, I remain a wage slave paying a mortgage. I am as much a loser as anyone. Just not enough of a loser to see the need to drink my life away in a pub. I like to go the gym, spend time with the squeeze, and do things that make me happy. Enough people do fall into the loser category. A few years back I did, and you never know I might one day in the future once again. But enough people fall into the category of being life’s losers and those people will be propping up the bar, in your local pub tonight. If you are dumb enough to go in and check them out, you will discover interesting and challenging views on immigration, women and inconsequential football matches. You might even enjoy yourself in their company. That doesn’t make Ray Winstone wrong.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


I’m feeling inspired by the puppet master of beer blogging. It’s clear that the behaviour of some CAMRA members leaves something to be desired. From the poll on the left, it is clear that most CAMRA members can pass for normal, however it’s clear some cannot.

Don’t worry beer fans. The Campaign for Greater Cooking Lager Appreciation is on hand to help any brothers in beer overcome with a tendency to swap videotapes of trains and consider himself a casketeer. On offer is a free cooking lager appreciation course to reintroduce you to the rest of humanity.

On this course you will learn how to

1. Get a modern stylish haircut from an actual barber or hairdresser and not off your mum.

2. Shave your face or sport a modern bit of trendy stubble, and get rid of that beard!

3. Sign up to a gym; get rid of that beer gut and a guide to kissing your guns when you wink at a lady alongside an explanation why you ought not do that no matter how pleased you are with your new look.

4. Drink out of the glass given to you and bin that tankard!

5. Shop for some “with it” clobber including decent jeans, a nice shirt and banging trainers. There will be a ritual burning of corduroy, cardigans, faded beer festival T-shirts, and tatty old jumpers.

6. A trip round Tesco to fill our trolleys with special offer cheap lager.

7. A trip to a smart modern bar for a lovely ice cold fizzy pint of lout, where I will talk to a girl and introduce her to you so you get to talk to a girl for a bit. Don’t worry, it takes practice. This is but the first step on a journey more exciting than pongy beer.

8. An explanation of who the pop stars are on the video screen in the bar and if you like a CD of banging tunes straight off my ipod if you agree to burn your prog rock and Kraftwerk collection.

9. I will show you which channel “Pimp my Ride” is on so you never have to watch subtitled Wallander on BBC4 again. We will delete BBC4 from your tellybox.

10. A free certificate, stating you attended the course and are no longer a twat. You will be able to produce this certificate as proof if ever anyone like Pete Brown calls you a twat.

Sign up below and be cured of your pongy ale addiction. Look forward to normality and being accepted in regular society as a “normal regular person”.

Fight !

How Pete Brown can say the Beer blogosphere is stagnating and becoming boring is beyond me. The entertainment factor of geeks arguing the toss with each other regarding matters of no consequence has endless capacity to amuse me. My only fear is that one day self awareness will strike and people will think “It really doesn’t matter that I bought a bottle of gueuze from a shop and drank it, the world is by and large indifferent not only to what I think about it, but to what style of beer gueuze is, where it comes from, and why despite tasting like crap I think it’s better than a cheap can of something that tastes nice.” The world is not indifferent. I care and am interested in what you think about it. I love what you think about it. It makes me smile and in making me smile you spread joy and happiness in the world. You add to the gaiety of the nation. Don’t let Brown put you off; he’s only trying to keep the top spot in his league table for himself. He’s doing an Alex Ferguson Jedi mind trick on you.

I’ve decided that my absolute favourite beer blog type post is the “slag CAMRA off” post. That rocks. Not that I’ve anything against CAMRA, I just love a rumble. The 2 people I know that are members are almost normal human beings and those beer bloggers dumb enough to be in the club also appear by and large decent enough examples of humanity perverted by an unusual but largely harmless obsession. Blog of the year to Pete Brown, who in adopting the personal appearance of a sink estate secondary school woodwork teacher is visibly indistinguishable from a CAMRA member himself. Go on lad, rip into them. Keep it up and I might bother to read that book he wrote that I got given for Xmas that is currently used as a door stop. It’s about beer and a boat trip or something. I want to see a fight. I want Brown and Protz outside in the car park, Marquis of Queensbury gents, FIGHT!

However I’m not going to slag CAMRA geeks off myself, in fact I’m going to stand up for them because whilst I don’t believe CAMRA members deserve a discount I admire people that ask for discounts and I don’t believe the following, I know it for a fact. There is nothing immoral or wrong about asking for a discount. That’s a fact. An absolute undisputable fact. You cannot point to a single philosophical or religious work on the nature of human morality and state that asking for a discount in free trade between free men is an immoral act.

You can of course consider the price you pay to be an act of morality. In this world there is trade between free men and trade between free men and slaves. There are many forms of slavery, and if your only choice is to work a 14 hour day in a sweat shop for a bowl of rice, you cannot consider yourself a free man. In buying the products of Indian children sold on the shelves of British high street shops, trade has occurred between the exploited and the exploiter. Between free men and slaves. You can buy clothes so cheap as to be disposable made by Indian children making those clothes in sweat shops because their choice is to starve or not to starve. This isn’t because the market is by definition evil or immoral. The market is amoral; it is a machine existing without morality. The market is red in tooth and claw. I would say I am a supporter of market economics, not because I think markets are moral, but because I am moral. As a market participant and human being my choice is to act in a moral or immoral manner. The moral choice is to pay the price that elevates the slave to freedom.

My opinion of market economics is not that it is a good system; it is simply a better system than the tyranny of socialism or communism. I have no problem with cheap lager in supermarkets or for that matter cheap chickens. I am not in favour of inhumane animal welfare standards but consider the welfare of people wishing to feed their families on budgets far lower than mine to be above chickens. I have a problem with cheap products that are the result of human exploitation. My problem isn’t the cheapness, but the inherent inhumanity. So I don’t buy cheap clothes unless I am assured the vendor sources his product without slavery.

But in fair trade between free men there is no such thing as an immoral price. No one is forced to buy and no one is forced to sell. The agreed price is the fair and equitable price all parties are happy with.

When I bought my house I did some googling on the street I was buying. What I sought was market information. In order to operate successfully in a market you need information. I discovered an interesting fact. A house identical to the one my lady squeeze had set her heart on was sold 3 doors down, 3 months previously for 10 grand below the asking price of our desired pile of bricks. The Estate Agent informed me the vendor had offers; there could be little movement on price. I politely made my offer. He informed they would be unlikely to accept, could I go higher? I asked him to make the offer, I informed him that I was a first time buyer outside a chain and I could move quickly on a deal without issue. He came back to me with a counter offer, I thanked him and reiterated that at my price he had a deal, and outside my price we didn’t. I bought the house at the price I initially offered. There was no bad feeling, no rudeness. It was business. Once business is concluded, once the price agreed, everything is as nice as pie.

More recently my father bought a car. He showed me the details of the car he wanted and the prices he had from 3 dealers. He was mad keen on his desired box of metal, and a nice box of metal it is too. I opened my net book, stuck my dongle in and looked up the car on Parkers price guide. What I sought was market information. In order to operate successfully in a market you need information. I discovered that the best deal negotiated on their database of market information was 4 grand below the best price my father had been offered, and 3 grand below what Parkers considered a good deal. I asked my father which dealer he considered to be the one he would most like to do business with, and whether he really wanted to buy this car, had he made is mind up, is he ready to sign a cheque?. He was. He was about to pay the price he had been offered. I went with him and asked for 4 grand off. The dealer was surprised. I told the dealer that he could sell a car today for that price. The dealer went away to talk to his boss and returned saying he could do us a better deal. I told him the best deal available from dealers as recorded by Parkers was the price I stated. He smiled and asked whether I was serious. I told him he could have a cheque today. We shook hands and my Dad bought the car. My father was stunned. He’d got the car he wanted and his son had just saved him 4 grand. Oh and some free car mats, and a free scratch & rust resistant coating that frankly is a con to try and flog as an optional extra (it’s an extra that the car doesn’t rust? That ought to be thrown into the deal pal) & some free car shampoo. My father is not a rich man. He’s retired on a modest pension after a life of blue collar work and raising a family on a modest income. To say he was happy was an understatement. I didn’t tell him he ought to have done that himself for the last 40 years. That before the t’internet he could buy a copy of Parkers from a newsagent for a couple of quid. Or even look it up in WHSmith and put the book back on the shelf if he was really cheap.

None of this ought to be spectacular news. Its standard practice that on many products we do indeed haggle and the tool you need to haggle with is willingness to haggle and the information required to haggle effectively. There is no point in stating an unrealistic price. You need the data. It is not immoral, it is not unfair. It is the reasonable behaviour of free men in a market.

Another example? When the Squeeze and I bought the house we filled it up with the tat she wanted. From silver coloured fridges, blue coloured cookers, sofas and the one thing I actually was enthusiastic about, a really big telly. I mean a really big one. Some of these things cost a bob or two. I asked in every shop, “Discount for cash?” I smiled when I asked. I asked in every shop whether independent or chain, and neither appeared to have a bearing on the outcome. Though the biggest discounts were in the posh shops. In those gaffs I received a knowing smile alongside my discount. There was no sense of expectation or entitlement on my part, just a shit eating grin. The squeeze cringed when I asked. In some shops I got a smile back and “How does 10% sound?” to which the reply was “sounds great, thank you”. In some I got “Sorry Sir, we cannot do that”, to which the answer was “okay, no harm in asking”

It’s okay to haggle. It’s okay to ask. They can only say no. It’s not personal, it’s business.

I’m on a roll here. There are numerous examples I could go into where I was offered a discount for cash before asking. Tradesmen coming around the house asking me whether I wanted to pay the VAT or not. My answer? I can give you the cash. Cushty. Its fraud that one, that’s why it’s good to be anonymous with this blogging lark.

Now would I ask for a discount in a pub? If I thought there was a discount I would enquire about it. I would not consider it rude to do so. Rudeness is not asking it is in the manner of the asking. The answer is either yes or no, and my choice is to seek to get the best terms of a trade but to ultimately either accept or decline a trade on the terms of trade.

If I ran a pub I might offer a loyalty scheme to regular punters, I wouldn’t offer one to members of a third party organisation. Why should I offer a discount to anyone other than my loyal punters? However if I was a member of a third party organisation and a discount was offered I’d accept it.

If I was booking the function room for a pub and told the price for the room, food & booze, I’d say “discount for cash?” I’d smile and ask politely. The answer would be either yes or no. If I was a regular in a pub and the type that boozed in pubs I’d have in my head what’s called market information. I’d know the quality and price offered in all the boozers of the area. I doubt I’d ask for “discount for cash?” on a pint, glass of wine and packet of peanuts but I would know whether the price being offered was fair in the market. It’s a small insignificant purchase. The price is the price. He’s not selling me a sofa, telly, car or house, but a disposable minor commodity. There are plenty of examples, from a train ticket to a Big Mac where there is obviously no point in a haggle beyond amusing yourself at the expense of the person tasked with the onerous job of customer service.

If I were a regular and spoke to the landlord I’d have no qualms about informing him that the pub down the road was just as nice as his and 20p a pint cheaper. I wouldn’t be rude. I’d be polite and I’d be sharing my market knowledge. But of course all this requires a certain perspective. That perspective is “I’m a punter and I want the best deal”. With that attitude you will. If your perspective is “I want to support this market” then you won’t.

The art of a good price is threefold, knowledge, politeness and confidence. So go for it. I dare you. You might want to watch Life of Brian, beforehand, for arguably the funniest example of haggling every recorded.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Make it the Maximum !

The poll is in. Venerable readers of this tripe have decided that booze ought cost no more than 50p a unit! Publicans, supermarkets, off licences take note! We the consumer expect and demand our right as free born Englishmen to get pissed whenever we like and to do so cheaply.

Anyone charging more that a pound for a pint of 4% grog, put your rip off prices down immediately!

Well done to the Mudge, for his tactic support for make it the maximum! Expect a petition to be set up, when the election ends.