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.