Time to dust off the ol’ keyboard and jump back into these things. To my devoted readers (basically, my wife) I apologize for being dormant for so long. If you didn’t notice the absence, then feel free to disregard said apology…I give them out so infrequently that they do become quite valuable.
I was recently out at a “Taphouse” that shall remain nameless, because I am not in the business of forcing my judgment on others, but something at this establishment really annoyed me. Actually, there were a lot of things that really annoyed me (“The empty kegs aren’t changed out frequently at night because our bartenders are mostly female and they don’t want to lug them around out back.” Honestly, this was an explanation I got), but only one is the focus here. The ever popular “Beer Club.”
Now, don’t get your favorite, maladjusted quaffer wrong. I am a huge fan of beer clubs. I mean, I have a hard time staying away most times. The wife and I completed the “Pub Club” requirements at The Pike Brewing Company in Seattle, WA in what we were told was a record 2 months, earning ourselves some really great swag, which included 2 English style growlers with our choice of etchings to personalize, a free first fill on said growlers with the beer of our choice, 2 t-shirts, and a discount card to the brewpub, good for a year. I also completed the “Around the Block” club at the Grill Next Door in Lowell, MA. Here, you earn a burn-etched wooden plaque, a t-shirt, a mug, and your name on a plaque at the bar. Both of these were a lot of fun to complete. You got to know a lot of great people at each establishment, all of whom were truly excited about beer and the improvement in the general public’s knowledge of GOOD beer. They both had something else in common, as well…sign-up for both was FREE.
So, at said “Taphouse,” I see a sign for their beer club, and being the inquisitive little future cirrhosis patient that I am, I inquire. I was informed that you have your name placed on a plaque when you drink all 80 unique taps (she thinks, because they don’t have the plaque yet, nor do they have any members of this club I suspect), a t-shirt and a mug, and maybe a discount? I don’t know why she asked me the last part, I was unaware of any details at this point. She was certain that you get the t-shirt and mug immediately when you sign up, though. Other than a general lack of knowledge regarding a promotion being completed at her place of employment, I thought her description sounded about right. Then, she informed me, it was easy to sign up, they just needed my name, address, phone number, and $10. Go fuck yourselves. Seriously, go right ahead.
I know, I know, it seems WAY over reactive, but before you defend this clueless waif or her place of employment, let me break this down for you. The “Taphouse” serves craft beer, but not exclusively because it is in such a beer-shithole that it has to keep the big boys on tap in order to pay the bills. Regardless, of the 80 craft taps required to complete said club, the cheapest ones are $5 a pint. Some range up to as high as $9-10 a serving, with higher ABV beers being served in 10-12 ounce chalices, tulips, etc. (They don’t even determine that properly, either…I could rip the shit out of this place on a dozen different things without breaking a sweat, really). So, for argument’s sake, let’s make the math easy and say all 80 beers are $5 a piece, putting completion of the challenge at a nice and easy $400 (not including taxes and tips). Are you telling me that the $400+ you make off of the completion of a single member of this club isn’t enough to swing a t-shirt and a mug, which maybe set you back a couple of bucks when ordered in bulk? And I understand fully that nobody ever orders food when tipping back some heavy brews, so there is bound to be no food income from any of these members, either, right? Yeah, charge that $10 up front…keep that revenue cranking! Dick.
At this point, you may no longer think I was over reacting with the initial “fuck yourselves,” but now might be saying “Well, it makes sense to charge $10 up front since you are getting the mug and t-shirt right away. I mean, what’s to keep someone from signing up to get this wonderful swag and then never complete the list?” A valid point, I would say. A very valid point, and, bear with me now, because the solution to this is a little tough to follow: give the t-shirt and mug at the halfway point. HOLY SHIT! I know, I know, mind-blowing. No, I never got a degree in business OR marketing…came up with that one el solo. From experience, all the Pike swag came at the end, and the Grill Next Door worked on a 3 tier system, where the first “trip around the block” was 36 beers, and after the first round you get a t-shirt; second trip is the mug; third trip is the plaque and a presentation evening at the bar. See, very easy ways to lure the wonderful beer drinking crowd into your establishment and your club, all while promoting your business with the rewards of “free” swag and nurturing your customers to want to complete this epic quest.
Beer clubs are great, and they do help develop camaraderie amongst your customers, as well as spread the good word that is beer. However, asking for upfront money on an endeavor that is going to ultimately cost your customers upwards of $400 is just a dick move. This particular place definitely has bigger issues to iron out, but this one just happened to rub me the wrong way during that particular visit. It’s an easy fix; and, hopefully I was able to paint a picture of how much fun it was to participate in the other two clubs. I don’t ever want to force ideas on to people, but if you are looking into a beer club at your local watering hole and there is an upfront fee, don’t feel obligated. Just because you have a date to the prom doesn’t mean you’re getting laid. Drink educated my friends!