Part two of my annoying pub practices series - find part one here
I would like to say that this was a one off occurrence, but the reality is that this happened many, many times in a variety of stores. To some degree I’m thankful that the electronic tag was invented finally putting an end to this. Now a store can display only what is available meaning the customer has a clear indication if it’s available and staff no longer have to waste their time fruitlessly looking through a stockpile of poorly organized disks/videos.
“What has this got to do with beer?” I hear you ask; well this annoying practice appears to have recently resurfaced, but this time in the pub industry. Pump clip after pump clip pointed forward looking as nice and neat as a row of soldiers, but under their shadow lies the horrible secret awaiting the unlucky, commonly called the “I’m sorry sir, but that beer is not available” effect.
Even after informing you that the beer you have spent time choosing is not really available there is no attempt to prevent this from happening to other customers. This is worrying as it’s not like there aren’t well establish means to clearly declare a beer as being unavailable without removing the pump clip, for instance the glass over the handle, or a sign stating “Sorry this was too popular!”. By leaving the pump clip forward they simply wait to attract further customers with promise of a beer that isn’t or possibly has never been available.
By now I am sure that some of you will be saying “So what if that beer is not available. What’s the problem? Just order something else!” and those who do really miss the point. Any pub more interested in their bars presentation, than in their customer’s experience has something horribly, horribly wrong.
The fact that any pub practicing this act is comfortable misleading you should make us question just what else they are comfortable doing. Maybe their beer is out of date, maybe they don’t properly clean the glasses or maybe that food you ordered was cooked yesterday. While I am not saying that these practices actually happen it does make me question just where else a pub adopting this practice would be prepared to cut corners.
And nowhere have I experienced this more than in the local JD Weatherspoon pubs.
Although I have attempted to investigate why this is the case by talking to staff and managers across a selection of their pubs, the finger of blame come down on either the Regional Manager or an edict by head of the chain Tim Martin. I am lead to believe that they are only interested in how the bar is presented with all pump clips pointed forward, than in actually displaying what is available. This means that if a beer runs out, until it’s finally changed the pump clip stays forward, tempting more unwary customers into its colorful laminated trap.
What incentive is there for us to stay after being tempting in with specific beer only for the proverbial carrot dangling on the string to be cruelly pulled away at the last minute and replaced with beer available elsewhere? What incentive is there to revisit a place that does this as we have no idea just what is available and only know that a visit may include a side dish of bitter disappointment?
Still advertising the same beer and hearing disappointed customer after disappointed customer fall into the same trap is just frustrating especially as there are far more proactive approaches that any pub could be using. If you really have to show all your hand pumps, consider advertising future beers which are clearly marked coming soon or use special pump clips advertising a social media vote designed to interact with your customers by asking them to help choosing future beers. Both of these positively reinforce just why customers should return.
Let me put this another way. Imagine owning a bed and breakfast that had a “Vacancy” sign in the window. People are likely to call in expect that there are vacancies. Potential customers would leave dejected and would almost certainly leave bad reviews over their experience. At some stage the owner would understand that the time wasted through needlessly interruptions would be reduced by using a “No Vacancy” sign, reducing complaints while increasing productivity and customer satisfaction. Sound familiar?
Disclaimer - Although I have highlighted the JD Weatherspoon’s chain in this post, I have only done so due to the frequency I experience this issue. I have also experienced this in other pub chains and free houses though not to as great an extent. I have tried to present a balanced argument but accept that I do hold bias.