Following on from my last post about CAMRA, I want to pick up on another thread which surfaced on the CAMRA unofficial Facebook page. This time it focuses on the alleged sense of "entitlement" felt by some CAMRA members in respect of discounts on the price of a pint.
Now I know there are pubs up and down the country which offer a price reduction to card-carrying CAMRA members. I don't know of any pubs in our local branch area which do this, but the practice does seem quite prevalent in several neighbouring branches. One even goes so far as to list these pubs in their branch magazine.
Wetherspoon's vouchers aside, I don't think I've ever received a discounted pint in over 40 years of CAMRA membership, and I've certainly never asked for one. And whilst I accept that every little helps, as the proverbial lady who p*ss*d in the sea said, a 10% reduction is small beer or, to continue the above metaphor, a mere drop on the ocean!
A slightly cheaper pint, might be nice, but it's not what I joined CAMRA for; anymore that I signed up for the Spoons vouchers. (Incidentally, I rarely use all mine and often forget to carry them around with me, because of the space they take up in my wallet).
So how does this square then with the assertion of "CAMRA members demanding a discount", as raised on the CAMRA unofficial Facebook page? The simple answer is I don't know, as this is an area I have very little experience of. Besides, the person who raised the subject was taking the matter a whole stage further by complaining about what he/she saw as a sense of "entitlement" amongst certain members of the Campaign for Real Ale.
Before we go any further, the above story is little more than another stick to beat CAMRA around the head with. I have heard the old chestnut, about a group of archetypal CAMRA members (faded brewery T-shirts, unkempt-beards, beer bellies plus socks & sandals), descending on a pub and demanding, rather too assertively, discounted beer, purely on the strength of their CAMRA membership. This tale has certainly grown in the telling, and has now become something of an urban myth. It may have happened on the odd occasion, but it is trotted out, rather too frequently by those with an axe to grind against CAMRA.
So back to the real world, where it is true that some licensees do indeed offer discounts to CAMRA members. Why do they do this? Do they feel obliged to? Do they think they ought to? Are they trying to compete with Spoons? Is offering a discount off-set by increased beer sales? And at what level does this practice become untenable?
Personally I would rather see pubs offering "loyalty card schemes" to all their customers, as quite a few do in the West Kent area. These schemes normally involve getting a card stamped with every pint you buy, and then getting the 10th one free. This treats all real ale drinkers in the pub equally, and must surely guarantee a return trade in a way that confining discounts to CAMRA members only, cannot.
Just as I moved to post this article, news reached me about a motion which was passed at CAMRA’s National AGM and Member’s Weekend, which has just finished in Coventry. The gist of the motion was CAMRA should not be demanding discounts, and the coverage written by “What’s Brewing” editor, Tom Stainer is worth reproducing, as it basically sums up much of what I have been saying.
The spokesman added: “Not only is this culture eroding the margins that can be earned but it threatens the stability of the supply chain and counters the aims of this organisation. It also creates a negative feeling about CAMRA.”
There were no speakers against the motion, which was clearly carried.
So some good news there, and plenty of other developments coming out of the AGM. Most, but not all, of these concern the much vaunted “Revitalisation Project”, and I expect a number of bloggers are already tapping away on their computer keyboards. Watch this space, and others for further details.