Sunday, 22 April 2018

A sense of entitlement?


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.

Members clearly supported a motion stating a belief that pubs and breweries should not be expected to give discounts, and criticised when they failed to do so – but recognised the freedom of pubs and breweries to offer discounts if they wished.

The Conference was told by a former chairman of the Small Independent Brewers Association (SIBA), that there was increasing financial pressure on publicans and brewers and that it seemed perverse that some members of CAMRA insisted on demanding a discount.

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.

19 comments:

RedNev said...

Pub discounts for CAMRA members pre-date the JDW vouchers, and indeed some Spoons pubs used to offer CAMRA discounts. These were all stopped - presumably by orders from HQ - when Spoons vouchers began to be issued. I suspect the vouchers were issued to limit the total discount individuals can hope to receive during the year, seeing that a regular boozer could run up considerably more than £20 in CAMRA discounts during a year.

I see no harm in politely asking whether a discount is payable. It's not something I've done, unless there's there's a sign, or if they offer one. I believe the entitlement argument is exaggerated, although there are selfish individuals in any group of people you care to examine (like Cabinet ministers who forget they own seven flats, to choose a completely random example).

I know two pubs around here that have loyalty schemes along the lines you describe; it used to be three, but one stopped. One of the two offers the choice of loyalty card or CAMRA discount. With the margins on cask beer being fairly tight, anyone who feels entitled to a discount is being unreasonable. After all, I belong to a motoring organisation but I don't expect that to earn me a discount on my fuel.

Curmudgeon said...

I was once spontaneously offered a discount "because I looked like a CAMRA member", even though I didn't have my card with me. And it was a cloudy pint that I had to take back!

Perhaps it would help if local amagazines stopped promoting which pubs offer CAMRA discounts.

Sid Differential said...

72% vote fell just sort of the required 75% at the weekend AGM.
Surely this means there has to be a second vote because people didn't know exactly what they were voting for ....😂

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

"Entitlement" is a much-abused word these days, alas. Some people, in banking and the like (generally from certain schools), seem to think that they are "entitled" to two hundred times the average wage, but we hear few complaints about that in the media. No, most of the venom is apparently reserved for those at the other end, who might like to be able to afford a pint once a fortnight.

My local operated a loyalty voucher scheme for a while, but to those not hard up it was a bit of a chore. On the other hand, that perhaps assisted with its targeting?

I'd say that most CAMRA members would not depend on a discount to enjoy a snifter, and writing as a non-member, I have found the discount idea (only) faintly irritating on that basis.

Syd, the super majority idea is just basic good sense for any major change. Yes, those who want that change or any reversal can go on campaigning too.

Martin Taylor said...

Good post, interesting topic.

I've certainly heard a number of CAMRA members enquiring about discounts on my travels, and spoke to at least one landlord (in Liverpool) who'd fallen out with CAMRA over discounts. His beer cost £2.50 a pint.

There is a sense, reading CAMRA magazines, that you only get a mention if you offer discounts/put on extra beers/run a festival.

Paul Bailey said...

Discounts for CAMRA members, or anyone else for that matter, are fine, as long as the pub/business concerned can afford them. They should not be granted with the expectation of any return favours on the part of the recipient ie. in the case of CAMRA fast-track entry, or even a permanent placing in the Good Beer Guide.

The same applies to the expectation of rewards, such as Pub of the Year plus, as Mudge has pointed out, listing pubs where discounts are available, in local branch magazines. That last point is particularly apt, as it puts pressure on other pubs to follow suit.

I think we are all agreed that whilst discounts are obviously appreciated, they should not be thought of as some sort of inalienable right. In my view CAMRA have acted correctly in instructing members, and branches, not to expect such favours, and not to criticise businesses who, for whatever reason, are unable to comply.

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Just a pedantic point, Paul (with apologies to Russ!)

The word "inalienable" relates to that which cannot be alienated, either by the will of the beneficiary or otherwise. It doesn't signify that of which the beneficiary cannot be deprived.

In feudal times, title to land could often not be sold, but only bequeathed. However, its tenure might be revoked by a superior lord under some circumstances, despite its otherwise inalienability.

Cheers,

E

Russtovich said...

"Personally I would rather see pubs offering "loyalty card schemes" to all their customers"

I agree. Local trade is more important than 'tourists' as it were. That's your bread and butter.

Heck, my wife does that on her lunch truck. Every so often those who purchase on a regular basis will get a free drink or chocolate bar or some such thrown in.

Of course maybe some pubs feel they need to offer the CAMRA discount in order to stay (or get) in the Guide?



Cheers

PS - "So how does his square then"

This, not his.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

My only observation is that someone who is concerned about whether a pint comes with a 50p discount or not is probably not a person I'd want as a customer in my pub.
Never ever let the tail wag the dog was a valuable piece of advice one brewery rep gave me
when I first started out in the pub game years ago.
That and never let the TV remote go over the counter to the punter.






Kieran Lyons said...

Discounting to anybody is not good business sense in the pub and restaurant trade. Once you've done discounted you've mugged yourself and it's hard to go back.

Also, if the bloke standing next to you at the bar is paying less than you because he's a student/camra member/nhs worker etc, how does that make you feel about the pub?

We get camra members asking for discount a lot, but they are mostly always polite, sometimes sheepish and often embarrassed about it. Of course we've had one or two be confused as they 'thought it was a camra pub' and others who've been quite terse when i've tried to explain, but I agree that the entitlement thing is an exaggeration.

That Viz strip is pure gold though.

Paul Bailey said...

Russ, typo duly corrected. Ethelred, what word would you have used in place of “inalienable,” bearing in mind the definition you quote?

Professor and Kieran, your points about discounts not being good business sense in the pub trade, back up what I was trying to put across. Definitely the start of a slippery slope, and also divisive when given to certain groups (CAMRA members?), but not others.

If you ARE thinking of doing it, loyalty cards are a much better idea, as they are inclusive, encourage return visits and may tempt people to have one or two extra beers – but don’t say that in front of the temperance people!

Curmudgeon said...

The idea that there are specific "CAMRA pubs" does seem to be very pervasive.

At the end of the day, giving CAMRA discounts is basically a means of currying favour in the hope that it will bring greater recognition.

Stono said...

the discounting thing is quite difficult to debate because its not something thats universally the same everywhere, so everyones experience can be vastly different. Theres only one pub in my branch area that has ever offered a CAMRA discount in about 20-25 years,and even then they may have already stopped doing it after trying it for a few months. So theres never been a sense of entitlement because discounting is just something that doesnt happen here, you pay the same amount everyone else does and why would it be any different, several pubs do loyalty schemes instead, but Im not convinced they work.

whereas you visit Nottingham for instance,and do read their branch newsletter to get a feeling for the scale of this,theres a page devoted to the whole list of pubs offering discounts. There are appox 40 pubs in Nottingham city centre alone that offer CAMRA discounts,and all Castle Rock pubs do take and accept the CAMRA Wetherspoons vouchers, and you dont even have to ask, nearly every time Ive ever been in a pub in Nottingham the bar staff will have said "are you a CAMRA member?" and I dont think Im that stereotypically CAMRA :)

Now lots of those pubs also do NUS student discounts, and NHS id card discounts too as theres a big nursing college in Notts, so its not necessarily special CAMRA privileges in play,and Im sure those pubs see all the discount schemes they run as a way of drawing in custom,promoting their business in no different a way than say spending £500 on a one page ad in another branch magazine,or whatever, they are closest to their numbers and must understand what its positive/negativeness is for them

but if you as a CAMRA member go from that kind of environment where its in effect being a member always equals some discount, into another branch area thats at the other extreme, why wouldnt the first thing you ask be "is there a CAMRA discount here?"

thats not really entitlement, thats just CAMRA branches are different beasts and not everything is equal

Anonymous said...

Re:Stono. Nottingham is the branch I always highlight as being discount obsessed to an extend that does suggest entitlement. The details of pub visits always quote prices as well for every half consumed during the month. It does feel that offering discount gets you free adverts in the magazine. Why should I get a cheaper pint than the regular ?

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Yes, well I did say that I was being pedantic Paul!

The word, as defined by modern usage, means pretty well what you intended it to mean, and that's what seems to matter these days.

However, if I put my legalistic hat on again, then perhaps "invincible" or indefeasible" would be closer to what we think some CAMRA members might like it to be?

In any event, don't worry. I'm not going to make a habit of this. Mrs. E and I had just come back from doing a particularly knotty Guardian cryptic crossword at the pub, and I must have still been in a semantically-picky, wordy frame-of-mind.

Now, Mudgie old chap.

You get people labelling pubs as lawyers' pubs, hacks' pubs, LGBT-bacon-lettuce-and-tomato pubs, and even as Ukip pubs, so they'll probably invent CAMRA ones by the same folklore, wouldn't you say?

Barry Stanton said...

"Mrs. E and I had just come back from doing a particularly knotty Guardian cryptic crossword at the pub"

Jeez, there are some sad fuckers around!

I go to the pub to get away from Guardian readers.

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

There's no problem for you then Barry. There are plenty of pubs full of ignorant halfwits around. You're welcome to them. Where we live, most of our local's customers are amiable, educated, and prosperous, which tends to exclude Daily Mail and Express readers at least, though you do see the odd Telegraph and the Times (hawk, spit).

Whatever, there's not a pitchfork in sight.

Cheers,

E

Stanley Blenkinsop said...

I tend not to judge a person on the newspaper they read as it can often prove to be wrong.
But as everyone who read's Paul's excellent blog must have an interest in pubs and good beer I say we probably have more in common than not.
Perhaps we should sometimes remember on here that good manners and polite conversation are what really marks out decent people.

Paul Bailey said...

Thank-you Stanley. Yes, let's try and keep things civil and on topic.

Going back to discounts, Stono's point about the variations between CAMRA branches, and the situation in Nottingham, and Martin's observation, are particularly valid. However, a city with a large student population (including trainee nurses), is completely different to this quiet corner of rural Kent. There just aren't the numbers of young people around here,to make it viable to entice them into pubs by means of discounts or theme nights.(Thank heaven, some might say!)

I might find out later in the year, as my youngest sister has recently moved close to Nottingham; a fine city if I remember, even though it's many years since my last visit.