Sunday, January 05, 2014

Don't like it? Simply take it back.

So, imagine:  You're in, I dunno, a nice burger spot, you see other diners order at the counter.  Up you trot, queue briefly and examine the choices.

"What's the 'Chilli Superior Burger' like?", you ask the counter operative.
Comes back the reply, "It's a Habanero infused patty with fresh Jalapeño topping and it's really rather spicy."  
"OK", you say, "I'll have one of those, cheers."

Off to your little table with your purchase.  It certainly does smell spicy, but you quite like some spicy food.
You take a bite, but - oh my, this is terribly spicy (although you notice the chap who was ahead of you in the queue eating his with every sign of enjoyment).  You leap to your feet and march back to the counter, indignant:

"I bought this burger and I don't like it. Can a have a regular cheeseburger, please?"
The operative looks at you strangely, "But you've had a bite out of it!"
"Yes, please throw it away and give me something different, please. I'm somehow entitled."

The operative says:
[choose one]
(a) "Certainly."
(b) "You're having a laugh, aren't you?"
(c) "Security!"


John Clarke said...

Ah, but if it's beer and you're a beer blogger* different rules apply. Don't they?

Or to put it another way - they don't.

* many honourable cases excepted

StringersBeer said...

I suppose the difference has got something to do with how far one believes that we're buying a service rather than a product. As a brewer, I've got rather a product-oriented view of these transactions. I suppose the hospitality professional might veer towards service, i.e. that they've been paid to provide the drinking experience at least as much as the drink.

David said...

If I order a beer, am warned it's deliberately sour (say) and then subsequently take it back because it's sour then I'm having a laugh. If on the other hand I wasn't warned it's sour (or whatever unusual flavour you wouldn't ordinarily expect in a real ale) then I would expect it to be changed.

This happened to me the other day. A pint tasted distinctly 'gone off'. When I took it back the bar man said it was deliberately sour. He should have warned me when I ordered it. He even admitted I wasn't the first to complain!

Unknown said...

A curious one. In hospitality there sure is a case for no quibble returns. OK, in such a transaction where the product is not in a fit state to resell, the vendor has lost money in such as case. The margins in most places are not enough to pay for both lots of product and still be in profit. The customer has had a negative impact on the finical of the day.

However, if a replacement is refused the customer may well walk out in disgust and tell many other people how badly he was treated, with some exaggeration and omission, just to make sure no one else might suspect the customer was responsible for any sort of misunderstanding.

The policy of any individual business has to weigh up the risks associated pissing off justifiably upset people with the risk of frankly being screwed over by professional complainers.

Now, I'm curious as to why Stringers is asking the question. As a brewer there are occasions when an outlet claims a cask is no good. This cask has cost quite a lot of money, the margins are tight and it hurts to have to replace without any questions.

Mostly I'm sure outlets are completely honest, and we just have to swap out. However, I have a suspicion that some do operate in a dishonest way. When an outlet says it's not right, we say, OK then, bung it and we'll pick it up so we can check, and it comes back very nearly empty, what is one to think?

StringersBeer said...

For sure, David. In our little thought experiment above, we sought, and were given, reasonably adequate information to make a rational purchasing decision when faced with an offer which we weren't familiar with. (I don't just throw this shit together)

If the product's out of the normal run then the seller has (I'd say) a responsibility to draw that to our attention. If we don't recognise a product, we would do well to ask about it.

We can't complain about "informational asymmetry" if we haven't tried to find out.

StringersBeer said...

As it happens Dave, we haven't had any returns for ages. So we're either not selling enough beer, or we're getting it right much more often than not.

In the past we've had casks back "failed to clear", where judging by the small volume of ullage it wasn't because the customer hasn't tried. Know what I mean.

We even had a stout back on those grounds once. And you know how opaque our stout is.

We do in fact operate a "no quibble" policy. But we also have a "shit-list" for anyone we suspect of taking the piss. I suspect many retail outlets might do the same thing.

The piece was prompted by Boak&Baileys recent posts and the cheeky f*ckers commenting thereon.

Yvan Seth said...

Jon, I can't find where in the thread on B&B's post someone suggests they ought to be able to have a beer replaced simply because they don't like it... the comments seem to promote quite the opposite point of view in fact. (I checked out of paranoia in case I had responded with something that could be interpreted as such, but I don't think so.)

StringersBeer said...

Yvan, there was stuff like this is B&Bs Abor Ales piece:
"Bar staff
January 4, 2014 at 15:15

I would like it to be noted that, if you aren’t enjoying your pint or think there is something wrong with it, it is customary to mention this to the bar staff at the time, so that they can rectify the issues, rather than writing a blog about it after the fact when nothing can be done about it."


January 4, 2014 at 16:46

Regardless of anything else, it’s pretty pathetic that you didn’t air your grievances with the bar staff. This is beer blogging at its worst."

And of course B&B write in their "Principles for Reviewing...":

"we have had some feedback suggesting a fifth rule is required: If a beer is bad in a pub or bar, even if it’s not ‘off’, take it back to the bar and give the staff chance to explain why."

Yes, I'm sure retailers would love always to be given a second chance, but if they're not going to take the neccessary steps to avoid disappointing people (tasters / tasting notes / talking to customers - as in my hypothetical burger bar) then (in my book) they don't get one.

Equally, if customers insist on making impulse purchases without doing their research (i.e. asking "what's this like?") then I'm at a loss to understand why the retailer should absorb the cost of buyers remorse (or pass it on to other customers, more likely).

As a bit of special pleading - producers are in a somewhat different position: We send our product out in sealed containers, it's not possible for us to check each one, mistakes do get made, and so the no-quibble approach is probably sensible. The bar, on the other hand, has ample opportunities for checking the product before foisting it on the customer.

StringersBeer said...

"necessary", of course. Bugger.

StringersBeer said...

... but on the main question posed by B&B: "Should you be able to take a pint back if it's less interesting than promised? Or because it's based on a weird idea that just doesn't work?

No. Tough. Put it down to experience. Blog about it if you want.

Yvan Seth said...

I just didn't see a particular thread of that sort of thinking on the B&B piece. As I said, overall it is quite the opposite. There are a few... odd comments. (The "pretty pathetic" chap is, I think, taking it that B&B thought there was something actually wrong with the beer - which they clearly state wasn't their opinion. This sort of backlash to the Arbor piece, by folk who I think didn't actually understand it, is what prompted the "rules" post.)

Personally I think friendly discussion/communication with the staff *is* worthwhile. I like talking to people about beer... and I hope a bit of feedback helps the pub a bit. Takes a bit of judgement... are they a bit busy? Do they look like they're up for a chat? Do they look like they give a toss? :)

Expecting to have a beer *replaced* just because it isn't your thing is, in most situations, ludicrous - let alone demanding it be replaced. "You're barred!" - is, I think, a reasonable response ;) That said, if a bar gives you a pint of -say- intentionally-sour cask beer without warning then I think it swings in favour of the punter. I think most bars that would serve such a beer are more switched-on than that though and should such incidents happen it'd be an momentary oversight... sorry about that... let me replace that for you. At the end of the day most normal customers have a pretty specific set of of expectations for what is likely to come out of a cask/handpump.

It's all a bit complicated really... no surprised experiences & opinions vary so much. And that's not even taking into account relations at the brewery side. I expect most breweries would prefer not to have their beer mis-sold, or sold in bad condition.

Birkonian said...

The 'deliberately sour' defence is a bit of a red herring. Most complaints are about standard brown beers/golden ales where the punter has a fair idea if the beer is 'off' (to cover a multitude of sins). That is where the 'it's meant to taste like that' or 'no one else has complained' reply annoys. Having said that the brewers should take care when brewing beers with unusual flavours or lack of clarity that if they accept sales from the more mainstream pubs then there is a corresponding increase in the chance that the customers will find fault with those beers. Not everyone lives in the London(Ulverston?)bubble.

StringersBeer said...

Birkonian, you rarely get to see a sour or "murky" beer round here. Not since Hartleys shut anyway.