Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Doing us by halves

Some pubs add a surcharge to the price of half a pint of beer. CAMRA has shown that one in ten of pubs surveyed by them were charging an additional 50p, and the worst example they came across was 82.5p. The licensees concerned explain that wages, serving costs, clearing up and washing glasses are all the same for a half as for a pint. One licensee argued that, "Cigarettes are more expensive per unit when purchased in smaller quantities. Why should beer be any different?” Cigarettes are pre-packaged; draught and keg beer isn't, so the comparison should be with other commodities that aren't pre-packed.

Meat, fruit, cheese, vegetables and sweets are among many foodstuffs that can be bought loose, by which I mean not pre-packaged. When a small quantity of such goods is requested, we are not charged more pro rata, even though it takes the same time to serve it compared to a larger amount, the wrapping won't be much different, and both staff wages and the cost of cleaning the shop will be the same.

My local rounds up to the nearest penny, and I'd say that rounding up to the nearest 5p is reasonable. The industry is anxious to be seen to be promoting 'responsible drinking', but surcharging for halves contradicts that aim as it discourages people from choosing the smaller measure. In addition, where there is a choice of different real ales, some drinkers like to try several, and may do so by buying halves. If they have eight halves in a pub with a 50p surcharge per half, they will pay an extra £4 compared to their mates who drank four pints.

I don't hold out much hope for the success of CAMRA's campaign on this issue, but they are right to highlight it. Pub prices are a sensitive issue anyway, and if people start to baulk at paying them, the winners will be Wetherspoons and the supermarkets. Customers have many more options nowadays than they used to, and will exercise them if they feel they are being ripped off. Any pub that insists on adding a surcharge to the price of a half should - at the very least - make it clear on price lists that are both accessible and easily visible. Many do not.


  1. Evil capitalists again I reckon. Sooner we get Corbyns utopia the better.

    Out of interest, where to CAMRA stand on the pro rata pricing of glasses of wine? should a small 125ml be half that of a large 250ml? And what about the medium 175ml?

    What about spirits? Doubles bars often allow you to double it for a quid. That and a measure can either be 25ml or 35ml depending on gaff?

    Or is it a case that beer is special because middle class people in millets clobber and beards formed a club about it in the 70's?

  2. People don't tend to have pub sessions on wine or spirits, or mix and match different measures, so the differential isn't so obvious.

    I blogged about this here, and it's worth repeating stono's comment:

    "You should IMO never have to charge a visible overhead for a half pint it makes customers generally feel ripped off, and pubs certainly dont consider offering discounts for reusing the same glasses to fill another beer with, so totally agree its a basic fallacy and the excuses dont wash.

    "What you should be doing IMO is calculating the price point at which you sell a pint so that you cover all your costs even those of the half pint, and the price of a half will be exactly half the cost of that pint."

    The overheads argument doesn't really stand up, and frankly it's difficult to see it is anything other than an excuse for licensees to be arsey.

    Incidentally, Nev, it would surely be rather difficult for your local not to round up to the nearest penny ;-)

  3. I'm pleased, Cooking Lager, that you keep on pushing the cause of Corbyn on my blog; I accept you worship him, but he is not the leader of the party I belong to.

    Why should CAMRA have a policy on the pricing of wine or spirits? Any more than a policy on the pricing of cigarettes, bacon or petrol? Campaign for Real Ale, remember.

    Mischievous final sentence, Curmudgeon!


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