Thursday, July 10, 2008

How not to run a bar (3)

When is a 'Happy Hour' not a 'Happy Hour'?

When it's at f@*%ing Rickshaw, it would seem.

I mentioned briefly in my 'What makes a GREAT bar?' post that 'Happy Hours' in Beijing were generally somewhat unsatisfactory, since many of them prefer a two-for-one model rather than simply giving you drinks half-price. This is unnecessarily cumbersome, and puts (possibly unwelcome) pressure on you to consume another drink. It might just work in a country with a developed service culture, but here in China most of the time you simply can't rely on the staff to accurately record how many drinks you've had. 'Happy Hour' means HALF PRICE, people. Everybody knows that.

Oooh, I feel a rant coming on.

Amongst the things that annoy me about some of the alleged 'Happy Hours' here in Beijing:

Having too many exceptions. And not advertising them!

'Happy Hour' should be across the board. That's not a difficult concept. And bar owners apply similar (HUGE) mark-ups to all their products, so it's not like they'd be losing money on anything by selling it at half-price for a couple of hours. (And even if they were - ever hear of a 'loss leader'??)

If you must have exceptions - on your imported beers or more expensive cocktails - LIST them. Prominently.

Rounding up.

I quite understand not wanting to mess around with piddly 5 mao notes - but, really, is it going to kill you to round down? Isn't the whole ethos of 'Happy Hour' supposed to be that, for once, the customer wins?

Rounding up - to the nearest 5 kuai.

Having to pay 13 kuai rather than 12 for a drink that's usually 25 renders me only very slightly less 'happy'. Having to pay 15 kuai really bursts the bubble!

Not following the almost-universal '50% off' rule at all.

Quite a lot of Beijing bars these days seem to be following a 25% or 30% guideline instead. Penny-pinching sons-of-bitches!!

And not advertising this!

The last time I went to the execrable Paddy O'Shea's, it was quite impossible to divine what the basis of their 'Happy Hour' pricing was. They're not the only offender, by any means. Just the only one I can think of right now.

Not having your 'Happy Hour' at a sensible time.

The vile Paddy O'Shea's is again the most conspicuous offender: it starts its 'Happy Hour' at 3pm, but then ends it at 7pm - just when it ought to be starting. That's apt to make the after-work crowd a lot less 'happy'.

Not advertising your 'Happy Hour' time.

In a well-established bar, it seems, you're often just expected to know.

This annoys me time and time again.

Even my favourite local, Room 101, was guilty of this earlier in the year, when they abruptly discontinued their very popular midnight 'Happy Hour' (and moved forward their night-owl 4am-5am 'Happy Hour' by an hour) without doing anything to advertise the fact.

But, ah yes, the top prize for an irksomely non-happy 'Happy Hour' deal has now been claimed by those reliable foot-shooters over at Rickshaw. I'm sure that until recently, their Stella (usually a fairly reasonable 35 kuai for a half-litre glass) has been only 20 kuai on 'Happy Hour' (annoying rounding-up, but not the end of the world). Maybe 25 kuai (annoyingly non-standard reduction, but we learn to live with it). Today, I was charged 30 kuai. Yes, that's a poxy 5 kuai discount. Really - WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT?? I would rather pay full price. Honestly.

Just take the Stella off your 'Happy Hour', boys. A 5 kuai discount is just a goddamn irritation.

(I had, of course, sworn off The Rickshaw altogether, after this incident last summer. But this year I have been giving it a second chance, and it has been greatly improved of late, particularly in the service [although I still dislike much of its clientele - far too many of the raucous young Americans we refer to as 'frat boys']. This bonkers pricing policy on the Stella may be just the excuse I need to boycott the place again for another 6 months.)

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