Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How not to do it - promotions

Red House (II), the disastrously uncharismatic new dive bar near Dongzhimen (the one thing a dive bar should have is 'character'!) that I visited briefly last week (for five minutes too long), is compounding the folly of its so-cheap-you-don't-trust-it 5-kuai beer promotion with an INSANE 'happy hour' offer.

It's all-you-can drink for 20 kuai (which leads you into the so-cheap-it's-effectively-FREE territory that I castigated here). But it's only for two hours, those hours being 10pm-12am. And it's only one day a week, that day being Friday. And it's only on that we-virtually-GIVE-IT-AWAY-anyway draught lager that's too skanky to drink. So, really, what is the goddamned POINT?

I am sure it will draw some interest from the city's most determined budget drinkers. I am equally sure that they will only visit during the period of that offer, and will not be sufficiently favourably impressed with the place to think of becoming regular customers. Thus, it is a complete waste of time.

My own beloved 12 Square Metres isn't entirely blameless in this regard, though. I have often carped that their 'happy hour' - featuring a modest reduction on only two items, house wine and draught beer - is not really very happy at all. We can blame the original laoban JK for that: he didn't really approve of the 'happy hour' concept (although he did like indulging his creativity by coming up with bizarre combination offers that no-one [except me] was ever likely to order) and, I think, only introduced one under sufferance - in order not to lose my custom. But the newbies MK and LJ haven't yet seen the wisdom of trying to make the 'hour' a little happier

Moreover, while they have shown commendable innovation in coming up with new ideas for events and drinks deals, they haven't always been very effective in advertising them (the website is great, but nobody except me looks at it; you really need to start using Twitter and Weibo, my friends), or consistent about the details. The Australia Day promotion on the Coopers Ales, an established all-day tradition under Aussie JK, was touted as following the same formula this year - but we found ourselves ambushed with a (bizarre, pointless, and scarcely advertised) "only after 8pm" proviso (by which time most people were getting ready to leave anyway, having been on the lash all afternoon). The recent every-fourth-drink-FREE deal on Leap Day was again purportedly restricted (according to an inconspicuous note on the website that nobody but me saw) to after 8pm; but, thank heavens, they saw the error of their ways and in fact offered it all day.

It is NOT a good idea to restrict special offers to a very limited number of hours (or other narrow limitations). And, if you do, you really have to advertise those restrictions prominently and consistently.

Terra's new rum bar, I have just remembered, is offering 'happy hour' prices (or two-for-one, or something) all evening on Thursday for teachers. Well, that's nice. I mean, I resent being reminded of my lowly status and puny income, but I'll take whatever compensatory 'privileges' may be going. But how are we supposed to claim this bounty? Students have a student ID card (at least, if they're enrolled in a university programme). There is no equivalent for teachers. If you teach in a university or a state school, you might have a 'Foreign Expert' card. Are we supposed to bring that with us? Tough luck for many folks working for the smaller private schools, who are left to sort themselves out with a 'business visa' and don't enjoy the benefit of 'expert' status. I suppose it's going to have to work on trust. "Do I not look like a teacher? Let me teach you something..."

I think the all-time winner in this category of ineptitude, though, might well be Tun. The last time I looked in there (it must have been two or more years ago, since Dr Manhattan was with me), a blackboard outside was advertising a selection of daily specials that were: a) mind-buggeringly complex; b) unclearly explained; c) off-puttingly expensive; and d) of rather dubious 'value'.

Alas, I can't remember any of the details now. I wish I'd taken notes. Or a photograph.

Tun eventually went out of business. That is why.

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