Why Short Measures Are Not Small Beer


  • Author Paul Lewis
  • Published May 13, 2012
  • Word count 540

Here’s a hypothetical scenario for you. You’re wandering along the high street when you realise you need some money. There’s a typical high street bank with a free cash point, so you stick in your card and ask for a tenner. The machine spits out only £9.50. But the statement says you’ve withdrawn £10. What would you do? Walk away and lose 50p, or ask the bank to give you what you’ve rightfully asked for?

The point of this small flight of fantasy is not to have a dig at high street banks (yes, they deserve it, but I expect there will be plenty of ammunition appearing elsewhere on the Complaints Factory site) but instead to draw a somewhat laboured analogy to an equally shady practice that can be seen at a pub, club or restaurant near you every day: the short measure.

How often have you been to a busy bar where you’ve been served a ‘pint’ of draught beer or lager, and before it has settled properly in the glass the bar person has moved on to serve someone else? They’ve gone, and you’re left with a drink that is three-quarters alcohol and one quarter worthless foam.

As with the hypothetical bank, you’ve paid the full price but haven’t received the full value. "So what?" you ask. It’s only small portion of a pint. Hardly worth making a fuss about, is it? In fact, not making a fuss about short drinks measures costs British Consumers an incredible £481 million per year.

Research conducted in 2008 suggested that one in every four pints of beer or lager is 5% or more short of a full measure. That licensed establishments continue to get away with this practice on a daily basis is nothing short of criminal; how many other businesses that you use would you allow to provide you regularly with 95% or less of something for which you’ve paid to receive the full amount?

But of course, it’s not the British way to make a fuss; we don’t want to upset the very people who are – whether intentionally or unintentionally - ripping us off.

It’s time to rally the flag and make a stand for the great British pint. At a time when UK pubs are under fire, with an average of 36 closing every week, this is not a sensible time for them to be losing customers by building a reputation for selling short measures.

The best pubs and pub companies already operate a policy which states that they will be glad to top-up your drink if you feel that you’ve received a short measure, but this rule should apply to all UK pubs, clubs and bars. Nowadays, drinks aren’t cheap and as the paying customer you have every right to ask for a full measure.

You aren’t being a nuisance; you’re asserting your rights as a consumer. Any establishment that doesn’t share this view just isn’t worth your custom. And of course, it’s not just licenced premises that play the short measures game. Don’t get me started on the number of cappuccinos I’ve bought that turned out to be 90% froth…!

Paul Lewis writes for and manages the UK consumer advice and review site, http://www.complaintsfactory.co.uk. Paul has 30 years senior management experience working in customer facing roles in the private and the public sector.

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