Friday, December 23, 2011

The Geisha or the Springbok?

The Australian beer industry has two main breweries:
One is Japanese, the other
South African.

The Japanese brew Queensland's most popular beer.

This brings new & interesting considerations into their marketing strategies. Eg, the exchange rate of the Japanese Yen to the Australian Dollar, the prevailing financial climate of Japan (tsunami, earthquake, etc), are perhaps more important than the ambient financial climate or market share in Australia.

When the brewery was New Zealand owned, the aforementioned were not considerations.

The shenanigans & quirks of beer buying are complex. Not everybody has the intellectual horsepower to cope with dealing for beer. It takes quite some years to learn & develop the skills. The breweries are experts, & greenhorn publicans, who have made a direct entry to the trade, are lambs to their slaughter. (As opposed to those publicans who have worked in the pub trade, been taught by skilled mentors, & know the ropes).

Any fool can fill in a brewery order form each week for the beer they want. Do this & you'll be uncompetitive, and if you're not already a small timer, you soon will be.

Filling in an order form each week is something you might get away with if your pub is bar trade only. Due to the comparitively low volume & high margin of bar sales, mistakes aren't as critical, nor are there the traps for new players.

In the modern era, breweries are notable for two things:
1/. Using unconscionable blackmail to pressure pubs to sell for low margins, and
2/. Not understanding the logistics & costs of long distance freight. (They think all pubs are located beside the brewery & make only a token - if any - allowance for freight costs or time delays)

This second point reached its nadir in the state of Victoria few years ago when (what is now the South Africans) ran a "brewery fresh" campaign, forcing pubs to hang a sign out the front informing how many days old the tapped kegs were. The South Africans are the only brewery in Victoria. Thus they felt empowered to pull a monopoly stunt like that. They'd never be game to try it in any other state. They'd be handing their market share to the Japanese on a plate.

How many days ago the keg was brewed? Who are they kidding? There is no sane reason for this, they are working purely on the street punters being ignorant of brewing. This must have got some of their bigger customers offside. It would have been nearly the ruination of some of their smaller clients.

I shudder to think how this would have worked in parts of the country where beer is delivered to pubs only eleven times per year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shotgun Wedding

The (heavily undersubscribed & outdated) Australian trade union movement has been bleating somewhat of late about how the workforce is "casualised" & how such workers do not "have certainty" etc.

I can relate to some of that. I don't have certainty. Tomorrow I may be out of business, forced onto the wallaby & having to hump bluey.

On boy, would some certainty be handy around here! But nobody is going to legislate to guarantee me a certain number of patrons each week. I am at the mercy of lots of variable factors. Many of them totally beyond my control.

Under unfair dismissal laws, the cost of removing unproductive/disruptive staff is so great that like many small business employers, I am loathe to hire. I hire no more than I need to, & have eliminated all of the peripheral & small jobs in my business.

This is purely because the less staff on the payroll, the less risk I face under the Fair Work Act.

It is that simple.

In the 1990's short term contracts & labour hire were expanding. Purely because employers were not prepared to expose themselves to the risks of hiring permanent staff. The Fair Work Act will see a return to those circumstances (alternatively your job moves overseas.)

Introduction of (say) a 6-month threshold after which casual/temporary staff will be entitled to a permenant position will lead to 5-month non-renewable contracts for the more marginal workers (NB: just about every job title lower than "executive").

Result: Less permanent jobs than before, and less certainty for most workers.

.... or just change the law so that firing staff is easier than divorcing a spouse.

It is that simple.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Central Control

Bushfire raging pretty much out of control. By now it has burned several hundred thousand acres, and has even rated a (passing) mention on the news.

Only a passing mention, because it is burning hundreds & hundreds of miles from both the capital city of the state, and the coast. It is not even burning within a hundred miles of the nearest town.

It would become a newsworthy bushfire if it met one of the following criteria:
(a) It started burning down the houses of people who are too silly to put in firebreaks & other precautions.
(b) It was a "bit closer" to civilisation so that journalists could cover the story, i.e. handy to commercial accommodation, telephones, etc.
(c) It was fought by uniformed "firefighters" who use a "procedures manual" & come equipped with a spokesman, office, press conferences, fire trucks with fancy paint jobs & flashing lights, etc.
(d) The firefighters were making lots of mistakes, perhaps even managing to burn a couple of "fire trucks" or even a firefighter or two.

Instead the fire was in country where the few inhabitants were wise to fires, and no buildings or civilian lives were so much as threatened, never mind burned.

The fire was being fought by locals, using equipment that was selected for functionality, not for the words "Fire Truck" stencilled on the side.

Those fighting the fire knew how the fire would respond to any given conditions & were not taking risks with their lives. Their command structure was as simple as deferring to the man whose judgement they most respected.

The fire was still burning, & was out of control, nobody was taking it lightly, but they felt that they'd be able to contain it without loss of life or property, & no more than a couple of thousand square miles burned to cinders.

This wasn't good enough for Central Fire Control in the state capital city. They issued command after command, which those on the scene had the good sense to ignore.

Boiling with indignation at being ignored by a bunch of hicks, an expert from Central Fire Control rushed to the scene to take command of the situation. (Well, it took a day for him to arrive.)

Upon arrival the expert displayed an official letter or some sort of trump card that established he was now "in command" of this fire & had the full force of the law behind him.

His first act as Commander was a display of incompetence, hubris, & inexperience. He set out to "inspect" the fire (several hundred thousand acres & still burning, in rough impassable country)

The first thing he did on his "inspection" run was to promptly burn himself to death.

Within an hour of arriving on the scene.

The attention of Central Fire Control was now occupied with the "sad loss" of one of their own, they paid no more attention to the fire, or how it was fought, or anything.

Thus, idiotic diversion nipped in the bud, everybody promptly went back to fighting the fire.

Without any loss of life or property.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Nothing like a fresh new accent (& attitude) around the place.

New bar attendant is fresh from the UK. One of the parts of it that did not have recent riots.

However she states authoritatively that the riots were "justified".

Layabouts smashing their way into shops & looting the contents. Shops built & owned by hardworking individuals, who eke out a living, putting in 12 - 15 hour days, year on end, only to have it smashed & looted by layabouts.

Justified? Never.

What would have been justified was the shopkeepers using shotguns to kill anyone who tried to smash into their shop.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Contractors Terminate Contract

Two security guards, employees of the company that contracts to the Wayside Tavern, walk into the offices of the Liquor Licencing Inspector.

They are there to report their (indirect) employer, the Wayside Tavern.

They report that the Wayside Tavern is routinely packed with "too many" patrons, that the "legal ratio of patrons to security guards is often exceeded (there is no such ratio, legal or otherwise).

The really good part: They state that they are "scared" to go to work, as there are "lots of fights" inside the venue.

The Liquor Licencing Inspector draws back, asks them if their job description really is "Security Guard"? Then advises them to "give the game away" if they are actually scared at having to handle the odd scuffle here & there.

He then pointed out that if they are unable to handle their job, or are unhappy with it, that they should be taking it up with their boss (the head of the security company) rather than with Liquor Licencing.

His actually prefaced his sermon to them with the phrase "How about you fellers grow a pair....?"

Of course these guards & their firm are now former contractors. The Licencing Inspector telephoned to inform of the actions not only of the security guards, but of their boss, who had phoned the same Licencing Inspector to make the same complaint.

On the basis of this phone call, the security company's contract was terminated the same day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And She acts Surprised when it turns out this way?

Let me get this straight:

The state government oversees/encourages a massive blowout in the size of the Qld Health bureacracy.

However, writing letters & filling in more forms & holding more "management conferences" is not what makes a sick person well again.

That is done by doctors & nurses.

Now, without a trace of irony, the state Premier, who has caused the exponential increase in health bureacracy, says that the bureacracy will have to be curtailed, as it is "a bureacracy out of control" and that it is oversized.

Gee, wonder whose fault that is?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Scientific Methodology

"This is a Dangerous Situation, Shut the Pub Immediately!"

Friday night late (or Saturday morning early if you like, as it was half an hour after midnight.)

The two police officers, walking the beat, presented at the front door of the Wayside Tavern.

The Constables hold a brief conversation with the doorman. As a result of this conversation one of the Police Officers then says there are "too many" people in the pub, orders the doors to be closed and no more people are to be admitted to the premises.

The head of security proceeds poste haste to the pub office. The office, containing the control room, is manned by a senior staff member whenever the pub is trading.

The orders from the office are for the pub's doors to reopen immediately, and to not close again under any circumstances, regardless of the braying of any low IQ cop.

This incenses the two police, who purposefully march to the office, exhibiting a very matter of fact manner........

This'll be brief. And it was:

The police engage in a terse rant about how there are "more than 400 people" inside the pub, and that this is "too many".

Question one: You coppers didn't count heads, as you've been to the front door only, so how do you know how many people are inside?
Official Police Answer: The doorman's scanner has registered 420 persons scanned in.

Question two: Hmm... 420 scans tonight, how many of those have since left the premises?
Official Police Answer: ".............."

Question three: Regarding those 420 scans, how many of them are double or triple scans? (Qld driver's licences are notoriously difficult to scan, we regularly have to scan twice)
Official Police Answer: "............."

Question four: Here's a copy of the Liquor Act ("grunt" as I lift it for them, "thud" as it lands on the desk) Please point to the part which legislates that a pub cannot have 420 people inside?
Official Police Answer: "............" endeth the conversation with police. They turn on their heel and depart the premises. We dont' see any police officer again that night.

If a publican who ran away from high school coz it shore had too much books 'n' hard stuff like that, can make such mincemeat of two fully trained & sworn in Queensand Police officers (with degrees), it is no wonder they are continually made fools of in courtrooms!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dancing in the Street

A very quiet Saturday night. They happen sometimes.

There is a three-piece band playing, $2000 fee and nobody to hear it. A handful may drift in later on. The night won't cover bar wages. Never mind the band fee.

The band leader asks do they really have to persist with this charade?

......Only if they want to collect the fee.

He absorbs this, isn't happy, but grudgingly will keep playing.

Their music is on the "heavy" side of "pub rock". Probably a bit too heavy for this town, it'd only work if the pub was already crowded.

The two guitarists are wearing transmitter packs, to avoid being tangled in wires. These packs are on their back, transmitting to the amplifiers. This means they don't have to stand on the one spot.

So: In joker mode, being as they've argued with me about continuing to play, and there are no customers, they walk all around the bar all the while playing, the sound continues to blare from the stage.

This takes some getting used to, as all one's conditioning is that music eminates from the point where it is played. One's trained instincts are suddenly wrong, this is difficult to cope with.

Being a Saturday night the street is deviod of traffic. There is barely a car going down the street every half hour or so.

I suggest we move into the street, for a change of scenery.

The drummer has to remain at his post, but the guitarists, the barmaid & I move accross the street to the median strip.

The band keeps playing, which is quite surreal. There is only a slight plinking noise from the guitars in the street, and the music continues to blare from the amplifiers in the pub.

All four of us dance (well, shake a little) to the music, then drift back inside.

Several more times over the next few hours we repeat the exercise. The guitarists find it great fun, & stand in a lane of traffic each & play, like wild men of rock or something!

(There is no traffic, being a Saturday night)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Fire in the Shrubbery!

Off the top of my head I can't recall what this drink is called, but there was strong demand for them in the first half of the year.

They are a favourite of mine. Whatever they are.

It tastes every bit as classy as it looks!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Shut Up & Watch

The police station receives a report of a pretty fair brawl in progress, on a sheep station.

The report is received just on dark. By the time someone gets there it will be well & truly night. An officer is dispatched to attend the scene and investigate the possible disturbance.

It is 60 miles to the sheep station. All of it on unsealed roads.

Upon arrival the officer observes what appears to be a large scale brawl still in progress, there are upward of 80 people involved. It is also brutally violent.

Two men detach themselves from the melee and approach the police vehicle.

The policeman is wondering what to do. He is heavily outnumbered, the brawlers are all shearers, New Zealand Maori shearers. Clearly they are sorting something out amongst themselves.

["What idiot called the police?"] thinks the officer, with malice.

The two Maori who have detached from the blue boldly stride directly up to the officer, pick him up bodily & sit him on the bonnet of the police 4wd. One removes the officer's pistol from its holster & tosses it onto the front seat of the police vehicle.

The officer is petrified.

In a heavy NZ accent one of his minders advises the policeman to sit where he is, not move, do not intervene, do not attempt to use the police radio, and when it is all over he will be allowed to leave unharmed.

The minders then lean back on the police 4wd, one either side of him, fold their arms & do not move. They don't look at the officer again.

When the police officer arrives back in town in the early hours of the morning, he reports that at the scene were in excess of 80 persons, males & females who appeared to be New Zealand citizens, all of whom refused to talk to police, no obvious signs of a riot & nobody who had seen anything. There may have been an incident, but with 80 people saying they had no idea what he was talking about, his investigation inevitably came up no trumps.

He tells his comrades what actually happened. Nobody says a word. But for the grace of god it could have been any one of them...

... tomorrow, or next week, it could be.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

You Shouldn'ta Joined if you can't take a Joke!

The current law firm has engaged in a spot of exuberant billing.

Attached to every invoice, and a part of the costs agreement, is literature informing the client on the procedures of disputing a solicitor's bill.

First heading on the list: "Talk to your Lawyer".
[ to your lawyer about the bill. Once your lawyer understands why you are concerned, they will explain the costs and may agree to review the bill...]

The bill is Five times the estimate given in the costs agreement.

So Mine Host talks to the lawyer. Here is the amount of understanding & explanation he got:

"If you didn't want us to do this to you, you shouldn't have signed our costs agreement!"

Hmmm, seems like I'll be brushing up on my procedures for: "When bill disputes turn acrimonious."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Live Bands

A live band, playing in a pub.
A most risky tactic for the pub.

It is a gamble: That you will have increased custom to pay for the band, and then some.
It is a one-off gamble. That is, there is no residual effect, as there would be from say new furniture. You are paying a lot for live music, and can only use that music while it hangs in the air. As soon as it is gone, so is any benefit.
Tomorrow night, or next week, you'll have to think up something new all over again (perhaps a different band - but who knows how it'll turn out?)

Most likely it will pan out so:
First off you will require smelling salts. This will be of invaluable assistance for coping when you learn the band's fee.
The band will have a list of demands for extras on top of the stiff fee (no band plays for less than $1000 per night, booked for a minimum of two nights. Well, last time I used one anyway)
(a) They will want "free drinks all night" for the band & also for their groupies. Answer: NO
(b) They will want overnight accommodation for all the band. You don't have much choice in this. Usually they'll sleep almost anywhere, however if you don't have space you'll have to use motel rooms, and that gets expensive!
(c) They will want free meals for all band members.

At gig time the band will start off with dirges, that steadily empty the pub. People will slowly stream out.

The band will knock off for regular breaks of up to 3/4 of an hour. During this time the pub will continue to empty.

If you are lucky, or have made an astute choice of band, they will be playing the sort of music that "works" in your pub.

By the end of the gig the band will have warmed up and be playing livlier stuff, that had they played this to start with, the pub would now be full of people.

With very few exceptions this is how your live band experience will be.

It mostly won't be worth the effort.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Mean Streets

The Tool brothers "ruled" the streets for a time. Amongst their own circles they had a "reputation". They preferred darkened alleys, or milling crowds after the pubs have closed.

The cycle of seasons rolls around, and several hundred Tongans arrive in town, for some intensive field work. Yep, several hundred of them!

Tongans are physically huge, and stereotypically no strangers to street level violence.
They are also hard physical workers and usually in peak condition.

It took only one night for the streets to undergo a change of management.

Apparently the changing of the guard was, as spectator sports go, very unpleasant. The Tool bros. weren't seen on the streets again until weeks after the last Tongan left town.

The Tool bros, without any sense of irony, went to the police to complain that they couldn't even walk the streets in their own town.

One of their girlfriends wrote a series of letters to the editor about the "injustice" of it all.

This served only to convince us that she was not making a short term injudicious choice of boyfriend, but was in fact terminally dumb.

At the Wayside Tavern we thought it quite funny. So did every other pub in town.

The Tool bros. have not had quite the same air of gravitas about them since.

Bit hard to pull off acting the toughest bunch around when everybody has seen them get the flogging of their lives, heard them squealing like a pig (yep, high pitched squeal) for mercy, for help, for anything.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Where do you Get Yours?

A sodomy joke to an audience of ex-cons wouldn't have produced a more uncomfortable silence....

All I did was ask for a cup of tea.

Five of us were crammed into the waiting room of the Barrister's chambers.
One of the two receptionists had enquired if anybody would like tea/coffee.
Only one taker, me.

Not because I was the client, & a cup of tea would (microscopically) help mitigate the several thousand dollars the meeting was about to cost. Just that I thought in the circumstances the more caffiene in me the better, and it would keep my hands occupied.

To the inevitable supplementary question: "How would you like it?"
I had answered, in time honoured fashion:

"Same way as my girls please, black & sweet"

.....It seemed nobody present had heard it put this way before.

The girl going for the tea was paused in mid-step.

My solicitor, an athletic fresh graduate from a legal family, supposedly a macho "blokey" type, blew his cover by saying "It's okay, he's from the country"

(Implication: "Don't blame me for this, my client is a backward hick and doesn't know any better)

Never one to take condescension very well, & mindful of the maze of coffee carts etc we had to negotiate to get into the building, I said out loud to nobody in particular:
"As opposed to city boys, who go down to the street & pay for it"

Now there was a silence in the room.

One of the older expert witnesses, clearly a chap who'd had some field experience in his life, suppressed a smile.
The rest of them were as if a broomstick has been used on them in place of a rectal thermometer.

Victory was mine! (And this in a room full of people whose profession was thinking on their feet in a courtroom)