I have seen how large distributors use their size and deep pockets as an advantage. Festivals get sponsored; advertising gets paid for, and taps get guaranteed. From its history, I’m sure Craft Brewers Guild is guilty of at least some of what Shelton Brothers alleges. Yet, I keep coming back to the idea, you can only bribe someone if they’re willing to be bribed.
I think of large distributors like bears or sharks. They are large predators who just do what they do, which is eat stuff and maul people if they get in the way. They are big and unwieldy. You can see them coming and you can avoid them if you want to.
What bothers me is the number of bar/restaurant owners/managers who don’t want to avoid them. In fact, they seek them out because this type of enticement is part of doing business. The question I have is, should it be? Maybe since I come from this from the consumer side, I don’t think like a bar/restaurant industry person foremost. I see what I do as providing consumers with a fair choice. I have this Pollyanna belief that if we deal with our distributors fairly and honestly and sell beer to customers at a fair price, we make money, the distributors make money, and the customers gets good beer. I know, call me crazy.
When I was at my previous job in a big box retailer, I would see decisions made at the store and regional levels that made little long-term sense. This lead me to think about how these decisions were made. I drew the conclusion that these decisions were made because the people making them couldn’t think past their own dick. One, 95% of these decisions were made by men and two, they were short term and immediate gratification. I think long-term and I think in paragraphs.
Our popular conception of success is completely screwed up. We measure success by the things you can buy with your money and not by the things you build and leave behind. A hundred years from now, no one will know or care what car you drove, but they will remember the things you did.
In the retail and service industries, you can build your relationships with suppliers and customers on trust, honesty, and loyalty, or you can build it on doing whatever is best for you at the moment. The thing life has taught me is there will be a point when you need help. You will need someone to do you a solid to get you out of a jam. Who do you think is more likely to help you out? The person you’ve been taking bribes from or the person you’ve built a solid trusted relationship with. History has taught there is no honor among thieves.
Good luck Shelton Brothers. I think you’ll probably win some concessions from Craft Brewers Guild. However, remember the world in which you operate is one where Craft Brewers Guild offered money and incentives and people willingly took them.