Overcharging for Beer Gets Tel Aviv Bar-goers Buzzed

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The alcohol market in Israel is well known for huge differences in price for the same beverages. When one purchases alcoholic beverages in a bar or night club, the differences become even more extreme, as price differences rise by dozens of percent in such settings. In addition, every so often, alcohol industry officials point out that counterfeit drinks, or drinks mixed with other materials are being sold. It turns out that another trick put in practice in Tel Aviv bars is the sale of half a liter of beer, in cups that can hold no more than 360 milliliters.

Alon and his friends have been going out to bars in Tel Aviv on a weekly basis for years, and in general, they frequent the same establishment. Over the last few months, their pub was Cerveza, on Dizengoff Street. The group recently declared they will being searching for a new neighborhood bar, after discovering that every half liter of beer ordered is received in a cup that can hold 360 milliliters. The price remains the same, even though the amount of beer is lower by 28%.

Attorney Ehud Peleg, chairman of the Israel Consumer Council, who also viewed the YouTube clip, said that “according to the complaint, the business is knowingly providing a smaller amount of beer without informing the consumer, and still charging for the advertised amount. If this complaint is correct, the business is not only breaking the law, it is also disrespecting its consumers, and thus it would be fitting if those consumers went to drink somewhere else.”

“In any case,” continued Peleg, “the clip on YouTube shows that consumers must be weary and discern immediately if what they ordered is what they received, even for a glass of beer.”

Alon and his friends have already encountered this practice in other pubs they’ve visited in Tel Aviv, and even documented the situation – in order to be sure, and see the difference between what was ordered and what was received. The group filmed their efforts and posted the video on YouTube.

After drinking a “half liter” of beer, the group ordered a 330 ml bottle of Coca-Cola, and filled the beer glass with the cola. Indeed, the cup was almost full, and at that point it was impossible to be mistaken – there’s no way a half liter of beer could fill the cup.

Upon examining the 175 NIS bill they received from the bar, they saw that they were charged NIS 93 for three half liters of beer. After doing some math, they realized that if the price had been adjusted for 360 ml of beer per glass, the bill should be NIS 26 lower – but that was not reflected at all in the bill.

Upon asking their waitress how that could be, she answered that the bar recently changed its glasses, because the previous ones apparently were too wide, and did not keep the beer cold.

After being approached by TheMarker, Cerveza owners claimed that like every bar in Tel Aviv, they were faced with two choices after being hit with new, high taxes on beer. They claimed they were forced to either raise their price, or to change the size of the glass. The owners added that they were upset that the customers decided to conduct “some kind of experiment,” instead of point out that the cheap prices for beer and alcohol are better than competitors’, and, according to owners’ claims, that those who frequent the bar receive lots of freebies.

Alon says that this phenomenon is well-known in Tel Aviv, and as soon as one bar changes its glasses, the neighboring bars do so as well. There is no doubt that this misleads consumers, and the fact that all the adjacent bars are coordinating their efforts, this only makes the problem worse.

In response, Cerveza ownership said that “it must be acknowledged that the beer glasses were changed only three days ago, and we were unable to make all of the appropriate changes, like declaring that the new cups hold 430 ml. In the coming days, we will make all of these changes, and we are one hundred percent sure that most of our customers (whom we consulted over every change we made) will be satisfied. We are always glad to receive constructive criticism. Cerveza has been and will remain a home for customers from all walks of life."

Beer mugs in Tel Aviv are shrinking. Credit: AP

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