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A Black Friday Carol or 'Twas the Week After Midwest Supply

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It’s Christmas season. Snow has fallen, lights have been strung and twinkle festively, Starbucks is the butt of countless protests because they haven’t depicted the nativity scene directly on their disposable coffee cups. So, if you’ll all gather 'round, pour yourself a pint, and get cozy, I have a holiday story to tell.


It was the day after Thanksgiving, already a whole week ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and children were cosily watching holiday cartoons, reveling in the memories of the feast the night before, but I? I was filled not with cranberries and dressing, but with holiday cheer! There was a certain someone, someone who is very close to me, for whom I wanted to get the perfect gift. This someone was a person I like to call myself. And, I knew just what I wanted from me for Christmas: a sack FULL of christmas base malt! I could already see the look on my face, imagining myself realizing what was under the tree, all the hours of joy it would bring me. Maybe I’d pick up a couple ounces of hops as stocking stuffers even! Wouldn’t I be excited Christmas morning!


Midwest Supply, those Santas of men and women, were having a sale. With door busters, discounts, and [don’t forget to think of something else alliterative]! The first 25 people would receive a free gift. How exciting! How festive! So, for the sake of that special someone, and, I admit it, a bit for myself, hoping I’d be one of the lucky few! I dragged myself away from my family and braved the cold.


After waiting in the cold for what seemed like 10s of minutes, I threw that sack of 2-row over my shoulder in a way that would have made Kris Kringle himself proud! I trudged through the snow-covered showroom to the register, happily grabbing more gifts as I stomped my way to the front. When my purchase was completed, the cashier, with a festive twinkle in his eye, handed me something magical. An envelope! “Don’t open it yet, you don’t want to ruin Christmas by peeking, do you?” he said with a smile, then leaned closer. “It’s a surprise! Come back next Friday to find out what it is!”


Now, I’m a patient person, so I waited calmly. Even as my friends and loved ones BEGGED me to open the envelope and find out what was inside, I said no! It just wouldn’t be in the holiday spirit to peak. I brought it to the office, where I could see it every day, and placed it on my desk. “Maybe it’s a brew pot!” My co-worker said. “Maybe!” I said, with a mischievous note in my voice. “Or maybe it’s a conical fermenter!” “Could be” I responded. “I bet it’s a racking cane!” “It might be!”


Finally, the day arrived! December 6th had come! I ran downstairs in my pajamas, so excited to find out what Midwest Supply had gotten me! Then, I ran back upstairs and dressed in real clothes, like an adult. But then, I ran out to the car! Excitedly, I drove myself to… the office. I mean, I work. Come on. But at lunch, I ran BACK out to the car and drove to St. Louis Park, soon to be there!


But as I entered the store, something had changed! Gone were the festive smiles and twinkling eyes, replaced by dull, gray, drudgery. There sat the cashier, attempting to warm himself by a fire so small that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, he explained, for the coal box was kept under lock and key in the back room. With sadness in his eyes, the cashier took my envelope and opened it up, trying to hide what was written on the sheet from me. Silently, he dug through a sad little box, searching for my prize.


And what do you think Midwest Supply gave me that day? What had I waited in the snow for? What had I spent my lunch break on? What had I made two trips for?


A pint glass. The seasoned homebrewer’s equivalent to a lump of coal. A glass, to go with the myriad other unmatched pieces of glassware on my shelf. Not even an ounce of Fuggle.


What did I do to deserve this? What was the lesson, Midwest Supply? Was I on your naughty list? I’ve been good, I’ve been a loyal customer, and I always share my homebrew! Have I been a naughty brewer?! What should I have done differently?


Look, I got a goofy story out of this, and I’m not really that upset, but in all seriousness, what the hell Midwest? If they had just handed me a glass day of the sale, I’d have been grateful. I don't want to complain about being given free stuff. I like free stuff! But man, I really do feel like making customers come back into the store with the promise of a reward only to be handed something that, I think it's fair to say, anyone who went through all that wouldn't want, is a crappy way of promoting your business. I like free stuff, but I had to work for this. So please, if you value my business, then value my time.
 

RPh_Guy

Bringing Sour Back
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I think a homebrewing "lump of coal" would be 5 bottle caps.... with the store's logo on them.

But yeah hyping up a pint glass does suck. Bummer.
 

Brooothru

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I think a homebrewing "lump of coal" would be 5 bottle caps.... with the store's logo on them.

But yeah hyping up a pint glass does suck. Bummer.
I'll not wax poetic, but rather state the bluntly obvious 'big box' screed. Corporate America (aka, "The Man") is ruining our little sandbox. Big Brew, international conglomerates, and merger/acquisition specialists are out to stifle competition and turn a quick buck.

It's not about economies of scale or increasing efficiency, and it's certainly not about lower pricing or customer satisfaction. The situation we're seeing with Midwest and their sister company Northern Brewer is little more than a latter day iteration of 'green-mailing' in the '90s.

Used to be I enjoyed ordering from these two places, but now it's only if the price is too good to pass up. Even then I expect to have some 'issue' with my order. I fully expect both stores will be shuttered in a year or two, not because they didn't evolve or adapt, but because they were monetized into extinction.

I choose not to do business that way, but admittedly that's getting harder to do. It's getting harder for the independents to compete and prosper in the current environment, but that's where I'm spending the majority of my money these days.

When I don't buy local at my LHBS, More Beer is my go to (been a customer for at least 20 years) as well as others who are struggling to remain independent by not selling out. When I actually buy beer it's either Troeg's or a local micro brew. Sure do miss Ballast Point and Goose Island though.

Look at that: 70 years old and still 'raging against the machine' like some aging hippie. Rant Over.

God bless the little man.

Brooo Brother
 
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