Business, Personal, Technology

Why I owned a Macbook Pro for a day — and what it says to me about the future of Apple

 


Blog Review

“You are brilliant – just as I think you are about to end, you keep on going. It’s like Game of Thrones without the budget or the excitement”

A dear friend


 

On Saturday I bought a new Macbook Pro with touch bar. And on Sunday I returned it.

The only surprising part of this is the fact I returned it so soon.

I was expecting to keep it for maybe a week. Certainly no more than the 14 day return period Apple offer on all purchases.

You see, I never intended to keep this computer. I basically ‘abused’ their return policy.

I don’t feel great about it, but I don’t feel too bad either considering my experience with Apple over the last nine months.

Ultimately the fault lies with them, their generally terrible customer service policies and a design/manufacturing fault with the late 2016 15″ Macbook Pro touch bar model. A fault that I’ve yet to see them publicly accept despite the fact it is accepted internally, has a fault code, and internet forums and youtube are full of people reporting the same problems.

Many of these people are being forced to pay out of their own pockets for expensive repairs even though there is, what seems to be a secret, repair programme in place.

Hopefully this article might help one or two people get what they deserve from Apple.

The short version of this story is if you have a late 2016 15″ touch bar model and you have problems with noises or the screen, go to Apple and, unless you know you’ve done something stupid like dropped it or put a hammer through the screen, demand they fix it or replace it.

The full version below is much longer and quite boring. But it’s here for public record and to get it off my chest more than anything else.

In December I bought a 15″ Macbook Pro with touch bar. I’d read the reviews. They were mixed. It was generally accepted that they were too expensive for what they are — even by Apple’s standards — and the switch to USB-C meant using dongles until the world catches up.

But I needed a new Macbook and it was the best option. I expected to be a bit disappointed in the cost/feature ratio department — and the dongle nonsense — but what I didn’t expect was 9 months of stress, arguing, character assassination, lost time and money.

It started badly with the computer making random noises. Creaking, squeaking, cracking — I never could decide the best way to describe it, maybe it was all three.

It would happen randomly. Sometimes when I wasn’t even touching it. Other times when I was typing and took my hands away from the side of the touchpad where they normally rest.

I also noticed a strange hollow metallic sound when I lightly tapped the side of the touchpad. I tried the same thing on other Macbooks in the house and they didn’t make the sound. I tried it on the same model in stores, and none of them made the sound.

I reported it to Apple but they dismissed it.

Then things took a noticeable turn for the worse.

I opened my Macbook one evening to find the screen black and what I thought was a bit of dirt or dust in the middle, just under the web cam.

I gently brushed it away — or tried to — but it wasn’t dust. It was a tiny crack. And brushing it — I can’t stress how lightly — caused it to crack right down and off to the center right of the screen.

It was, to be as polite as I can under the circumstances, totally buggered.

Now, what was interesting about this was although my laptop now had no working screen, amazingly all the creaks and squeaks and cracking noises had stopped.

A strange co-incidence some may say. Or proof that there was something wrong with the case and/or screen, as I believed.

I live in Malaga — although my business is in the UK and the laptop was bought in the UK — so I took it to the Marbella store. A good hour journey each way, plus a toll road — unless I want the journey to be even longer.

This is where things started to get nasty and Apple — who have been testing my patience for a few years — really did their best to get rid of a customer who has so many Macs listed on his account, plus lots of other Apple devices, that sometimes they get confused which one they are dealing with.

They immediately told me it was my fault. They claimed it had to be. They said once a screen leaves the factory, if it breaks, it is always the users fault.

I had a thin web cam cover on and they tried to claim that was the reason it broke. I suspected they might try that and it did cross my mind to take it off before showing it them, but I decided there was no need as it wasn’t the cause.

The company that makes the covers claimed to have never had a complaint about it and I’ve not found anything online about similar problems. A couple of Mac store workers told me quietly that it absolutely had nothing to do with it, but they weren’t the people making the decisions.

I know for a fact I didn’t break the screen. I know the noises the case was making. And I know that once the screen had cracked the noises stopped.

But Apple didn’t care. They continued to insist it was me who did it. They called me a liar.

Eventually — because I refused to give in — they offered to repair it as a one-off gesture. But I didn’t want a repair, I wanted a replacement. This was a new computer that had been faulty — I believed — since the day I got it. Why should I have a new computer repaired? And why should I go for up to 2 weeks without it? I do have older Macbooks lying around in various conditions but that’s not the point. I have this one for a reason.

During all this discussion one member of Apple staff actually told me ‘There’s the law, and then there’s Apple policy’ and he wasn’t talking about their policy being stronger than the law. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt at first — he’s Spanish and he was speaking a second language — but no, that is what he said and that’s what he meant.

No Apple. There is the law. That’s it.

Anything Apple want to do above that is great, but the law is the law.

I ended up going back to the Manchester store where I bought it. I was flying over from Spain anyway to get married at Manchester Town Hall.

We were only there a few days and I spent a number of hours, on the Saturday before I got married on the Sunday, ‘debating’ with the manager and several members of the Apple staff there. A couple of them were actually very good and supportive but overall it was a very stressful afternoon.

Eventually, when they finally realised I was serious and I wasn’t going to leave the store otherwise, they agreed to let me swap it for a new one. Actually, that’s what I thought they meant, but what they really meant was they would refund the near £3000 the laptop cost on to my card and let me buy another one. Of course, it would be a few days before the money from the refund was back in my account but …

So I bought another one there and then. I was pleasantly surprised to find they had the top spec model in-store (normally you have to order them) which I’d originally wanted but wasn’t available at the time, so I bought that. A faster CPU, faster graphics card, 1TB drive etc. So another £3,300 off my card and I finally left with a brand new Macbook Pro to replace the one with the broken screen. Oh, and my very-future wife bought an Apple Watch while she was waiting.

All that done, I could get on with getting married.

That whole experience left me furious with Apple. But it was to get worse.

The new one made the same noises. Actually, they were subtly different, but it made noises it shouldn’t.

As I’d just got married, and I’m generally always busy anyway, I didn’t get around to calling Apple about it for a while. I should have done. And I kept meaning to. I should have called them straight-way.

But then something else went wrong — the keyboard started playing up and some keys didn’t respond fully — which meant I had to call them so I reported the noises on the new one too.

Eventually I was passed on to a senior telephone advisor — a wonderful, friendly and knowledgable Scottish chap called Alasdair — who really listened to the problems I’d faced with the last one, all the stress I’d gone through, and asked me to send him a video of the noises this Macbook was making.

He passed it on to engineering in California. He’d heard some other reports of similar problems. He was the first to admit that to me. Everyone else up to now, both Marbella and Manchester, and telephone support, had said they had never heard of anyone having similar problems.

They only had to look at Mac forums or Youtube to see it being reported but that’s one thing I learned through this experience. Even senior advisors at Apple have very limited access to the internet at work, which doesn’t just show a shocking level of trust in their staff, but is a genuine hinderance to their ability to do their job. It’s less surprising they haven’t heard about problems from customers if they can’t read the forums their customers post on.

A few weeks later Alasdair got in touch. Apple HQ had accepted there was a fault with the late 2016 15″ Macbook with touch bar that was causing the noises.

And the fix?

A free screen replacement.

I still don’t know exactly what the connection is between the screen and the case noises. Maybe the screen wasn’t set properly in the case? Maybe the case was putting pressure on the screen? I just don’t know, but — as I knew when my cracked screen caused my Macbook to stop making the noises — they are obviously linked.

Another trip to the Marbella store — which I was told I had to do and I couldn’t do over the phone even though the outcome was inevitable — resulted in them ordering the parts. Another afternoon gone, two more tolls paid.

The guy I spoke to then knew about the problem immediately. He told me Apple stores around the world had been getting complaints for months. He told me that they’d known about it for a while but it’s a numbers game — until enough people complain, they’d deny it.

I also had to put further pressure on Apple to agree to replace the keyboard at the same time but eventually they did agree.

Having just had a baby daughter, it’s taken a few weeks for me to get around to taking it in for repair after they got the parts in. I had to tell them I’d be delayed otherwise they would have used the parts for someone else and I’d have to start over again.

I still thought, and still think, I deserved a full replacement. This machine left the factory damaged. As did the one before. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect — for £3,300— a computer that hasn’t had to be repaired so soon because of a design or manufacturing fault.

But frankly after 9 months, I’m so tired of the arguments, and busy with my baby daughter, that I agreed to the repair.

Which takes me back to how this article stated.

Apple, in their unquestionable wisdom, refuse to lend replacement computers when a machine has to go in for repair. I can understand this as a general policy, but sometimes — like maybe when you’ve had two laptops costing around 3k each in the space of 3 months, both faulty from the factory, countless trips to various stores, travel costs, petrol, toll roads, days off work, been called a liar etc — sometimes, you think they’d find a laptop to lend.

But no, they simply refuse.

Amazingly, a number of staff over the months suggested the solution I eventually used — to buy a new Macbook with the express intention of using it while mine was repaired and then return it under their 14 day returns policy. At one point I even considering buying everything I could afford just to mess with them. But I decided that was a tad childish.

When I took my Macbook in for repair on Saturday I was given the usual ‘up to 2 weeks’ timescale for the repair. So I bought the replacement and copied my laptop over in the store before handing mine over. It took around two hours.

Then, yesterday, less than 24 hours later, I got an email saying my computer was ready for collection. It’s had a new screen put in and a new top case (including the keyboard). The bill — had they charged me — would have been just under 1000 euros.

So last night I went back and collected my repaired computer. Credit to Apple for repairing it so fast, perhaps someone read my case notes and realised that’s the least they could do.

And credit too to the staff member who processed the refund. They presumed I was returning it because it was a a Spanish keyboard (I gather that’s a common reason for British people to return them in Marbella), but I told him the truth. He agreed the no-loan policy is far from perfect and I had no problem getting a full refund.

But what an absolutely ridiculous position to be in. That computer — that I had for 24 hours — is now used. I don’t know what Apple do with them, but they can’t sell it for full price as new, because it’s not.

Hey, here’s an idea. They could use it to lend to people who have computers in for repair…

So, after 9 months of being treated like crap by a company I’ve (nearly) always loved, I now have — hopefully — a fully working Macbook Pro for the first time since December.

So far, no creaks or squeaks or cracking noises at all. And when I tap it, I get a nice solid thud, not the hollow metallic sound the last ones had (ok, I don’t need to tap it any more, that was just to show there was a problem…)

And the keyboard is working properly too.

Amazing.

Despite Alasdair’s great telephone support, and a couple of in-store staff, I’m afraid my view of Apple’s customer service in general is still poor.

I wouldn’t treat one of my customers like this, and my company doesn’t have a couple of hundred billion dollars of cash in the bank like Apple do.

They used to — or at least I seem to remember they used to — act like a a prestige car company. Stupidly expensive, yes, but in return the dealer knows you by name and they treat you as more than just another faceless customer.

Sadly Apple seem to have stopped trying to be the Porsche or Ferrari of computers, while keeping the same prices — or, in the case of this Macbook range, actually putting the prices up — but decided to adopt the customer services policies of a dodgy used car lot.

And I’m not even going to start on the physical quality of the new machines. That’s a whole story in itself. Let’s just say they long passed the point of form over function and they need to remember a notebook is a portable device.

I hesitate to link the changes at Apple directly to the death of Steve Jobs. I admired him in many ways but I was never a fanboy of either him or Apple. But the change in Apple’s attitude does seem to co-incide with his death and Tim Cook’s leadership.

If I didn’t need certain applications I’d use Linux on a non-Apple laptop (I use it for servers already). And it’d take a lot to drag me back to Windows. So, for now at least, I feel I’m basically trapped into using Apple products (although the Hackintosh concept is interesting).

When you combine a feeling of being trapped into a product, with large price increases and appalling customer ‘service’, it’s very easy to lose long-term customers.

Not everyone hates Windows like I do, or needs certain apps like I do. And those are the customers who will soon be looking at the choices available and increasingly picking something other than a Macbook.

I hope I’m wrong. I don’t want to see Apple collapse again like it did the last time Jobs left the company. Especially as this time Jobs can never return.

It wouldn’t take that much to fix it. They have the cash to do it. They have the cash to do anything they want.

The fact they don’t suggests it’s either that the management don’t know what’s going on and don’t pay attention to their customers, or it’s a deliberate decision to treat customers like this.

Neither option is good for the long-term future of the company.

Apple, please, fix these basic problems. Hold your hands up when you make mistakes. Treat customers fairly. Apologise to them when you’ve mistreated them (you can even apologise for calling me a liar if you wish). Start putting yourself in the shoes of your customers before making rigid blanket policy decisions.

And, basically, just generally try to do the right thing. It’s not hard to work out what that is. All of you at Apple — even Tim Cook — are customers of many companies too. Think how you’d like to be treated and take it from there.

Damn it, I’ve just given away my planned business book for free. It was destined to be a best-seller. Oh well, here it is in full.

Chapter 1. ‘How to run a business’ — ‘Think like a customer’. The End.

I’ve read about other people not putting up the same level of fight I did over this fault — and I don’t blame them — who have ended up paying Apple to ‘repair’ the damage ‘they’ did to their Macbook. If you’ve done that with this model, I urge you to go back and demand they return your money.

In the meantime, I’ll get back to work using my newly repaired Macbook — pleased it is fixed and working properly, but forever resentful of the last 9 months of stress and arguments, and dreading something else going wrong with it.

Another side to every story – how the late Duke helped Manchester

I know I’m going to upset or even lose some friends over this, but…

I woke up to the sad news that the Duke of Westminster had died suddenly at 64. As is the norm these days, I took to twitter to express my condolences.

Immediately a friend – of a similar left-leaning persuasion – replied saying it was nice to see a positive comment. Puzzled, I asked what he meant. He explained that last night on twitter had been ‘horrible’.

I can’t be bothered to search and read the tweets. I can guess. Rich man dies. Boo hoo. Rich kid takes over. What an arsehole. That sort of thing, I presume.

And I can easily imagine some of the people saying these things being either friends, or strangers who I have a natural political association with.

I’m not going to try to change anyone’s mind on the subject. Everyone can view the late Duke, the new Duke, and the whole system, how they want.

But I do want to put forward another side to the story.

I can’t claim I knew the Duke, although I did meet him once, but more importantly I know about the huge amount of charity work he did.

He was the President of Forever Manchester (the Community Foundation for Greater Manchester) from the mid 1990s until 2014 when he accepted the role of Honorary Life President.

Forever Manchester is a charity that funds and supports community activities across Greater Manchester. It’s given out over £35 million pounds since 1989 and benefited over a million people.

The list, and breadth, of groups it supports would be impossible to document, but as an example they help organisations including teaching young people fishery management, training in car mechanic qualifications for hard to reach young people not in employment, education or training, mental health awareness campaigns, support for lesbian and bi-sexual asylum seekers, a choir set up for people who have been or are currently being treated for cancer, film making organisations, senior citizen Christmas parties, community gardening projects…

I could go on. Really. I could spend all week writing about the great projects they’ve helped fund over the last few decades.

If you can think of a project that a community group can do, you can almost guarantee it either has, or could, get funding from Forever Manchester.

I know this because my late father – a lifelong socialist and Labour councillor – served on the board of Forever Manchester for many years and I know from him, and Nick Massey, the Chief Executive of Forever Manchester, just how vital the Duke’s support was.

Indeed, in a press release today, Nick Massey said:

Quite simply Forever Manchester would not have made it into the noughties had it not been for the generosity and support of the Duke of Westminster. He understood the value of local communities and that money can’t buy happiness and health.

As an example of hard-cash, in 1999 he fronted the Helping Hand Appeal where he personally matched over £1 million of donations from the public and local businesses.

Ok, I can hear some saying that £1 million out of an estimated fortune of nearly £10 billion by the time he died is nothing. But it’s still £1m more than many rich people give. And it wasn’t the only project he was involved in. He was involved in many.

But more importantly than just matching donations, he put his name, his fame, his connections and his time into the charity. He helped cajole others to put their hands in their pockets. Whatever the rights and – especially – wrongs of inherited wealth, people like the late Duke can make a huge difference.

Yes, he was born into wealth and inherited his fortune – although it’s fair to say he managed and developed that fortune well. Not all people who are gifted such wealth do as well. There’s quite a list of people in similar situations who end up in a life of bored drug addiction and hedonism.

But, even though I’m a socialist (albeit a ‘non-alcoholic champagne socialist’ maybe), I don’t judge people by the fortunes (or misfortunes) of their birth. I judge them on how they choose to live their lives.

The Duke did a number of things that make him stand out and led me to being upset when I heard the news.

In 1999 he admitted to having suffered a breakdown and depression. For a man of such family connections and countless important business dealings, this was a very brave thing to do (and no, it shouldn’t be brave to admit it, but sadly it is still today, and it was especially brave back in 1999).

As he said at the time

You can’t buy happiness, you can’t buy health and you can’t buy inner peace. People think a new video recorder or a fast car will make them happy but they don’t.

Sure, life is easier when you never have to worry about paying the bills, but having money doesn’t make life automatically easy.

He sent his children to local state primary schools, ensuring they mixed with people from outside the normal circles of the family. Yes, they went on the private schools after that but Hugh Grosvenor, the new Duke, then chose to study countryside management at Newcastle University.

The late Duke understood the importance of giving his children a grounding in life – especially Hugh, as he was aware of the responsibility his son would face when this day came and Hugh inherited the estate.

When Hugh was eight he said

It’s something I think about a lot. He’s been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and it’s my job to take it out. He’s got to be aware that to be as fortunate as he is, he has to give something back. He has responsibilities to himself and to a multitude of other people. I think he will but you never know.

Hopefully the late Duke will have done a good job, and the new Duke will continue the great philanthropic work his father did.

I don’t know if he is already involved, but if he isn’t, maybe he could start – after he has had time to deal with the obvious grief he will be feeling right now – with making a commitment to continuing to support Forever Manchester.

Inherited wealth on this scale is far from ideal. But it’s the world we currently live in. Hopefully it will change one day.

But whilst we live in such a world, we shouldn’t attack those who use their wealth and influence for the greater good. The immediate alternative is they simply stop helping.

And that would leave a lot of community groups, and millions of people, far worse off than they already are.

Business, Personal, Politics

We need to talk about drinks promotions…

Something is very wrong with the drinks industry and we need to talk about it – and tackle it – before it gets out of hand.

We all want to make money. That’s the ultimate aim of business.

Put simply – when you strip out all the niceties of sourcing great products, providing exceptional customer service, and all the other added value we do our best to provide – the bottom line is the bottom line.

What matters is how much money is left to pay the bills, the wages, and to re-invest in developing the business. And, ideally, if anything is left after all that, the profit.

All businesses face this, but most industries aren’t as heavily taxed as the alcohol industry.

For those who don’t know, let’s take spirits as an example (and if you do know, skip ahead to How do pubs make a profit?)

You can buy a 70cl bottle of Tesco’s own-labelled 37.5% vodka for £10.50.

Once you take the VAT off that (the VAT belongs to the government, not the retailer) you’re left with £8.75.

The duty on the alcohol is £7.26. So when you take that off the £8.75 you’re left with £1.49.

That’s the £1.49 that has to pay for the vodka itself, the bottling, transport, staffing and all the other elements of producing and selling that drink.

This is an extreme example of course, as we all know that the supermarkets – not just Tesco – use cheap alcohol to entice people into their stores to do the weekly shop where they make their profit.

This is intrinsically linked to the problem I want to discuss here but it’s harder to tackle so that’s a discussion for another day.

But it gives you an idea of the level of taxation on alcohol and the low profit margins involved in the industry, especially at the lower end of the market.

How do pubs make a profit?

Bars have to pay rent, business rates (which for a city centre bar can be huge), staff costs, the costs of building and maintaining the venue, music licences and lots of other bills and costs.

That can’t be done on £1.49 profit per 70cl bottle of vodka.

So when you go into a bar and you pay £6, £7, £8 (or more) for a spirit, you now know why it costs so much more proportionally than buying a bottle at a supermarket.

It’s understandable therefore that once a bar has a customer in, they want to keep them in. They don’t want someone coming in for one drink if they can keep them for two, three or more.

Straightaway this leads to one problem. It’s illegal to serve a person who is drunk. Plain and simple. You can lose your premises licence if you do.

But how many times have you been served when you were drunk? Or how many people have you seen served when they were clearly drunk?

Most bars will serve you until you become trouble. That’s their interpretation of drunk. And it’s clearly not the meaning nor the spirit of the law (no pun intended).

Again, this is understandable. If someone is drunk but friendly, why would you stop serving them – apart from to comply with the law?

And a friendly drunk can easily turn into a nasty drunk if you tell them they’re drunk and you refuse to serve them.

When you have the choice of selling another drink to a friendly drunk, or turning a friendly drunk into a nasty drunk, which would you choose?

And now imagine you’re not the owner of the bar, but a minimum wage bar worker trying to hold down a job while you pay for your degree.

I think it’s fair to say most of us would probably serve the drunk.

When supply and demand don’t match

Because of the cheap price of alcohol in supermarkets, more people are choosing to either drink at home with friends (or alone), or pre-load on cheap alcohol before going out and spending less when they go out.

We all know how many pubs have closed down in the suburbs in recent years and this is one of the main reasons (the smoking ban has had an impact too, but the large gulf between the price at supermarkets and pubs is likely the key factor).

But in the city centres, there’s no shortage of venues opening up. All competing with each other. All trying to do something a little different to entice customers and get them spending.

That’s great. It’s business.

But what happens when the supply (of venues) outstrips the demand (of customers)?

Long-term, the natural outcome is simple and logical. Bars will close and an equilibrium will be restored – for a time at least.

It’s the situation in the short-term that’s dangerous, and that’s where we are now.

Enter Drink promotions

So, we have too many venues and too few customers.

What’s the solution? What would you do as a bar owner to increase your share of a shrinking market?

Well, it seems many bars think drinks promotions are the answer.

Taking Manchester as the example, here are a few recent drinks promotions as reported by the local newspaper the Manchester Evening News (MEN).

All Star Lanes are running “all-you-can-drink” deals on weekend afternoons (midday to 4pm). With food starting at £7.50, you can pay £19 extra and then drink as much beer as you can – in a two hour time slot.

The Shack Bar and Grill in the Northern Quarter are offering “all-you-can-drink” prosecco deals, again in a fixed two hour time slot of 4-6pm on Fridays, for £20.

Rosylee is offering half-price prosecco whenever it rains (and yes, this is in Manchester).

And even Rosso, a high-end venue co-owned by Rio Ferdinand, is currently selling bottles of champagne at prices lower than supermarkets. As reported by the MEN “Rosso manager Sasha Svatek admits they are crazy prices, but says it’s all part of the venue’s desire to offer ‘affordable luxury’ to their customers.”

According to the MEN “The city centre is also seeing a surge in bottomless brunches, which are basically the all-you-can-eat-and-drink breakfast buffet of your dreams, offering unlimited food and drinks for a set price early doors.”

Another popular fad is beer pong. A drinking game where you force your opponents to drink beer by throwing a ping pong ball into a glass.

Does anyone else see a potential problem here?

What the law says…

All licensed venues have to comply with the Mandatory Licensing Conditions which were last updated in 2014. These are all designed to make sure everyone complies with the four licensing objectives which are:

• The prevention of crime and disorder
• Public safety
• The prevention of public nuisance
• The protection of children from harm

Scotland has a fifth objective “Protecting and improving public health” – those crazy Scots…

I learnt this when I obtained my personal alcohol licence. To do this you need to take a one day course and test. The test at the end is 40 multiple choice questions and you need to score 28 to get your licence.

Many of the questions are so basic if you can hold a pen you can correctly answer them. None of them is difficult.

Once you take out the very simple questions, you could probably reach 28 correct answers by randomly ticking boxes.

For the record, I scored 40 out of 40. And I’m not saying that to boast, but more to show how simple the test is. I read the guidance notes for about an hour the night before. It’s not rocket science.

The course and test is really designed to make sure people understand the basics of the four objectives.

What’s worrying is how many people seem to walk out of the course and quickly forget those basics.

And what actually happens…

There are two key sections I want to focus on.

The first is Section 1: Irresponsible Promotions

The guidance says

The 2014 Order states that the responsible person must ensure that staff on relevant premises do not carry out, arrange or participate in any irresponsible promotion, as listed below, where that promotion is carried on for the purpose of encouraging the sale of alcohol on the premises.

The first prohibition is “Drinking Games”.

This includes any game or activity that requires or encourages (or is designed to require or encourage) individuals to drink a quantity of alcohol within a time limit, or to drink as much as possible. This does not include “drinking up time”, shortly before the end of licensed hours.

The application of this prohibition is not subject to a judgment of risk, and so any game or activity that falls within it would be in breach of the condition.

Examples of this type of activity include drinking relay races and drinking challenges based on quantity.

So straight away that raises the question of how beer pong is allowed? It’s clearly designed to sell more drinks. In fact many bars who run the game set a minimum amount of alcohol you have to buy to play it.

The second prohibition is “Provision of alcohol free or for a fixed or discounted fee”.

This prohibits the provision of an unlimited or unspecified quantity of alcohol for free or for a fixed or discounted fee if there is a significant risk that such provision would undermine a licensing objective.

Clearly, when it comes to the all-you-can-drink promotions currently sweeping Manchester (and no doubt other cities), the question of legality has to lie with the clause “if there is a significant risk that such provision would undermine a licensing objective”.

Am I the only one who thinks that encouraging all-you-can-drink in a fixed two-hour time slot during the daytime poses that risk?

I’m sure many will enjoy a good time and go home safely but there will be those that spill out into the streets drunk while families, tourists and shoppers are enjoying an afternoon in the city.

These laws are there to protect the majority from the consequences of a drunken minority and to protect those who are a danger to themselves.

Sticking with the the Manchester Evening News, you don’t have to spend long browsing their stories to find the downside of over-indulgence. There’s normally one or more on the home page every day.

The Cenotaph was recently moved as part of the redevelopment of St Peter’s Square. This has made it more open to the public than it previously was, and nearer to a number of bars.

Since then there’s been a number of incidents where people have been caught damaging it and even urinating on it.

It’s time to act

This ‘all-you-can-drink’ trend needs to be nipped in the bud in Manchester, and other major cities in the UK.

The law is already there. It’s simply that no one is enforcing it.

I’m not blaming the individual bars mentioned here, or any particular bar. Once one bar does it and gets away with it, it starts a downward spiral that other bars feel forced to join.

The key immediate question – putting aside cheap supermarket alcohol which the government has repeatedly failed to tackle – is why no one is doing anything to enforce the laws and stop these irresponsible promotions?

Truth be told, most venues – at least the more reputable ones – would probably welcome this. They don’t want to be forced into this situation anymore than we want to be surrounded by the chaos it creates.

We have a choice to make. We can either sit back until market forces restore order to the situation or we can demand the law is enforced.

In the case of Manchester, I’ve written to the council leader Sir Richard Leese (r.leese@manchester.gov.uk) and Councillor Pat Karney (cllr.p.karney@manchester.gov.uk), the Lead Member for the City Centre, to ask why this situation is being allowed to develop.

If you live in Manchester and feel similarly, please consider doing the same. You may just want to point them to this article if you want.

If you live in another city with a similar problem, ask your local licensing authority what, if anything, is being done to tackle this problem.

Going out for the night and enjoying a drink with friends – whether alcoholic or alcohol-free – is normal. And done properly it should be safe and fun. That’s not the situation at the moment, and it needs to change – and quickly.

 

Photograph by Paul Joseph is licensed under CC BY 2.0