I’m reading an absolutely fascinating book at the moment called A History of the World in Six Glasses. The author, Tom Standage, looks at history from ancient times to modern day through our beverages. He starts with beer and makes his way through wine, distilled spirits, coffee, tea and cola. He looks at each as the defining beverage of its era and how each impacted society.
I was delighted to learn that the world’s oldest written recipe is for beer. How cool is that? Beer played a huge role in early societies. Huge. In fact, there is evidence that beer was the currency of the time. You knew your rank in society by how much beer you were allotted; and not because the upper ‘classes’ drank so much more, but because they used the beer to conduct business. Liquid being easy to divide (you just measure it, yes?), a high ranking merchant or official could easily give bonuses or tips (or perhaps curry favor) by a measure of this liquid currency.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Beer Standard.
I think this is an idea that is really worth revisiting. Here in the Northwest, neigh, through out our great nation, beer has undergone a wonderful revolution. The craft and micro brewing movements have taken us beyond the bland and rather tasteless mass produced beer to new heights of flavor and quality. It comes in a variety of bottle and can sizes, or can be purchased in larger vessels such as kegs.
Like the Sumerians before us, we have gradations of quality in our beer. The Sumerians had beer and ‘excellent’ beer. As do we. We also have varieties from lagers to porters to imperial everything.
Now imagine that you can take care of gratuities, incentive bonuses, various rewards with that beer. Brilliant, isn’t it? Take the cable companies, they give you that window of 48 hours when they will arrive to fix or install your cable or internet. Think how much faster that cable person might show up if you were able to fill a growler with really good beer. The sooner they arrive, the more beer they get. The more quickly they resolve your problem, the better they treat you, etc.; good service is rewarded with good beer.
I can see it now “Here my good man, you have earned a flagon of Imperial Porter for your troubles today.” Because, really you would have to sort of talk that way if you were paying in beer.
Or, “I regret that it took you so long to arrive and you have yet to actually fix the problem two days later. All I can offer you is a can of Bud Light and be happy that I am that generous.”
Think of how customer service would be transformed. Think of the possibilities. You could even make an offer up front. Like Amazon screws up your order somehow, and you are forced to call customer service (assuming you can find the number to do so.) Right off the bat you state your problem. “I ordered the two volume set of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and yet you sent me two volumes, both M through Z” (that actually happened to me); should you resolve this situation quickly and to my satisfaction I offer you two liters of a very fine ale.” (again, you sort of have to talk that way).
You could negotiate. “If you deliver my couch in the next 48 hours, a keg of my best Cascadian Dark Ale.” To which the service writer replies, “What will you offer me for next day delivery, kind sir?”
I think this could go beyond service situations. Imagine if our politicians were paid the way the Sumerians were. How much more interesting – more effective – would our Congress be if they were paid on the Beer Standard? C-SPAN would become must see television.
Think how much more interesting a country this would be if the Federal Reserve was largely liquid in nature. Granted, we would probably have to nationalize the breweries in order to ensure that there was enough liquid currency at hand. Which is probably where the Beer Standard would immediately begin to falter. And yet I think I would be far less irritated by a brewery that was too big to fail…