Deepak Gill: Not So Smart, Are You?

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Celebrity drinker DEEPAK GILL knows his booze. He also knows that consumers are at the losing end of the bar. So why are Malaysians overpaying for their liquids and what can we do about it? JUICE got the Thirsty Blogger to spill the beer, er, beans on this one…

Malaysians, however smart they perceive themselves to be with shopping or spending money, are generally ignorant fools as consumers. They think they’re all that cos they attack the mega-sales and get sweet deals, but they regularly get scammed when it comes to the F&B category. Especially with beverages.

It’s quite amazing how bars easily fool the public into spending 25 or 30 bucks on a beer, thinking it’s “premium”. Nigapleeez! The only thing premium about something like beer is…well, nothing. My friends with half a brain brew it at home. In most countries, beer is just a default beverage that’s cheap and cheery; in fact, beers and soft drinks are priced quite similarly.

Every week I laugh to myself as I observe these fools unknowingly donating their hard-earned salaries to bar owners. When it comes to jacking up prices, Malaysian businessmen are way on top. In the retail world, the accepted level of mark-up is between 15-30%-but it’s usually at 25%. So if you got something at 10 bucks, you’d be selling it for RM12.50.

But most bar owners here went to a different school, so their mark-up is commonly 100%! Or more. A simple example is the beer Hoegaarden. I discovered that you can get a barrel at only RM500, which comes up to RM12 a pint. A fair retail price would then be RM15, or if you wanna go crazy, RM18. But it goes for RM25-35, which is quite sick by any standards, especially in Malaysia where our standard of living is low.

The cost for a pint at a bar in Europe (after mark-up, and considering their costs and salaries are much higher) is only between 3-4 Euros! Which, to them, is like RM3-4. (Even if you converted, it’s only between RM12-16). The same thing applies to liquor. The right price for a glass should be RM6-7. Even at RM10, that’s more than a 100% mark-up. Well, now you know.

The formal term for this dirty habit is profiteering. From experience, Malaysia presents a “unique” situation. Bars all over the world don’t hike up their prices so insanely. They clearly aren’t quick-buck, capitalistic, wannabe millionaires and rely on a higher turnover over a longer period. That’s why Malaysians’ purchasing power never improves-due to greedy, short-sighted businesses.

There is really no excuse or reason for this state of affairs, except for one little detail: most bar owners don’t want to just “do well”. They want to be filthy rich-at our expense. And they know it’s easy in the drinking industry, cos we’re mostly ignorant fools.

The other issue drinkers here face is what I call the “cheap sh!t” issue, ie. liquor that is produced in places like Jalan Tepi Sungai, Klang (I’m serious). Some bars actually use this crap as the default pour when you order liquor-especially a cocktail. Once mixers are added, it can be hard to tell from the quality of the liquor. So always ask what brand the bar uses; if it’s crap, spread the word (likewise, if it’s good stuff).

The worst part is these bars charge us like, RM10-20 per glass. Dude, I can buy a whole bottle of that brew from Klang for 20 bucks! I’ve also observed what goes on behind the bar at a well-known, spacious rooftop venue in KL: an empty premium liquor bottle being secretly filled with cheap sh!t behind the bar and being served to unknowing customers as premium. Yeah, greed usually is pathetic.

So what do we do about it? People power, y’all. Consumerism is about using your personal power. What power? The one that the businessmen are dying to snatch from you: your money. And you need to know what you’re drinking. If it’s sh!t/good, tell others. Utilise good ol’ word of mouth.

We drinkers aren’t sitting on our cute butts. We’ve formed a “union” to represent drinkers-known as the Alcohol Consumer-Rights Group Malaysia (with over 3000 members)-and everyone can be a part of it. Search for “Alcon” on Facebook, and join the fight for your rights as proud Malaysian drinkers!

Follow Deep on his liquid adventures at