Is your bar serving you (a little less than) a pint?

Getting cheated out of beer is a drag.
Getting cheated out of beer is a drag.

In most states, it’s illegal to over-serve patrons in bars. A law proposed in Michigan would make it illegal to under-serve them, too.

The legislation would ban bars and restaurants from delivering anything less than 16 ounces when a customer orders a “pint” of beer.

There’s no research to suggest there is widespread stuffing of Michigan drinkers, but state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) told local media he got the idea for the law when he was under-served.

“When people buy a pint and they’re served less than a pint, it strikes me as sort of low-level fraud,” Irwin said to

Now this is consumer protection at work.

Local government keeping close tabs on what goes into the glass in bars isn’t new. In 2011, the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control raided 29 bars as part of …wait for it…“Operation Swill.” The bars were committing an old-fashioned bait-and-switch, using cheap liquor (or other substances) in expensive liquor bottles. One wonders how authorities caught on, but I digress.

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Michigan has a reputation for protecting consumers in small but important transactions, and for truth in labeling. It was among the last states to require that grocery stores place price tags on all items; former head of Detroit Consumer Affairs office Esther Shapiro was a bit of a poster child for them.

While getting 15 ounces instead of 16 ounces when ordering in a pint of beer, the concept is a pretty big deal in consumer protection. It’s been dubbed “inflation by degradation” by economist Caroline Baum. In its simplest form, consumer goods sellers simply shrink their packages by an ounce or two every year and keep the price steady. Consumers are fooled into missing the effective price increase.



About Bob Sullivan 1431 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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