Feb 15, 2009

Buying beer

In the movie Harsh Times, there's a scene where the main characters buy some 40-ounces at a liquor store in Los Angeles. They pull out a pack of cigarettes, unwrap it, and proceed to tell the Korean owner that they want to buy just a few individual cigarettes. The owner gets very worried about getting fined again by the police.

I think about this movie scene when I buy cans or bottles of beer here in Beijing. In the US, it seems like except for extra-large sized bottles or high-priced brands, you have to buy beer in a 6, 12, or 24 pack. In Beijing, however, you can buy one can of beer, three cans, or fifty cans; it's still the same price per can.

The other week, my local supermarket had a little sign next to 24-can cases of Harbin beer, 57.60 kuai ($8.43) for the case. I did the math, and of course, it came out to 2.40 kuai (35ยข) per can, which is exactly the same price as if I were to buy them individually. It's the same story for any brand of beer. It doesn't seem to matter if you're at a big chain like Walmart, or at one of the smaller local chains.

Should I feel grateful that the retailers have given me this flexibility with my beer purchasing, or should I feel frustrated that I'm unable to get a Costco bulk discount when I buy a case? I suppose it's nice to be able to just buy a few cans.

Like the guy says in the movie when he's buying "singles", if he buys the whole pack, he's going to want to smoke them all. He just wants a few smokes to go with his beer.

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