Thursday, December 20, 2018

December 20, 2018

The Alternative Sensory Deprivation Tank

According to Wikipedia, sensory deprivation is “the deliberate reduction or removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses.” In the days after Christmas we know that many of you will be wishing for some sensory deprivation – maybe the removal of daylight, traffic noise or certain family members.

We have an alternative to shelling out hundreds of dollars to lie in warm goo with a blindfold on. We offer a dimly lit, windowless, underground space, with the only stimulus being intoxicating beverages and, perhaps, the mesmeric sights and sounds of televised cricket.

What’s more we offer our Alternative Sensory Deprivation Therapy on the dot of midday on Boxing Day.

Sadly the law prohibits the offering of our therapy on Christmas Day itself. But we look forward to seeing a queue form outside the front door in the minutes leading up to 12pm on Dec 26.

Christmas Cinema

This Sunday we screen Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Following last week’s Black Christmas, this is another alternative to the usual saccharin Christmas movie, being a Finnish hybrid of a horror flick and a Christmas movie parody.

At 7pm in the Cult Film Basement

On Tap Now

  • Deep Creek Aloha
  • Invercargill B.Man IPA
  • Kereru Black Ruby Choc Imperial Stout
  • Isthmus No Man's Land XPA
  • Isthmus Peak Haze IPA
  • Laughing Bones The Duke Rye Pale Ale
  • Invercargill B.Man Pilsner
  • Peckham's Moutere Cider
  • Invercargill Pitch Black Stout

Belated Release

It finally happened – a new release was delivered so late by the carrier that we didn’t get it in time to go on tap on Tuesday evening. It was dropped off yesterday, so Isthmus brewing’s No Man’s Land XPA went on tap yesterday.

There won’t be a new release next Tuesday because we won’t be open!

Thunder. All Through The Night.

Experience tells us that from around about today, the Wellington CBD gradually descends into a kind of hibernation (or more correctly aestivation), from which it groggily emerges some time in January. Nevertheless we know that there are those of you who want to defy this urge and keep using the CBD as your workplace and/or playground. So this Saturday we do have a band in our usual Saturday night slot. Chocolate Thunder play at 10pm, bringing not just funk, but “funk groove fusion”.

We are passing on having live music on Saturday week (the 29th), and instead have the Vanguards playing two nights later on New Years Eve.



A few years ago, when providers started rolling out eftpos terminals capable of performing contactless transactions (i.e. “Pay Wave”, “Tap and Go” etc), we were alerted to the fact that performing these transactions imposed a fresh set of charges on merchants and so resisted getting them in.

Since then they have got wide - but definitely not universal - acceptance, and we frequently watch customers wave cards (and occasionally phones) at our eftpos terminals, expecting a payment to happen. And we explain that pay wave won’t work, while trying to resist the instinct to say “sorry”, because, in reality, we aren’t sorry that we don’t offer it.

Saying “paywave doesn’t work here“ fifty times a day gets a little tiring, so one day last week we tried pre-alerting customers to this fact, by announcing it on the sign outside. And because this policy is something we see no shame in and are happy to own, we wrote “proudly paywave free”.

Not long after, we got a review on a certain site that collects crowdsourced reviews saying “Boasting about not having eftpos, not cool. How about it’s 2018 and getting with the times.” Yes, someone really wrote that.

We take this as a sign that the subject of the fairness and expense of contactless payments isn’t as well understood as it needs to be.

From our point of view as a merchant, we have traditionally taken three kinds of payment – cash, eftpos (where money comes from a cheque or savings account) and credit. Cash and eftpos were effectively free (except for the cost of renting an eftpos terminal), while credit card transactions came with charges of between 2.5% and 3%. We have always tolerated those credit card charges for a few reasons:– customers such as travellers rely on being able to pay by credit card and payments by credit card were always a small minority of the total payments we took in. But the overriding concern was that customers simply expect to have the option of paying by credit card.

Then along came contactless, and a new charge. Suddenly those eftpos payments wouldn’t be free, if they were paid by a wave of the card instead of the traditional process. They would come with a charge of around 1.5% - not as much as credit card charges, but a totally new cost where there hadn’t been one before. When times are good a merchant might laugh at a fresh charge of 1.5% of some or all their income. But the rest of the time and for most merchants, this is a cost that has to be paid for by putting up prices. Maybe not immediately, but the day when an operator looks at their books and decides it’s time to put prices up might be brought forward.

So we resisted and have continued to resist. We scoffed when the bank called and offered to waive transaction charges for a month – as if that somehow makes a difference to the charges that would be imposed for the rest of time.

We know that we are far from the only hold-outs. In fact those anti-establishment rebels known as Burger King made the news by ditching pay wave a few months ago.

Now there is a problem with this explanation that is easy to make and difficult to refute, and that is the fact that we continue to tolerate the higher cost of doing credit card transactions. To be brutally honest, if we thought we could pass those ~2.5% credit card charges on to our customers and get away with it, we almost certainly would. Especially since the proportion of payments being made by credit cards is steadily creeping up. But this is the brutal reality – consumers have been persuaded that they (you) can not only switch seamlessly between credit card and eftpos, but loyalty schemes give you an incentive to take the credit option, while merchants silently pick up the tab.

Meanwhile the venerable payment system of eftpos, which has served New Zealand magnificently and economically for 30-odd years, is being undermined and replaced by stealth with a system that lets the world’s most profitable banks take ticket-clipping to another level.

Anyone want to debate this issue or suggest what a retailer like us should be doing? This email gets copied to a blog, where comments will be welcome.



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