Sunday, February 13, 2005

Jim Koch Trilogy 3: Full count on Boston Beer's founder.

(Part 3 of 3)

A customer asked if we could get cases of Samuel Adams Double Bock, Boston Beer’s annual winter/spring seasonal lager.

My wholesale rep was out of town, so I elected to search for the information by pointing the browser to the Sam Adams web site in expectation of a quick and easy search for release dates.

The age verification page materialized.

Judge, sir, I know it was late in the evening. Yes, it’s also true that I’d had a beer, maybe two. What kind? Well, I’m afraid to say they were imports … Belgians … not world class beers at all compared to Sam Adams. Yes, I’ve seen the television ads, sir.

But judge, I didn’t take typing in high school, and the ol’ hunt ‘n’ peck just failed me … no, I didn’t mean to fill in the wrong date of birth, it just happened, and then those alarms started going off … and I just snapped.

Up came the “sorry” message.

“We take seriously our responsibility to limit website access to adults of legal drinking age … If you have questions/comments about our age verification process Click here … For more information regarding programs dedicated to beverage alcohol responsibility, please visit”

I saw the icons listed below: Cyberpatrol, Cybersitter, NetNanny and SafeSurf, and it all seemed to me like swatting flies with a baseball bat.

Was this site somehow pornographic and consequently unsuitable for tender young eyes?

Or was it about beer, the beverage that possesses a noble history stretching back to the very beginnings of humanity’s time on Earth, and which Boston Beer’s founder, Jim Koch, always has referenced in his educational sales pitches about beer?

Following Donald Fagen’s sage advice, I tried to return to the title page and “do it again,” but to no avail. Koch’s mercenaries at the Internet division of the age police had my IP, and they weren’t letting go of it.

To stock, or not to stock.

Clicking where advised, I registered this brief complaint:

“So, because I hit the wrong button, I can't get into the site in
spite of (a) being 44 years old, and (b) selling your beer at my pub? You know, (a) is set in stone, but (b) could change anytime.”

The following day, the predictably automated response greeted me with palpable cyber warmness:

“Thank you for contacting us regarding the age verification process on our website. We are excited to share our new website with you, and apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced in entering the site.

"We understand that the age verification process may seem cumbersome. However, it is very important to us that we take every reasonable precaution to ensure that the only visitors to our site are those who can legally enjoy the great taste of a Samuel Adams beer. We take this responsibility very seriously, even to the extent that it may cause someone like you to become frustrated.

"There may be instances in which a user like you is of legal drinking
age, but is denied access to the site. If this occurs, you should close your web browser completely and then re-launch your browser and revisit the site. Carefully enter your birth date on both age verification pages, and you should be allowed access to the content of the site.

"Thank you again for your feedback and for visiting our website. Cheers!”

Shiny happy people blue penciling.

Cheers to censorship, to “reasonable precaution” in studying the history of fermentation science, in bowing to the dictates of Puritanism!

I couldn’t resist the impulse to cast a line and see if there were humans somewhere on the other side.

“Thanks for the template. Does this mean that we shouldn't allow children to study automobiles until they're old enough to drive? It would be refreshing for Samuel Adams or a brewery like it to stand up to the idiocy of age requirements in cyberspace. But balls aren't something associated with Jim Koch, anyway.”

There was a nibble, but a feeble one, from Mary Woo of Boston Beer Company. Sadly, corporate America just isn’t interested in dialogue, but credit her for answering.

“I am sorry you feel that way about our company and about Jim Koch, but unfortunately we have to face the reality of today's technology and monitor our own site. Good luck with your brewing.”

Here's the pitch ...

Does the preceding constitute Jim Koch’s third strike, which if called, would result in the removal of Boston Beer’s products from my pub?

Perhaps it will, but not until we hear from Koch. His response (if any) to this and previous curmudgeonly commentaries will be the deciding factor.

Stay tuned.

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