Reading the fine print

A week or so ago, cycling home on a muggy afternoon, I pulled into a liquor shop.

In the display fridge I spotted this handsome and at the time beaded with just a little condensation and hence all the more inviting can:

What a marvellous design! What a great chunk of aluminium! You have to hand it to those Japanese. What an excellent brand!

I wanted to taste that Japanese beer.

I bought it.

I had neglected to read the back of the can:

Who would have thought it? Sapporo Imported Premium Beer, Japan’s oldest brand, is in fact imported to Australia from Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

With the benefit of hindsight (and this is an important qualification) I probably should have thought it. A brand is just that: it is just a label. It’s not as if I have ever succumbed to the mystique of other international brands – LV, D&G, Prada etc. In principle, at least, I’m only interested in the brand when it is likely to carry some incidental guarantee (or track record to my knowledge and hence indication of reliability) of the physical quality of the good being sold or the likely reliability of the service provided and likelihood of recourse in the event of any shortcoming (as, for example: if you buy it from a big name store, they are more likely to give a refund if requested without demur). After all, if a brand is worth money to its owner, it must be in part because it enables the owner to sell something for more than it would otherwise be worth.

But it’s easy to slip up.

I can’t say if the beer tasted any different because it came from Canada rather than Japan. I just don’t know. It was sweeter and more malty than I anticipated (I was probably thinking of Asahi Super Dry, though I have now seen claims that this beer comes to Australia from Indonesia). But it definitely wasn’t cheap. I would not have bought it at all had I known I was just buying a Japanese brand beer and chunk of aluminium all the way from Ontario, Canada. I admit that’s partly a matter of an entirely irrational “idea of the beer,” but it’s also a question of what sorts of beers generally find favour in North America and whether that was the sort of beer I craved at the top of the Annandale rise on a sticky ride home.

I definitely think this particular invocation of the brand was misleading and deceptive. It certainly deceived me.

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