Stealing is Stealing, Even When It’s a Beer Glass

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal, by Ralph Gardner Jr., raises an interesting point. Entitled An Enduring Tradition, the column begins with the following question:

Do beverages such as beer taste better depending on the glassware employed for their enjoyment?

But that’s not the point to which I am referring. What I’d like to get to is Mr. Gardner’s admission in the paragraph following:

I happen to have strong feelings on the subject, strong enough that on my travels abroad I’ve been known to walk out with handsome beer glasses from bars, cafes and restaurants. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I ask politely if they’re for sale, hoping to get them for no charge or to pay very little. I’ll only steal them if I’m getting the vibe that no matter how nicely I ask, the establishment won’t part with them.

Yes, in the august pages of the Journal, we now have a reporter admitting to chronic and compulsive theft. And not just admitting to it, but making light of the fact.

This, to my mind, is unpardonable. I doubt very much that Mr. Gardner would be allowed to joke in the WSJ about his tendency to shoplift electronics from Best Buy stores, or dine-and-dash from three star Michelin restaurants, but because it’s just a beer glass, apparently the Journal can turn a blind eye to theft.

I’ll tell you something, Mr. Gardner, people like you are a pain in the ass to bar and restaurant and cafe and beer hall owners everywhere. I appreciate that you say you try to purchase the glass first, but has it ever occurred to you that the reason owners or managers don’t want to sell it to you is because they don’t want to lose yet another glass? That they might be running short on glassware? That the glass might cost them more than they’re anticipating you’d be willing to pay or that the hassle of finding a replacement is more than your few dollars are worth? And really, do you always try to buy the glass first?

But more than the above, I object to the inference that it’s okay to steal and joke about it because it’s a beer glass, rather than a wine or cocktail glass. I doubt that Mr. Gardner would brag about lifting a Riedel Burgundy glass from a Park Avenue wine bar or boast about compiling a full set of stemmed cocktail glasses from the New York mixology paradise, PDT. But since it’s beer, stealing is somehow okay.

No, Mr. Gardner, it’s not. So please stop.


16 Replies to “Stealing is Stealing, Even When It’s a Beer Glass”

  1. Amen.
    Even though some of these beer glasses are so beautiful, chances are you can buy them online.
    I have friends who steal glasses, and somehow think it’s alright. I love the pubs that I go to, and I want anyone who comes with me to at least respect the place. If you don’t steal from stores or gas stations, but swipe the odd glass here or there, you’re still a thief.

  2. I also dislike Gardner’s attitude of entitlement… He seems to believe that every single pub he ever vists has to hand over a glass to him just because he wants it.
    I’m with you – theft is theft.

  3. Sigh… that ought to be obvious. But take a look at the second to last paragraph of the column (in the WSJ, that is, not Stephen’s), and you’ll get an idea of where he’s apparently coming from. ;-/

  4. I confess to having been that asshole in University who would occasionally swipe pint glasses from a bar–not because I wanted the proper-shaped glass to enjoy my beer, but because I needed glasses and thought ones with beer logos were cool.

    In my defense, the brands emblazoned on the glasses probably bought the glassware for the bar with a massive budget for such swag, and the beer I was drinking then would have probably tasted the same had I poured them out of a shoe.

    That the author knows enough about beer to be stealing proper glassware makes his crime less excusable. That he drinks beer only to wash down Jack Daniels makes it downright appalling.

  5. Yeah, in the past, I too, was an occasional glass thief. My justification was that the bar didn’t pay for the branded ones, the breweries did. This, of course, assumed that breweries were somehow wealthy beyond care. With age and experience, I know better. I think the last nicked glass came home with me over 10 years ago.

    Here’s another factor that most glass thieves don’t consider: In Ontario a stolen glass probably hasn’t been rinsed. This means there’s beer in it which means two things

    a) if you’re driving, you now have open alcohol within reach (unless you carefully placed the glass in your trunk).
    b) the publican has “allowed” alcohol to leave their premise illegally. And yes, despite the fact the customer covertly removed it, they can still be reprimanded via warnings, fines and even suspensions.

    Stealing glassware sucks, and flippantly admitting to it — boasting even — is disgraceful.

  6. I’d be lying if I said I never did it, but I don’t make a habit of it. Quite often I’ve been given them by bars, or I’ve bought them. I’ve even found a few while walking down streets, that other thieves have left on their way. But I do have 2 or 3 souvenirs from pubs I’ve drank a few times at and wanted a keepsake. I feel shame. And one is my favourite glass of all time. A Fuller’s pint glass from London. I’ve been to the same pub 3X on 3 different trips, and have drunk enough Fuller’s over the years to wash the guilt away.

    1. Interesting point, Bob. I see it a fair amount, but usually only at bars that have a lot of craft beer on tap, so they reuse the tap handle when the brand comes around again. Is this a major issue for breweries?

      1. It is a major issue for small breweries. Being kept by a bar who rotates your beer in and out is one thing. But a lot of bars sell the handles to patrons or online, or simply stack them in boxes and do god knows what with them. Once its given to the bar by a distributor, there’s not reclaiming it.

  7. I used to nick glasses from pubs. Mostly, it was from places where I felt I was not being treated properly, but that’s not an excuse. Now, when I see a glass that I like, I ask the staff or the owner if I can buy it, more often than not, they would give it to me for free.

  8. I agree for the most part. I disagree with the notion that a beer bar or restaurant could EVER be running short on glassware when they can get them for free from breweries and distributors with a simple phone call or email. Breweries consider glassware bearing their logo to be advertising/publicity and will be more than happy to provide them free of charge to venues. THIS is why the shaker glass is the most popular beer glass – because bars and restaurants get them for free!

    1. Can’t tell you how wrong you are here. Most breweries do not just give the glasses for free and this idea that we do is one of the reasons people feel it is ok to steal them. At my first brewery we split the cost of the glasses with the Distributor. When a bar has a “free pint night” They are often taking the cost of the glasses on themselves for the chance to get more people in the door. Please provide some proof before claiming that bars and restaurants get them all for free. And before you list a brewery who does give them out take into account their size vs size of most craft brewers (Hoegaarden vs small brewery A for example).

  9. Not all beer glassware is free to the bar and in some states it’s illegal for the Brewery or wholesaler to give bars free “functional” items like glassware, trays, etc. I’ve worked in the beer business for 40+years & people think as soon as a beer logo goes on ANYTHING, it’s FREE. T-shirts, hats, glasses, signage, mirrors, etc. all COST the Brewer or wholesaler MONEY thru their marketing budgets — That cost gets passed along. When working in bars, at festivals or beer dinners, I’ve had people ask (demand) free glasses & have even been asked for the beer shirt I WAS WEARING because they’ll “give me free advertising” by wearing it.

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