Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Resistance to Winnowing: The Bud Problem

My posting yesterday, "Resistance to Winnowing", was a bit subtle, discussing a human effect neither recognized nor experienced by most people. But I thought of the perfect everyday example: bars that don't serve Bud.

You're sitting in a craft beer bar - a rare refuge for enthusiasts - and a new customer enters, orders a Bud, and is told "Sorry, we don't actually serve Bud, but would you like to try one of our quality light lagers?" It doesn't go well. Worlds are rocked. People can get loud. Most craft beer bars keep a few bottles of Bud around to pacify such situations.

99.999% of bars in America serve Bud (in fact, the damned stuff was actually called "America" for a while this summer). In most cities, you're rarely more than a 5 minute walk from a bottle of it. So what's the big deal if a microscopically tiny slice of venues prefers a different way? Why not vote with your feet, and head somewhere else, realizing that different places serve different people?

Again: people tenaciously and indignantly resist any effort to make them self-bifurcate - to go elsewhere to better align with their preferences. It infuriates people to sense - even subconsciously - that they're being in any way winnowed.

Let's turn it around. Say the most popular beer in America was Russian River's legendary "Pliny the Elder", rather than Bud, and I lived a happy existence as a perpetually plastered, somewhat functional alcoholic. And say a tiny beleaguered minority didn't like the big flavor, preferring Budweiser. And say I strode into a bar called "Blandsville Pub" and off-handedly requested a Pliny the Elder...and was refused. I have to imagine I'd be slightly surprised, but accept that this particular bar isn't for me. I could walk out and get what I want in literally every other bar in town (or else order a bourbon).

But here's the difference: I wouldn't feel winnowed. Maybe it hinges on coming out on a downward ladder position - i.e. pushing sensitized buttons re: Cool Kids Club.

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