Pizza, beer and retail success

Trendy retailers nationwide have discovered that sweetening their sales pitch with a little pizza and beer – or a lot of pizza and beer – is a surefire way to lure male shoppers into their establishments.

According to a recent Associated Press report, many higher-end shops – including exclusive jewelers and clothiers – have begun offering these otherwise mundane foodstuffs as an added incentive to male customers who, under normal circumstances, scrupulously avoid shopping.

I’d like to get all excited about this revelation, but it’s really just an old twist on a time-honored tradition which, I believe, may have started in the nation’s venerated thirst emporiums way back in the 19th century.

(That was, like, the one before the 20th century…)

Old-time saloonkeepers used to draw potential customers of the male persuasion to their establishments by offering free hors d’oeuvres with libations. Of course, in the good old days, these on-the-house treats might include such savories as pickled eggs, day-old sardine filets on month-old crackers and heroic slices of head cheese.

Pickled pigs’ feet and grayish sausages floating in jars of opaque goo also were quite popular with 19th-century tipplers attempting to temper their alcohol consumption with a protein chaser.

The practice was wildly successful for many years before it mysteriously faded away from the fabric of American life.

(Musta been the head cheese.)

Old-fashioned saloon society’s loss, though, is sure to be the salvation of modern-day boutique society as formerly stand-offish male shoppers follow their noses and answer the siren song of salami and suds.

No longer will the “free lunch” of bygone days be confined to dimly lit taverns run by surly saloonkeepers named Red, Spike or One-Eyed Thaddeus. No sirree – once this practice catches on, everybody from Victoria’s Secret to Nordstrom’s will be decorously jumping onto the bandwagon.

Let’s face it, nothing says “Welcome!” like pizza and beer, especially when it’s free pizza and beer served to you by some snooty guy in a tuxedo who’s casually dangling a platinum Rolex watch under your nose.

Perhaps best of all, beer and pizza – whether cheesy bite-sized nibbles or steaming slabs of provolone and pepperoni – contain virtually all the recognized food groups needed for a balanced diet.

I know pizza and beer changed my life for the better. When I started college, I was a 150-pound fencer who positively loved sprinting aimlessly about the countryside for no apparent reason. When I left college, I had grown into a 210-pound pizza-and-beer-fueled force to be reckoned with.

Thanks to this proven marketing tool, guys everywhere will now have an opportunity to enjoy a similar transformation – free!

Financial institutions, florists and flooring stores are sure to join in the free-pizza-and-beer retail revolution. And once the ball gets rolling, it’ll only be a matter of time until law firms, septic tank services and funeral homes weigh in.

It’ll be a brave new world, amigos…

Originally published January 29, 2006

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