Is Beer Stand Trickery at Play in L.A.?

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Webster defines "dodger" as "one who uses tricky devices." Is beer stand trickery taking place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles?

One would think that buying beer in volume would give you the best value for your dollar. Not so, according to Katie Sweeney, editor of Sweeney bought small, regular and large beers at Dodger Stadium to see just how much of a difference size makes. With the cups offering no clues as to their volume other than they get progressively taller, Sweeney drank a regular-size beer first, then poured the small into the regular cup, nearly filling it. Topping the cups off with water at home confirmed that the small, priced at $6, held 18 ounces and that an extra two bucks bought her exactly two more ounces in the regular cup. The $10 large beer, which comes in a cup bearing the Dodgers logo, holds 26 ounces - still two ounces more than the average fan can metabolize in an hour. (A study released earlier this year claims that 8 percent of fans at professional baseball and football games are legally intoxicated.)

So Sweeney's bottoms-up bottom line for ballpark consumers is this: at three ounces per dollar, the small beer is the most economical. Extrapolating that ratio to the other beer prices, consumers may get taller cups when they buy regular and large beers, but they are shorted four ounces in each case. Writes Sweeney, "Moral of the story: if you don't mind waiting in line, buy small beers."

But is this truly a case of the Dodgers scamming fans, as suggested in the headline of Sweeney's post? "I don't believe it is," says Jill Pepper, executive director of the nonprofit TEAM Coalition, which provides alcohol management training to professional and collegiate sports entities, including all 30 Major League Baseball clubs. "I think the reality is that they have a certain inventory of cups, and they get certain deals from their provider of product. So between those three sizes and how much they pour into each of the sizes, they are able to price things differently." (The Dodgers did not immediate respond to Pepper's attempts to confirm her theory.)

According to Pepper, who tracks each MLB team's largest single serving of beer, the Dodgers have reported that they top out at 24 ounces, two fewer than the capacity of the largest cup in Sweeney's experiment. "It happens in many venues," Pepper says, "that they have a certain cup size that they have purchased and they have in supply and they have to use, so they assign what serving size goes into that cup and they discuss with the vendors how full to make it. As a person familiar with how beers are poured at stadiums, they're typically not that full."

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