Monday 31 December 2012

Toast the New Year with Fake Champagne

On this New Year’s Eve I’m sure many HPANWO-readers will be looking for ways to eat, drink and make merry to toast in 2013. In doing so it has become and unfortunate necessity to avoid being taken in by perfectly legal acts of fraud like the one I discovered a few months ago; see:
Here for an important background article: And it’s happened again! This time with this bottle you see me holding above. It looks like a bottle of Champagne; it has a silvery metallic covering and even has the word “Champagne” on the label. What’s more it’s an absolute snip at £4.99. I thought that the price looked too good to be true; why did I forget the second half of that old maxim?: “So what made you think it would not be?” The word on the label is actually “Charlemagne” not “Champagne”, but with the handwritten, cursive style of the lettering the two words are fairly hard to distinguish. As I say in the article linked above I think this is deliberate. Charlemagne is actually not any kind of wine; it’s a perry, what is usually called today “pear cider”. Its alcohol content is a mere 5%, far lower than Champagne, and although this is a big 1.5 litre bottle it might not be enough on its own to spark off the New Year joviality.

Because of my previous experience I’m forewarned and forearmed, but it’s important to realize that the manufacturers of Charlemagne Perry are not actually breaking any rules. You can bet that they had it thoroughly checked by a lawyer before selling it. However this is one of those all too familiar cases in our society in which something bad is done, while holding itself away from the borderline beyond which things are officially labeled “bad”, by using legal loopholes. Red tape and acres of Byzantine small print turn black into white and up into down. The marketing aim of Charlemagne Perry is to make their product look like Champagne. They’re counting on getting in a lot of sales they would not otherwise make from people buying a bottle under the misapprehension that they are buying a bottle of Champagne, and patting themselves on the back for picking one up so cheaply, no doubt. A lot of those people are going to be much more vulnerable than a certain big, tough old ex-Hospital Porter you might have heard of.

I suppose the answer a lot of people will give me is: “Serve them right for not being on their guard! They should have checked the label. More fool them! They’ll know better next time.” I must be in a minority in that I’m concerned that trickery seems to be the normal way to do business nowadays. It shows a great deal of contempt for their potential customers for Charlemagne Perry’s manufacturers to do what they did. “But so what? It’s a dog-eat-dog world, Man!”, as we’re so often told. It also worries me that the ethics of conventional society are changing; the victims of trickery are more likely to be blamed than the perpetrators. If some old lady, a blind person or somebody else vulnerable buys a bottle of this stuff thinking that it’s Champagne then they are to blame for allowing themselves to be fooled. The one doing the fooling is morally A-OK! I find it sad that fairness, trust, honest trade and respect for human dignity and sovereignty have become so marginalized and outmoded. These lamented attitudes are seen by most people as rather quaint and naïve. To believe in them marks you out as weak and sentimental.


Anonymous said...

Spampaigne I call it.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Brilliant LOL