Free Beer at Work, but With a Catch (with Poll)

This video gives an overview of how Yelp’s iPad-powered kegerator works – it’s actually pretty cool if you can look past the Big Brother part.

One has to look no further than Yelp’s San Francisco offices to see that we have officially become slaves to technology.  You see, there they have a kegerator full of top-notch craft beer, free for the taking.  But there’s a catch – it’s guarded by an electronic overseer.

In order to pour even an ounce of the Ranger IPA or St. Bernardus Tripel they might have on tap that day, you must first use the attached iPad to log into the system and reveal your identity.  From that point, every ounce you pour is recorded.  Stats are kept.  Leaderboards are created.  Consumption is monitored….

The tap looks cool but it's actually a little sinister when you think about it.

Drinking beer and even booze is nothing new at tech startups.  Many employees work late hours, and these young and hip companies want their people to see work as an extension of their homes.  Want a beer with lunch?  No problem.  Working late coding software?  Have a beer and enjoy yourself.  After all, we’re all adults.

But not all companies have the same opinion of what “we’re all adults” means.  In the case of Twitter and CrowdFlower, it means a fridge full of beer and wine for the taking with no one looking over your shoulder.

At Yelp it means “we’re all adults, but we’re keep track of you.”  As Eric Singley, Yelp’s director of consumer and mobile products tells Bloomberg about the data the company collects on in-office drinking:

“If you’re at the top of the leader board consistently, I don’t know if that’s a place that you’d want to be. Luckily, that hasn’t really even been an issue.”

So that means they’re definitely keeping tabs on who is drinking how much, which might be a smart thing for the business to do.  The Bloomberg article also quotes Robert Sutton, a professor at Stanford’s management science and engineering department, who has seen the downside to in-office imbibing:

“I’ve been involved in workplaces that can be pretty dysfunctional, where people will start drinking a little too much at lunch,” Sutton said. “There’s like a bazillion studies that show when people drink, their performance is impaired, and there’s problems with absenteeism.”

Add the increased likelihood of sexual harassment to the mix, and you can make a case for keeping a lid on things.

Looks like Gabriel H. needs to report for reprogramming.

For many people, having your company offer free craft beer in exchange for being monitored is a trade off they’d make.  After all, most of us are actually adults, and would be able to moderate our consumption so it didn’t interfere with our productivity or our ability to pilot our cars back to our houses, so who cares if the boss is counting ounces?

Well I do, that’s who.  Maybe it’s my Libertarian streak, but what Yelp is doing rubs me the wrong way. Why offer free beer to employees if you don’t trust them to do the right thing?

While I love a good set of data as much as the next guy, I think monitoring your employees so closely is needlessly controlling. It shows that Yelp is the kind of place I wouldn’t want to work (even if they have free beer).

So what do you think? Would you make the trade off?




Keep Up With The Beer & Whiskey Brothers on Facebook!.



Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Beer, Lifestyle, Poll


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

Join the Madness

Like beer? Like whiskey? Like goofing off? Follow Us!

25 Comments on “Free Beer at Work, but With a Catch (with Poll)”

  1. March 15, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I bet if the FDA were behind it and not the private employers, who might be held liable for the actions of their drinking employees, you wouldn’t mind the monitoring as much. 🙂 This way, they can simply issue opinions.

    • March 15, 2011 at 10:29 am #

      No I’d mind it even more if the Federal Government was keeping track of my beer consumption.

      • March 15, 2011 at 10:30 am #

        But not my Four Loko. 🙂

      • March 15, 2011 at 10:36 am #

        Strictly speaking, there’s nothing unlibertarian about what they’re doing.

        • March 15, 2011 at 10:40 am #

          Not being a strict Libertairian, I wouldn’t know. 🙂

          I just think that if you’re going to trust your employees to have beer in the office, let them use their own common sense and judgment to do the right thing. If they are incapable of doing so, then don’t offer them beer.

  2. March 15, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    BTW, I voted “sometimes” above. Apparently I’ll trade my moral high ground for a pint of beer.

  3. Don
    March 15, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Me too. Sometimes, huh. I think it is because although I wouldn’t like the Big Brother aspect of it very well, I also know I could keep myself pretty close to the bottom of the list. Also I have a mini fridge in my office, so if I wanted to I could always supplement the free stuff that is coming out of the tap. That way I can stay drunk for half the price! What a bargain!

    It is kind of funny, We had to stop bringing in beer and wine to the office. About 2 years ago in order to work on Federal projects they required that their contractors adopt a drug free workplace policy and get their employees tested. Yes I peed in a cup! That policy extends to alcohol as well as other more nefarious drugs. So no beer for me! I have been known to slide over to Brewforia for a beer with lunch on occasion however.

    • March 15, 2011 at 10:42 am #

      I never imbibe at work – I wouldn’t even consider it, really. It’s a cool idea, but I’m usually moving too fast to think about having a beer.

      That said, put a tap in the office and that policy would change pretty quickly!!

  4. March 15, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    I traveled to Sweden about 7 years ago on business. The hotel had a beer tap in the dining room, AND the company I was working with had a beer tap in the cafeteria. The beer wasn’t anything to flip over, just some low-octane pale ale, but novelty of it compared to my experience in the U.S. has never left me.

    • March 15, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      It was like that in Germany as well, but it was altbier that was everywhere. It’s like they consider themselves capable of being responsible adults or something. Weird.

      • March 15, 2011 at 10:57 am #

        Nihilists! In Mississippi the teenage cashiers at the grocery store aren’t even allowed to scan the beer I’m buying after they verify my age. They have to call someone else over for the sole purpose of physically sliding the beer through the scanner and placing it in the shopping bag. It’s for the children!

        • March 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

          Obviously they are far more civilized in Mississippi than in the rest of our godless nation.

      • Don
        March 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

        Same is true in Idaho. Cashiers have to be 21 to ring up beer and wine sales. Happened to me just a couple months back I was buying a bottle of cooking wine and the cashier called in another person to scan the bottle and bag it for her. Crazy!

  5. March 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    I don’t see being on the top of that list as a problem. More as a goal.

    • March 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

      Yes, but Yelp does see it as a problem, which sorta sucks.

      • Don
        March 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

        What if a guy was hugely productive and drank like a fish? Would they try to stop him from drinking so much and risk productivity losses?

        • March 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

          I think you’d have to be a Rock Star, and even then someone would find a way to use it against you. God help you if you slipped up, even a little.

      • March 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

        If ya gotta go. Go while on top. Plus if I were to drink in a workplace a flask is far easier to manage. A little stagg goes a long way.

        • Don
          March 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

          Preach it Reverend!

        • March 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

          You make me want to become a daytime drunk, sir.

    • March 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

      Alas my job frowns upon drinking at the workplace. We do have a last chance agreement if you piss hot. Rather not have to use it yet.

  6. Alex
    March 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    You could also use this for disciplinary purposes by filling the keg with awful beer. Say you screw up somehow. Your boss could say “go drink two pints of Bud Light Chelada from the keg of shame and we’ll call it good.” The iPad app would ensure that you received your punishment.

    In Jim’s case, his boss would get a keg of La Folie. 🙂

    • Don
      March 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

      Or Chartooka Rye!

      • March 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

        Well there are two taps on that thing… 😉

  7. Mentalbender
    March 27, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Clock out early and stay late I say.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: