Monday, 6 May 2013

Short measures at the Savoy

Here's an odd source for something about Lager: a rancourous dismissal case.

A sacked barman hit back by claiming the management were complicit in the systematic serving of short measures and overcharging.

Savoy Allegations 'Groundless'

WHEN the ex-hotel barman's slander action, hearing was continued before Lord Goddard and a jury, in the King's Bench Division to-day, Mr. Roy Wilson, for the defence, submitted that the plaintiff's allegations, were absolutely groundless.

"One might think that as the result of the termination of his employment he was determined to throw every possible handful of mud at the Savoy, hoping it would stick."

The action for damages was brought by a former head barman at the Savoy Hotel, London, Mr. MatheW Dent Bertram, of St. James's-road, Surbiton, Surrey, against Mr. Arthur Collard, assistant manager at the Savoy Hotel, Mr. Stanley, a detective employed at the hotel, and the Savoy Hotel proprietors.

Against Mr. Collard and the hotel proprietors, the plaintiff alleged slander, assault and battery, and false imprisonment.


Against Mr. Stanley and the hotel proprietors he alleged assault and false imprisonment, and against the hotel proprietors alleged wrongful dismissal. He claimed damages In respect of each of the allegations.

Defendants denied the allegations, pleaded privilege in regard to the alleged slander, and maintained that the dismissal was justified.

Mr. Bertram alleged that on February 25, 1948, Mr. Collard in the office at the Savoy Hotel of Mr. Shaw, head of the audit department, said that plaintiff had been letting Hansen, head porter, and Andersen, another employee, have bottles of whisky.

He also alleged that Mr. Stanley then took him to another room the hotel where was kept for some time before being escorted out of the building.


Mr. Wm. N. Reginald Luxford, who worked as a barman at the Savoy from January. 1946, to December, 1947, said he understood eventually that percentage meant the percentage of profit over and above the ordinary profit of the bar.

The percentage was made up by short measure on whisky and overcharging on brandy and lager. He had no instructions about that. It was there when he went to the bar and was carried on all the time.

Cross-examined, Mr. Luxford said he would not suggest that anyone in authority knew about the short measure, but they must have had some idea about it. He did not know it was extremely wrong to give short measure. He was told by the head barman at the time not to fill the measure up.

In reply to Lord Goddard, Mr. Luxford said he thought short measure was given so that there would be an amount of spirits in hand at the end of a period. He did not know what became of the amount in hand.

Mr. Roy Wilson for the defence said Mr. Bertram had not hesitated to make outrageous suggestions that Mr. Shaw and other people had been parties to giving short measures and inferior brands of sherry.


Mr. Collard, giving evidence, said he had been employed at the Savoy for 15 years. When complaints were received from private rooms of short measure, he immediately rectified them by ordering them to be sent back to the bar and full measures given. Mr. Stanley was informed and told to keep watch on any short measures or any irregularities in the bar. (Proceeding)"
Gloucestershire Echo - Tuesday 22 November 1949, page 6.
I'm not naive enough to think that this sort of think hasn't regularly happened in the past, and continues to happen today.  I am a bit surprised to see it so widespread at so posh a hotel.

You can see how it must have been easy for the barmen to fiddle the measure when the customer wasn't there when it was served. I assume the the mention of "private rooms" means that it was room service. I'll remember to check the measure next time I call down to the hotel bar to order a quadruple whisky.

Overcharged for Lager - hasn't that always been the case in Britain?

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