Vol. 7, Issue 1, February 3, 2009
Anheuser-Busch, Miller Move to Five-Packs
In a puzzling new recession-related development, brewers Anheiser-Busch and Miller-Coors have started shipping six-packs with only five bottles or cans, claiming that they will not be able to produce full six-packs again without federal bailout funding.
"It is a sad reflection of the times, but we have no choice given the economic realities of the times," said Anheuser-Busch CEO August Busch IV. "Our position is that we are every bit as much a part of the American landscape as banks and auto companies, and hence we are hopeful that Congress will see the wisdom of sending us a few billion dollars. Six billion would be a nice, round number."
The move is unexpected as, in contrast to most other industries, sales of domestic beer have been strong and both Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors closed 2008 with healthy profits of over $2 billion each.
"It's not about some number on a balance sheet," insisted Busch as he casually shoved the earning reports under his chair. "Unless that number is a federal bailout total, in which case the number matters very much."
The beer companies are only the latest in a long line of industries which have come to Washington with their hands out in recent months. Following the bailout package approved for General Motors and Chrysler, Congress has heard teary testimony from executives in the specialty coffee industry, pharmaceutical companies, Nickelodeon, Marvel Comics, Mrs. Field's Cookies, and the NFL, to name a few. Most executives make a point of carpooling to D.C., conscientiously avoiding the negative impression given by auto executives who used private jets to fly to the capital last fall.
"It's actually pretty easy to carpool, because there are so many of us heading down there," said Harold Stockman, VP of Victoria's Secret. "The main challenge is dealing with the traffic, and trying not to appear too desperate."
Indeed, some executives have been laughed out of Congress for obviously fictional tales of financial woe, such as the Hershey's VP who claimed his family had eaten "nothing but gruel" for a month. Likewise, the decision by executives from Warner Brothers Studios to dress like hoboes did not go over well.
However, unlike most other industries, the beer brewers are considered to have a better shot at getting their demands in spite of their patently lucrative trade.
"The average American has a lot invested in his identity as a beer drinker," said CNN financial analyst Warren Touffe. "Especially since the elevation of this archetype during the recent election. I mean, people had t-shirts made up and everything. The idea of being forced to identify themselves as 'Joe five-pack' just does not sit well with mainstream America. And when Joe Six-Pack speaks, America listens."