Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Closed Bar

People once waited in line for hours for a chance to get into the fabled nightclub.  But eventually, all the hot spots close, and you wonder, in retrospect, what the fuss was all about.

There is nothing sadder than a closed bar or nightclub.  The tattered sign out front, the broken bar stools inside, the falling-down butcher paper on the window, the dried-up layers of puke in the parking lot - it is all so sad.

And it is funny to think back to times when everyone vied to get inside some vaunted "in" place - to see and be seen.  To spend hours in line with the hope that the bouncer behind the velvet rope would chose you for admission to the fabled "club" - where you would have the privilege of paying $10 or more for a beer.

And when you are young, this is an easy narrative to sell - that a night club is "exclusive" and an institution that is permanent or long-lasting.  But in a few short years, what was "hot" goes quickly to "not" - and not only is it easy to get into the club now, you likely don't want to go.

And it is funny how that works - how a successful nightclub owner can sell the sizzle, so to speak, and get people to pay top dollar to be let into what basically is a dark, dank industrial building selling watered-down and overpriced drinks.

It is all a matter of perspective and perception.  As a youth we perceive these sorts of places as long-lasting institutions that have local social stature.  We are unaware that perhaps they opened only a few years earlier, simply because we weren't around then.

But in a few short years, the place you used to pay a $10 cover charge to get into, is now a battered and abandoned building.  You sort of wonder what the fuss was all about, or why, as a youth, you thought it was important.

Well, it was important because they told you it was important - and you believed it.  You heard the ads on the radio, you saw the ads in the local 'alternative' newspaper.  You heard your friends talk about it. And they set up a line and a velvet rope, and people stood in the line - and that made you believe that it was an important place to go to.  After all, if people are being kept out, then there must be a good reason to go in, right?   People want what they can't have or is hard to get.

It is a marketing tactic that is as old as the hills - create demand simply by denying supply.  Once you convince people that something is rare and coveted, they will desire it and want to acquire it. Diamonds, Gold, Cabbage-Patch Dolls, Tickle-Me Elmos, White iPhones - whatever.  If you can sell people on the idea that the item is coveted, people will covet it.

And of course, the media is your best friend in selling this narrative.  They will gleefully report about the long lines to get into your disco - or the fist-fights breaking out between people trying to buy a doll or a cell phone.  Once you get the hype going, people who had no interest in the product will become interested.

In a way, it is like Yesterday's Dream Car - the car that maybe you had a poster of, above your bed, when you were a teen.  A Ferrari 308 GTS - like Magnum, P.I. had.  Once an unobtainable dream car, it now can be had for the price of a loaded Camry.  And once it heads off for the junkyard, you wonder what all the fuss was about.  After all, it was just a car.  It no longer has much status, though.

Status sells.  And when people can convince you that you desire something - that you need to have something, then they have you.  And even convincing other people that something is desirable is useful in selling something to you.  Why else would anyone buy a Cadilliac Escalade - when it is just an overwrought GMC Yukon?  Because they perceive that others desire it, and thus it is desirable.

It's funny, going back home and seeing the old club, now abandoned.  You think about it and you wonder how, as a youngster, you were so taken in by it all...