Cheating customers by using tampered peg measures is a common practice in many licensed bars.

Consumer rights are perhaps most trampled underfoot at bar hotels in the State. The Legal Metrology Department, which conducted a series of inspections at licensed bars in the State, found that short selling of liquor was rampant.

The recent checks, coordinated by Controller, Legal Metrology, P. Marykutty, were conducted in a surprise manner to pre-empt allegations of corruption.

The department’s enforcers would send one of their own men incognito to a bar. He would order one-and-a-half pegs, 90 ml, of a cheap brand of liquor and a bottle of packaged drinking water and intimate the enforcers of the purchase over cell phone.

The enforcers would then enter the bar, identify themselves to the counter-staff and use their validated peg measure to gauge the net quantity of liquor retailed over the counter.

Permissible shortfall

The law allows a permissible shortfall of 1 ml of liquor for every 90 ml retailed. However, enforcers said the short fall was often anywhere between 5 to 10 ml.

Short selling was highest during the evening hours, when sales peaked. The cheating was most seen in cheap liquor brands commonly used by manual labourers and citizens from the lower economic stratum of society. Enforcers said barmen cheated their customers mostly by using tampered peg measures. One common method of tampering was to reduce the holding capacity of the peg measure by fixing a small amount of paraffin wax at the bottom of the vessel.

Another ‘not-so-common’ technique was the use of non-standardised peg measures with lesser capacity. Some barmen systematically reduced the volume of the standardised peg measure by grinding its serrated edge on rough surfaces.

In some cases, unauthorised peg measures made of malleable metal are used. Errant barmen could reduce the volume of such measures at will by squeezing the vessel while serving liquor. Dilution of liquor was another malpractice noticed at certain outlets. However, the department has no means to check the strength of the alcohol sold at hotels. Arguments over short selling of liquor have often been the cause of violence at bar hotels.

Officials said that they also found that packaged food items such as soda, snacks and mineral water were sold at inflated rates at most bar-hotels.