Speaking of Glen, he’s got a nice, Seuss inspired analysis of two kinds of “games” driving patronage at bars and other social spots. Which makes me think of a devious way an unscrupulous bar owner could undermine his competitors. Say you’ve got a spot you’re trying to market to one of several self-segregating demographics—following Glen, let’s say hipsters. But they’re all accustomed to frequenting the incumbent hipster bar. What to do? Easy: Hire a dozen or so fratboys—loud and a bit loutish, but not so much so as to give anyone grounds to eject them from a bar, and aim them at the enemy. The old crowd shortly jumps ship, but finds that new spots similarly “contaminated”… except for yours.
Of course, the fact that this doesn’t really happen naturally very often points to a limitation of Glen’s “Sneetches and herds” model as a general one: There isn’t really a unified “hip.” The average McFadden’s patron probably has about as much interest in going to the Black Cat as the Cat patron does in swilling a beer at McFadden’s. (Apply your own local haunts and scenes as you prefer.) I have seen the dynamic he describes in action (influx followed by exodus of the original regulars) but I think the herding force is dominant, largely because venue decor and ambiance usuall already acts as a signal to members of the target demographic and filter for the members of others.