Unintended consequences and genever houses


If you fly business class on KLM, you’ll be presented with a welcome gift from the airline: A small ceramic bottle of genever glazed in the style of Delft tiles and modeled after actual buildings in Amsterdam. This is a practice at KLM dating back to 1952, with a new house introduced each year. This I knew from my recent trip to Amsterdam. I have my own bottle, pictured above, of the House of Bols. This is the only one you can acquire without flying KLM or buying from collectors.

What I didn’t know is why this tradition developed. It turns out it’s an unintended consequence of regulation. Airline rules at the time capped the value of gifts to passengers at seventy-five cents, however they placed no restriction on the provision of drinks. KLM’s ingenious work-around was to hand out a single-serving of genever in a bottle that was worth far more than the spirit inside. Despite the cost-cutting that has deglamorized air travel in recent years, these ceramic bottles have become too beloved to eliminate.

See The Wall Street Journal for the full story, and thanks to my friend Edgar Hutte for the tip.