When wine customers misbehave

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Bruce Leiser_owitz
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When wine customers misbehave

#1 Post by Bruce Leiser_owitz » September 8th, 2017, 11:46 am

https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-not-t ... nts_sector

Could be in the More Saturday Retail Funnies thread as well.....

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#2 Post by cjsavino » September 8th, 2017, 11:58 am

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#3 Post by Jonathan Loesberg » September 8th, 2017, 12:16 pm

Is Posner truly put off with someone pronouncing a French wine as he knows the French would pronounce it (a thing you can do without speaking French, after all) or does he know enough French to know that they are not pronouncing it correctly but in the manner of Inspector Clouzot? I find this a very odd complaint, either way.

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#4 Post by s.nellessen » September 8th, 2017, 12:28 pm

So is it misbehaving to ask the sales staff if they've tasted the wine? I am guilty.
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#5 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » September 8th, 2017, 12:41 pm

Sometimes a customer at MCF Rare Wine in Manhattan will actually pick up a bottle and ask proprietor Matt Franco if he’s tasted the wine. The fact that the store is quite small, with only 100 or so bottles on the shelves, doesn’t seem to register. Some people will even add, “Is it any good?” Shouldn’t the fact that Mr. Franco has culled his selection to such a tiny number signify that these are wines he likes?
What an asinine complaint. If you can't, or won't, have this conversation with a customer then you need to quit. Such a question is (1) not only reasonable, but (2) is also usually a conversation starter for hand-selling the customer on wines that fit their specific needs and preferences.

The French accent complaint is just slightly less ridiculous --- if one is aiming to actually have proper pronunciation, how else should one pronounce a French word than with a French accent? [scratch.gif]
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#6 Post by Jorge Henriquez » September 8th, 2017, 12:43 pm

Jonathan Loesberg wrote:Is Posner truly put off with someone pronouncing a French wine as he knows the French would pronounce it (a thing you can do without speaking French, after all) or does he know enough French to know that they are not pronouncing it correctly but in the manner of Inspector Clouzot? I find this a very odd complaint, either way.
Wonder how he thinks Pouilly Fuisse should be asked for.
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#7 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » September 8th, 2017, 12:55 pm

Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote:
Sometimes a customer at MCF Rare Wine in Manhattan will actually pick up a bottle and ask proprietor Matt Franco if he’s tasted the wine. The fact that the store is quite small, with only 100 or so bottles on the shelves, doesn’t seem to register. Some people will even add, “Is it any good?” Shouldn’t the fact that Mr. Franco has culled his selection to such a tiny number signify that these are wines he likes?
What an asinine complaint. If you can't, or won't, have this conversation with a customer then you need to quit. Such a question is (1) not only reasonable, but (2) is also usually a conversation starter for hand-selling the customer on wines that fit their specific needs and preferences.

The French accent complaint is just slightly less ridiculous --- if one is aiming to actually have proper pronunciation, how else should one pronounce a French word than with a French accent? [scratch.gif]
No kidding, a totally stupid complaint, a bit elitist too. I don't speak French (John Morris will chuckle here), so I'm sure some of my pronounciations are terrible. I try, and if someone helps me pronounce it correctly, that's fantastic for future reference.
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#8 Post by Jonathan Loesberg » September 8th, 2017, 1:01 pm

Jorge Henriquez wrote:
Jonathan Loesberg wrote:Is Posner truly put off with someone pronouncing a French wine as he knows the French would pronounce it (a thing you can do without speaking French, after all) or does he know enough French to know that they are not pronouncing it correctly but in the manner of Inspector Clouzot? I find this a very odd complaint, either way.
Wonder how he thinks Pouilly Fuisse should be asked for.
Well, if he were Peter Sellers, perhaps he would say Poolay Fwasuh. I'd still prefer that to the numbers of ways I've heard it mangled by English speakers.

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#9 Post by Brian Gilp » September 8th, 2017, 1:03 pm

I don't see the problem in asking a merchant if they will take less to make a sale as long as it's on specific bottles and with a reason. I wouldn't do it for everything I intended to purchase. I have done it on off vintages that languished on the shelf or specific bottles that I can buy elsewhere for less but prefer not to. I have also had merchants offer me a lower price on things that I am looking at while browsing the store to motivate me. I was even offered a discount if I would increase my purchase so that I would take all of the store's remaining inventory of a particular wine. So if both sides are willing to negotiate, I don't see an issue.
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#10 Post by Ian Sutton » September 8th, 2017, 1:03 pm

Yes some fair complaints there, though I certainly don't agree with Daniel unless those feeble attempts at French are delivered in a haughty 'look at me you pleb' kind of manner. I've had staff try to bullsh*t before, and it's likely I've done it at some point. Sometimes it's worth calling misplaced pomposity, other times it's not worth it, or can be handled subtly to avoid embarrassing the person.

The sexism is shocking if not that surprising, and I rather appreciate it when the staff treat me with respect, so they deserve respect themselves. A friend used to own a wine shop, and a famous sports commentator came into his shop, bought some wine and said something along the line of "carry my wine to the car boy". The response was along the lines of "f*ck off, carry your own wine if you're talking to me like that". They patched it up and I think both apologised in the end.

Which leads onto the mobile phones / headphones. Yes I agree it is very disrespectful. It doesn't take much to complete the call outside the store. I do endeavour to say "Hi / Hello / Good morning" when I walk into a store, I may not want any help, in which case I ask if it's ok to browse and the conversation may end there. It doesn't take much effort to be pleasant and respectful.

I applaud the 'score free shops' and it is a way for them to distinguish themselves from those that have points shouting shelf talkers. I recall once in my early days asking if they minded me looking at the Jeremy Oliver guide I had with me, and they were ok with it, but said they would have objected if it was Parker's guide (back when he was very influential, and they didn't appreciate his influence).

Dogs in the store? Most would assume that this wasn't allowed, barring dogs for the blind, and would ask first if they wanted to take the dog in. It is usual to tie a dog to railings etc. here if the owner needs to go into a shop.

The "Is it any good" question would probably have got me initiating a conversation along the lines of what the customer liked, and if the wine matched their tastes, then yes it may well be good. Most people (excluding most here) are still so uncertain / intimidated by wine, that they want someone else to tell them what they should like.

A good article IMO.
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#11 Post by Brandon J. » September 8th, 2017, 1:12 pm

I think anytime you're in SERVICE and you write a laundry list of "complaints" about customers, It's a flawed premise.

In any service industry, there will always be rude/oblivious folks and I think that comes with the territory. If you don't like or want to deal with people then maybe a brick and mortar store isn't for you and online sales should be your thing.

Seems like the article could have been said in a few sentences: Be courteous and don't get presumptuous and you're good.
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#12 Post by J a y H a c k » September 8th, 2017, 1:15 pm

I thought it was pronounced Pussy Footy
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#13 Post by Ian Dorin » September 8th, 2017, 1:32 pm

I thought it was a great article, if not nostalgic for some of the reasons I left retail. It's frustrating as a retailer, and speaks to a high level of pessimism that clients carry (certainly not all) when walking in to any retailer, no matter what type of retailer it is.

I wrote Lettie and told her that I was pretty surprised that no one mentioned a specific type of client that I found totally frustrating. They were mostly commonly buying totally inane wine, like $9 non-descript Pinot Grigio, but they would doubt every recommendation you made simply because "they never heard of it". Once that line came in to play, I found it a no-win situation, would say something humble like, "I'm sorry, I'm just not sure what I have that you might know, but you can look in this area for things you may recognize based on what you are looking for", wish them a nice day and move on. I hate to put it this way, but that person is in no way a loyal client to any store, and was not in the future of pretty much any store. It comes across as snobby, as you have to say you cater to everyone, but this is one of those cases where you will simply never win, and never get enough return on the investment.
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#14 Post by Ian Dorin » September 8th, 2017, 1:36 pm

Brandon J. wrote:I think anytime you're in SERVICE and you write a laundry list of "complaints" about customers, It's a flawed premise.

In any service industry, there will always be rude/oblivious folks and I think that comes with the territory. If you don't like or want to deal with people then maybe a brick and mortar store isn't for you and online sales should be your thing.

Seems like the article could have been said in a few sentences: Be courteous and don't get presumptuous and you're good.
Then it wouldn't be an article, it would be sound, sage advice to the masses ;)

What's interesting about your comment is that only recently has it really become a service industry. It's really something of the last 20 years as a huge brand explosion has created a need for added service. I will disagree with you that it's a flawed premise, having been on the retail side for over 16 years, it's really quite common that people walk in with a "glass half empty mentality". They think whomever is helping them is out to screw them in some odd, twisted way. The rude ones say the glass is smashed and their is water to clean up.
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#15 Post by Anton D » September 8th, 2017, 1:46 pm

I think we have a winner in the search for the "firstest" of the first world problems contest!

Those shops are in serious need of some velvet ropes and a bouncer outside to check people's bonafides before they can bring in their phony accents and 'idiotic' questions and ruin the lives of the proprietors and staff.
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#16 Post by Anthony Iezzi » September 8th, 2017, 2:43 pm

Aside from the dogs and sexism that was absurd. You are willingly in a retail environment and these are the customer issues you complain about? Maybe close the door and sell thru a slot if these simple items bother you. Oh and of course these 100 or so selections are good, I selected them. How full of yourself do you have to be. Oh you want to browse without being bothered, how dare you not give me a chance to convince you to buy something. Oh and for the Posner thing, that doesn't surprise me. I'm sure he was born knowing French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Greek, Russian and every dialect of every region in Antarctica.

I wonder how many of these people know how ridiculous they sound considering the perils of a police officer, a fire person, a first responder??? Heck even the AAA driver changing their flat tire on the freeway at night. How about an inner city high school teacher? The people who climb up on electric poles to make sure your lights stay on. The person who makes sure you have running water and can flush your BS away later. Most importantly how about the people who protect the lives we lead in the armed forces?

I'm sorry for the rant but this ugly pretentious side of this hobby/life is the absolute thing I can't stand and it embarrasses me.

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#17 Post by Anthony Iezzi » September 8th, 2017, 2:46 pm

Oh and misbehaving FFS? How about when a convenience store clerk is shot?

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#18 Post by Mark Golodetz » September 8th, 2017, 2:49 pm

Daniel and I have had our differences, maybe it is my English accent!
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#19 Post by c fu » September 8th, 2017, 2:55 pm

Mark Golodetz wrote:Daniel and I have had our differences, maybe it is my English accent!
does it only come out when you pronounce english wines? [snort.gif]
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#20 Post by DanielP » September 8th, 2017, 3:03 pm

Anthony Iezzi wrote: I wonder how many of these people know how ridiculous they sound considering the perils of a police officer, a fire person, a first responder??? Heck even the AAA driver changing their flat tire on the freeway at night. How about an inner city high school teacher? The people who climb up on electric poles to make sure your lights stay on. The person who makes sure you have running water and can flush your BS away later. Most importantly how about the people who protect the lives we lead in the armed forces?

I'm sorry for the rant but this ugly pretentious side of this hobby/life is the absolute thing I can't stand and it embarrasses me.
You just took the ridiculousness to a whole nother extreme.
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#21 Post by SteveG » September 8th, 2017, 3:10 pm

I have been in a variety of retail businesses over the years, and to be totally candid, while a few of these behaviors might be personally offensive (like a sexist view of wine knowledge), none of them would put me off a potential customer (well, as long as the dog doesn't mess the floor). The truth is, getting along with a "challenging" customer and making him/her feel welcome and appreciated is a basic part of promoting any business...
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#22 Post by Eric S n y d e r » September 8th, 2017, 3:37 pm

Shouldn't a brick and mortor wine shop be happy that someone walked into the store when they could have gone to wine.com and sorted by lowest price X highest score?? :o

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#23 Post by John Morris » September 8th, 2017, 3:38 pm

My favorite line in the story:
But Apothic Red drinkers refused to buy it in her store. “They said, ‘Oh I couldn’t buy that wine in a nice wine shop,’ ” she said.
"But they told me there would be a hand basket."

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#24 Post by WilliamW » September 8th, 2017, 5:20 pm

read whine
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#25 Post by Ken V » September 8th, 2017, 5:35 pm

Jonathan Loesberg wrote:Is Posner truly put off with someone pronouncing a French wine as he knows the French would pronounce it (a thing you can do without speaking French, after all) or does he know enough French to know that they are not pronouncing it correctly but in the manner of Inspector Clouzot? I find this a very odd complaint, either way.
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#26 Post by maureen nelson » September 8th, 2017, 5:49 pm

Jorge Henriquez wrote:
Jonathan Loesberg wrote:Is Posner truly put off with someone pronouncing a French wine as he knows the French would pronounce it (a thing you can do without speaking French, after all) or does he know enough French to know that they are not pronouncing it correctly but in the manner of Inspector Clouzot? I find this a very odd complaint, either way.
Wonder how he thinks Pouilly Fuisse should be asked for.
Just as Cheech pronounced it in one of theCheech and Chong movies when he held up the empty bottle and asked Chong to get more of this "fussy pussy."

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#27 Post by Peter Shurman » September 8th, 2017, 6:06 pm

thanks for the link CJ ... [cheers.gif]
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#28 Post by Brent C l a y t o n » September 8th, 2017, 6:16 pm

Jonathan Loesberg wrote:Is Posner truly put off with someone pronouncing a French wine as he knows the French would pronounce it (a thing you can do without speaking French, after all) or does he know enough French to know that they are not pronouncing it correctly but in the manner of Inspector Clouzot? I find this a very odd complaint, either way.
When somebody mispronounces a French wine because they don't know how to say it correctly, combined with a bad fake French accent, it sounds horrible.

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#29 Post by Brent C l a y t o n » September 8th, 2017, 6:18 pm

"Is this wine any good?"

No it sucks, that's why I stock it you f*cking dumbass.
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#30 Post by Markus S » September 8th, 2017, 6:18 pm

Mark Golodetz wrote:Daniel and I have had our differences, maybe it is my English accent!
But you look so American in your photo!
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#31 Post by Anton D » September 8th, 2017, 10:45 pm

The article failed to describe the horrible symptoms of the apoplexy that those delicate proprietors suffer when faced with those barbarians.
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#32 Post by A S K R O B A C K » September 9th, 2017, 6:50 am

That is an article in search of an editor and a rethink of just how whiney one should be. I don't blame the merchants, who were obviously sought out for quotes to fill the author's "idea" that never went anywhere.
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#33 Post by Nolan E » September 9th, 2017, 8:00 am

s.nellessen wrote:So is it misbehaving to ask the sales staff if they've tasted the wine? I am guilty.
That's not what was said.
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#34 Post by Brian Tuite » September 9th, 2017, 8:22 am

Nolan E wrote:
s.nellessen wrote:So is it misbehaving to ask the sales staff if they've tasted the wine? I am guilty.
That's not what was said.
Uh, that's exactly what was said.

"Sometimes a customer at MCF Rare Wine in Manhattan will actually pick up a bottle and ask proprietor Matt Franco if he’s tasted the wine."
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#35 Post by Scott G r u n e r » September 9th, 2017, 8:50 am

I read that part slightly different. It was just if they had tasted, but then "was it good?" follow up question, and the complaint was that there was no way to know the customers taste preferences etc.

That was my read, at least, but I admit I read it yesterday and very quickly and didnt think enough of the article to read it again to confirm.

I agree with many here that this article fell short of the mark in several ways. Seemed hastily written, was choppy and flowed poorly, and didnt do a good job of describing the scenarios particularly if generating empathy for the shop owners was the goal.
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#36 Post by Matthew Brown » September 9th, 2017, 8:58 am

I don't mind if the customer asks the salesperson if they personally tasted the wine. Even in a smaller store many of the wines are brought in by only 1-2 people tasting it and making the call. Part time employees may only work busier times like weekends and not be privy to distributor tastings during the week.
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#37 Post by Scott G r u n e r » September 9th, 2017, 9:11 am

"Have you tasted the wine" is a necessary question to ask when a wine shop employee recommends a wine. There is a shop near me where the guy tries to personally recommend every wine in the store, but has actually tasted very few
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#38 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » September 9th, 2017, 9:22 am

I sometimes ask if my favorite merchant has tasted the wine. The shop stocks thousands of bottles, so it's not a stupid question. Sometimes he tells me "yes I have, and it's not your sort of thing." I appreciate the candor.
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#39 Post by Ian Sutton » September 9th, 2017, 10:02 am

Ian Sutton wrote: A friend used to own a wine shop, and a famous sports commentator came into his shop, bought some wine and said something along the line of "carry my wine to the car boy". The response was along the lines of "f*ck off, carry your own wine if you're talking to me like that". They patched it up and I think both apologised in the end.
Said commentator retired today, so a small few may be able to work it out.
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#40 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 9th, 2017, 10:25 am

I think the retailers for the most part are way way way too sensitive. Their feelings seem pretty easily damaged.
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#41 Post by Mark Golodetz » September 9th, 2017, 10:30 am

Markus S wrote:
Mark Golodetz wrote:Daniel and I have had our differences, maybe it is my English accent!
But you look so American in your photo!

I know: I am still amazed I fooled everybody by claiming I was eligible to be President!
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#42 Post by Anton D » September 9th, 2017, 10:32 am

Can we still ask a food server if he or she has tasted a certain dish, or will that cause them to melt like a wine retailer when asked if he has tasted a certain wine?
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#43 Post by M. Meer » September 9th, 2017, 11:44 am

Mark Golodetz wrote:
I know: I am still amazed I fooled everybody by claiming I was eligible to be President!
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PaulMills
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When wine customers misbehave

#44 Post by PaulMills » September 9th, 2017, 12:14 pm

Asking if the employee has tasted the wine is an acceptable question. Asking whether it is good is fine but their palate may vary greatly from mine, so it may be a useless question. I prefer to ask what it tastes like and what it might compare to.

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When wine customers misbehave

#45 Post by Brent C l a y t o n » September 9th, 2017, 12:22 pm

Nothing wrong with asking an employee offering guidance if they've actually tasted the wine, especially if they're offering a description of it. "Can you describe this wine?" or some variation of "What do you think/what is your opinion of this wine?" is not the same question as "Is this wine any good?" I've sold plenty of wine I don't particularly like by describing it accurately, and in specific cases knowing the palates of my customers and assuring them it's something they will enjoy.
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David Glasser
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When wine customers misbehave

#46 Post by David Glasser » September 9th, 2017, 12:25 pm

Asking if the salesperson tasted the wine is a perfectly normal question. And asking if it is good is one way of opening up a discussion about its style/characteristics. Perhaps an unsophisticated way of asking, but retailers should expect their customers to be less sophisticated than they are. Perhaps it depends on the tone and nonverbal cues accompanying the question. And how is a customer to know whether the salesperson helping them is the owner or the one who made the selections?

Back about 30 years ago, I would sometimes take a copy of the Wine Advocate with me when shopping, especially to an unfamiliar store. It was a lot more useful than shelf talkers and the majority of salespeople who knew nothing of my preferences and seemed not to care or listen. Those who did got my repeat business.

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When wine customers misbehave

#47 Post by John Morris » September 9th, 2017, 1:30 pm

Scott G r u n e r wrote: I agree with many here that this article fell short of the mark in several ways. Seemed hastily written, was choppy and flowed poorly, and didnt do a good job of describing the scenarios particularly if generating empathy for the shop owners was the goal.
Yes. Seems like a good concept but poor execution. The examples just aren't very compelling or shocking. I'm sure there are much better stories out there. I wouldn't take to task the retailers who were quoted. Knowing Dan Posner, I'm sure he has much more outrageous and entertaining examples that he either didn't share or weren't included in the final cut.
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When wine customers misbehave

#48 Post by jcoley3 » September 9th, 2017, 1:44 pm

The only two customer types that perplex me at wine retail are:

A) The person who is suspicious that I am not really selling them a sweet wine, even though the wines I have shown them explicitly include the word "sweet" on either the front or back label. I am never sure what they are thinking - am I conspiring with multiple wineries to get over on them with a dry wine?

B) The person who angrily insists that they got a particular wine from me, even though I have been doing the buying here for over a decade, and the wine is not in our (very old) computer database (and occasionally not even available in the state).
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When wine customers misbehave

#49 Post by GregT » September 9th, 2017, 8:11 pm

I don't think Dan was complaining about people who mispronounce French. He was talking about that kind of phony pretend accent that is based more on Peter Sellers than on French. Think James Suckling - where did he get any of those pronunciations? Just saying it flat out wrong isn't offensive; it's the certainty that they're somehow more sophisticated than the schmuck in the store.

And I don't think he loses a lot of sleep over it. Seems more like a throw away comment.

I don't get the dog thing though - dogs don't go into stores. People have to get over the need to bring their pets wherever they go.

As to the query about having tried the wine - you never know who buys the wine for a store or a restaurant. Even if there are only 100 bottles, why would someone assume that the guy behind the counter had tasted every one?

But other than the dogs, it wasn't much of an article. None of the "problems" are game-changers. I was waiting for the complaints about customers who opened bottles in the store, who tried to return bottles that had contents other than wine, who stuffed bottles under their baby in the stroller and tried to walk out with them, who tried to switch prices, etc.
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When wine customers misbehave

#50 Post by Matthew King » September 9th, 2017, 9:49 pm

This is basic cut-and-paste job journalism. Poor Lettie Teague has to file a column each week for general upscale audience, most of whom are not wine fanatics.

So she comes up with a goofy premise --- really who cares what wine retailers really think after all? -- and calls a few boutique retailers for their random observations. She collates a few idiosyncratic responses and calls it a day --e.g. Dogs being in stores. ( I've spent way too much time in LA wine retailers and yet to have seen a canine amongst the shelves and we are the capital of entitled dogdom.)

I'd actually be more interested in reading about the ignorant and/or pretentious things I hear retailers laying on the gullible at hipster or box-store outlets!
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