The other night after some milling about here at home I sprung to my cell phone and fired off a text to my opening coworker, “Please get another bottle of each of the Blanc de Blancs in the fridge when you get there in the morning”. Knew I had just enough in the fridge chilling overnight but what if something was corked or off in some other fashion? Wouldn’t have enough wine to pour the sold out crowd and as much as I firmly believe you should never serve great Champagne icy cold, room temp bubbles are hugely unpleasant. I then began the mind fuck that is trying to piece together a, well a peaceful, seating chart for my Blanc de Blancs Champagne class taking place the following evening.
This is something I find, along with order and staging, consumes the hallows of my oft empty brain right before I drift off to sleep the night before an event, and happens to be the thing that wakes me from my slumber the following morning, way too early by making laps round and round and back again. The maybes slamming like clumsy twins wrestling and thudding along the hall. My, “Shush you!” howl just loud enough to ensure I am not getting back to sleep again. Frankly I obsess a little. These classes are wicked important to me and to the shop I love. I need them to be as successful as possible, in terms of sales and customer satisfaction so trying to balance that along with making sure my wines show their absolute best, and keeping in mind the…um, delicate nature of dealing with humans and their…erm, fragility or perceptions, well it might explain why I drink so damn much, and why I drive myself, (not to mention my trying to sleep coworkers) batshit crazy in the wee hours before my events.
I’m normally quite confident in the wines. Call it ego if you will, but I am pretty dogmatic about the quality level of the wines I acquire for the shop and our customers. They may not, (are often not in fact) always my style, or things I’d take home but I almost never bring in a wine that I don’t stand behind 100% and know that is worth what we are charging. I’ve done a favor here or there and once or twice been coaxed into bringing in a branded item, always under the guise that it will make the consumer feel comfortable and almost every damn time I end up staring at a row or stack of wine I cannot in good faith recommend, or worse, talk people out of. I don’t for one second think I’m a big deal in the world of wine so all I really have is my word, if I misrepresent, pawn off or start bullshitting our customers it is a lose-lose. I lose customers, and the one thing I am proud of myself for, my integrity. So walking into these events other than the proper order and temperature of the wines, I’m pretty damn sure they are going to be wickedly delicious. In the case of my Champagne nights I am exceedingly assured they will be…and insanely excited to taste them again too. Not everyone will love everything, least not every time, but the wines themselves will be solid and there will be something for everyone. So like I said, the wines tend to be the least of my concern. The people however…..oy.
Working retail as long as I have I’ve been privy to some pretty remarkable behavior. Not as bad as restaurants or bars I’d assume but people are nothing if not magical to watch at times. For the most part our customers are a freaking cakewalk. We’ve built up enough trust in the community and it’s not like people are there shopping for like crunders or rash cream, we sell wine so people, for the most part, are already in a great mood when they walk through the door. Sure we get the rude folks from time to time. The snap their fingers types that demand to be “serviced” in whichever way they see fit. We also get the other side of that, the ones so afraid that we are going to be snooty that they walk through the door with a giant ass boulder on their shoulders and anything we say can, or will be taken as a slight. Both kind of suck but they happen, luckily, pretty infrequently for us. It’s not those kind of people I am talking about. No, I’m talking about the ones that don’t, can’t or won’t see the whole picture and focus so tightly on their little tunnel of vision that they kind of lose sight of the rest of the folks in attendance, not to mention the poor nervous chick standing on trembling legs, trying to croak out information over a jumble of tummy quakes and flop sweats. The Unitended Peevers I like to call them.
Not bad people in the least, (well, mostly) but not so much mindful of the entirety of a wine class. Classes being a whole other thing than tastings and or wine bars, please keep that in mind. My staff and I have talked about these people and the series of events that follow in their wake. So hard to be mad at people that fork over cash and show up to an event like the classes we do but….there might be a thing or two to keep in mind. Not for us, we can recover and rally like champs. This is for you, your guests and sea of faces that are now glaring at you and you can’t quite figure out why.
Lemme help you out.
Samantha’s Wine Class Pet Peeves
The Dusters- These are people that either don’t believe or forget that your neighbor, they can smell your odor, be it a pretty or an un-pretty one. They didn’t pay a bunch of money to learn how Blanc de Blancs smells as it melds with your Eau de Tacosnack/Floweryjunk/Yogasweats. We have one guy that even applies his, very pungent man perfume in the bathroom before he walks over and plops his stink down at the table. Dude. I mean, dude. It smells, maybe nice to you but it is a smell and no one wants it when they are trying to evaluate wine. Not as bad in a bar, even a wine bar but in a class, I implore you, “Stop crop dusting us!”
The Players of Musical Chairs- We assign seating at the majority of our events. This goes down for several reasons. It started because it is simply human nature for people to leave a seat empty between them and the person next to them. Happens at bars, movie theaters and at our classes, I started the seating chart thing for precisely that reason. There are few things that will ruffle my feathers more than having to rearrange, everything that we’ve spent an hour setting up, than having to shift, slide and ask people to move down so a couple or party of three can sit together. We often have groups and to ensure they were accommodated, (part of that making sure they are satisfied thing) I began assigning seating.
I also like to have my husband, should he be attending, right up front and at my side. It isn’t a treat for him I assure you, it is to settle my nerves, that some folks saw/see being seated near him as a reward, I sleep next to the man, I promise you, that closeness in often NOT a reward, seeing it as such was a mistake in their thinking and I’ve given up worrying about that noise. There is NOTHING personal in where you are placed at a table, (unless of course, you are a known Duster) it is numbers and now putting groups of friends together, as per their request.
Which brings me to, Please stop playing musical chairs, you don’t know the playlist. We get people that come in and freaking move the place cards, all the damn time. Quit that. Just because you see a setting for a 2 here and figure it can’t hurt to swap them as you’d prefer to sit in that spot, there are a series of things that may have attributed as to why that party of 2 was there, like they are joining another party and have pre-requested to be seated next to their group. You don’t know these things and I shan’t assume you’re plucking up this name and replacing it with yours is malicious or mean spirited, you just don’t have all the information, which is why I ask again, Please stop playing musical chairs. If you are meeting people let us know when you sign up, we will do our best to make sure that happens. We want all our guests to be as happy as possible.
The Court Tester- This is the person that is feverishly fingering their apps checking and double checking our information, as if in some way it would behoove us to try bullshit you. If we say it it’s because it is what we were either told or what we believed. Not purposely trying to give you the wrong information.
The Tortoise & Or The Hare- The one or two people among a group of 45-50 that are trying to control the pace or timing of the pours. This is where I would like to once again remind folks, you aren’t alone here. Nor is this a bar for doing shots or a wine bar where you can sip and savor as long as you like. We are here to taste and learn, experience these wines in a studious setting, not a party or lounging on your couch one. This is where the inexperience of having so many plates spinning isn’t one that the average customer even thinks of….another reason to write this post. We, the teachers and pouring support, have more than your one pour or pours on our mind. We have to keep the crowd engaged, be two steps ahead and working our behind the scenes dance of having the next flight ready and the next, and the next. Having to wait or being snapped at to move along is simply a distraction for us, thus a stumble in the flow of how the event goes for everyone else.
The Then Again Maybe I Won’ts- These are the people that sign up, confirm and then no-show. This may not sound like a big deal to you but I assure you, you have just given a fairly good sized blow to your local wine shop. If you can’t make it just give them/us a call and let us know, no harm no foul, but if you tell us you are coming chances are we have not only turned away a guest that would have happily attended, we’ve opened wines in accordance with the number of people we have paying to come. If your three party no show has set us into a second or third bottle, we’ve lost money and are wasting wine. Tough pill swallowing that.
The Picnicers- This is where I once again point out, this is a class, one that people have paid to come and learn from, you brining out your picnic dinner, complete with the distractions of flailing forks, napkin ruffling and the cacophony of competing food aromas, it’s rude. Both to the event givers and to the people sitting next to you. No sir, we don’t wish to smell your cologne soaked fingers as they plunge into an oily container of rosemary sous vide poached sardines. I personally won’t allow it at my classes. With a few exceptions, one being a long time couple that comes to most my Champagne events, have for over a decade, that learned Champagne and fried chicken is a thing. Like a really good fucking thing and not only do they practice this time honored pairing at home monthly, they are once in a while compelled to stop and surprise the entire group, (the last time over 50!) with the treat of dinner, (a pre-ordained marvelous and not too disruptive one)
You buy some snacks and pick at those along with the bread and cheeses we provide, that’s fine but full on meals? No way. Plus if you are busy dining you aren’t paying attention and then I have to wonder, why are you signed up for a class in the first place? Go to a wine bar and snack, munch, chat and sip and leave a nice tip for the kind people that are there to pick up your emptied plates as that is exactly what those places are made for. Food stinks are just another form of Dusting, believe that.
The It’s My Party & I’ll Wine If/When I Want To Set- These folks tend to come in groups, often of five, six or more. They have compiled a large collection of buddies to spend a Friday night with. I love that. I honestly do and if your whole group is into taking a moderated wine class, sign them all up! Find more. We’d love to have them, we do it all the time and those are the folks we are looking to share our hearts, stories and passion with. No, I’m talking about the ones that have to cajole and call around looking for a way to fill their party, often with people that use words like “ are there going to be lots of soury ones” as I sweat turning people that would give anything to be there away for lack of seating. This one makes my tummy all wiggy as I wish there were a way to explain, diplomatically, that we need those seats filled with people that are interested in learning, sharing and being there.
Filling seats with your pals that don’t really want to be there, the ones that munch milk chocolate bars through my white Burgundy or Champagne events, and make fun of me when I coo and wax rhapsodic, mock my enthusiasm with eye rolls and blustery laughter? You have any idea how hard it is for this, diplomatic class leader to not snarl and threaten nut sack removal much like that of ripping off of a paper towel? The guy who challenges my comparison to Camille Saves as, “A librarian in fishnets, both sexy as hell and smart as fuck” with, “So what did you say? This is a pilot in high heels?” which inevitability causes me to cup his sweaty chin in the crux of my bent finger as I bend down and purr in his face, “Dude, whatever gets you off” in a way that I fear doesn’t encourage him to drop his milk chocolate bar as much as make him want to flee…and that is never, ever my intent.
How standing over a cheesy toothed pack of gossipers, my own nerves knocking my innards against my ribcage, heart crawling up my throat as I try and stretch my raspy voice over decibels far louder and deeper than mine as you notice….through the bulging veins ripping up my neck like the splitting of a freeway on the San Andreas fault, that I’ve had about enough of trying to screech over your Friday night party and one of you try and soothe the situation by trying to ask a question, the one I just unsuccessfully bleated out the answer to, or tried to but no one could hear it over your unruly and uncompassionate sloppery of a “fun night”? Dude. Call 1 800 Wine Dude or something. And do this at your house. These people came to hear us not you and at the end of the night they want to walk out that door with a little more wine information in their back pocket, maybe a few bottles of their new favorite wine and not the gab on your coworker that is fucking the human resources guy in your office.
Tastings are always fun and we encourage the same of our Friday classes. Tasting wine is a rare an lovely treat, one that 99.9% of our consumers get. We spend our days finding these wines and sharing them with you is what fires us up and pushes our weary legs forward. Our jobs rely on your involvement and engagement and we never ever forget that….just please, that 1%, could you please hold back on the douchery a little? Makes this planning, staging, arranging and trying to make the best for everyone thing just a little easier.