Tuesday, April 7, 2009

No Means No....Jackass

“So do you, um..want any Clicquot or Moet for Valentine’s Day?” I stood there looking at this sales rep, then at my Champagne department that hasn’t seen a “Yellow label” or “White Star” in years, and all I could think was, “Dude, is being stupid like being stoned all the time?” After telling him….again, that those wines have no place in our store I got to hear, “Yeah but, they sell”….um not here they don’t Einstein.

Every couple of months or so I am subjected to one of the reps from the “Big two” distributors, pissing and moaning about how we don’t buy anything from them, how they have all the big brands that people want and how were are actually doing our customers a disservice by not offering them….you know, like every other store on the planet. This whole dance drives me freaking crazy, if everyone wants them then why are you in here trying to bully us into bringing them in? Sell them to the hoards of people falling all over themselves to get their hands on them, and leave us the hell alone!

The last time I fell for that I was sitting on 5 cases of Taittinger for over a year and a half, just for scale we sell through about a case a week of our beloved Agrapart, we are no slackers in the bubble sales department. Thing is, why the hell would anyone drive past Costco, every corner liquor store and market to buy those wines from us? When the economy began tanking we were swayed from our path once again, told that people are going to want “comfort wines” and would not be willing to part with their money on brands that were unfamiliar to them. I stood firm in Champagne but agreed to bring in 3 cases of B&G Vouvray, ($8.99). It was an off dry Vouvray, not very interesting, but about $7.00 less than the others that I had. 7 months, it took 7 months to move through 3 cases of a wine under $10, I have a $30 Pouilly-Fume that moves faster than that!

Randy bought the “comfort wines” load of crap hook, line and sinker, even did a front page, “Recession Busters” feature for the newsletter. He tasted through about 100 broad market wines and came up with about 25 that he felt okay about selling. He wrote them up, stacked them high and waited for the comfort needing masses to come in and gobble them up…..we are still waiting.

On the surface the comfort wine theory makes sense, but if you think about it, if people are looking to save money why spend the gas money to come buy a bottle they could have picked up with their groceries? No, our customers come to see us because we have wines that are interesting, and things that are not at every other store. Clos du Bois, St. Francis, Berringer, Veuve Clicquot, these wines aren’t bad per se, but they are in no way inspiring and the only time we are asked for some of those brands are when some first time customers come in, thankfully most of them understand why we choose not to carry them and are willing to take a recommendation for something we think is even better for the same price.

Sure there are some people that will only have that brand, it’s their friends favorite, the only wine they really liked, things like that and then there is the customer I had last week. Ronnie came and told me, “I think you need to help that guy in the Champagne department” always down to chat with a fellow bubble lover, I headed over. “You need some help picking a Champagne?” I asked. “Yes, I love Perrier Jouet, the flower bottle” he answered, I then explained that while I don’t carry that brand, I do have many really exciting wines that offer more, more richness, more texture and more concentration. “See that is the thing” he said shaking his head, “I want something like a light beer, bubbles but without a lot of flavor. That is what I really like about the Perrier Jouet”. I stood there, I swore I could hear my eyelashes slamming together with each baffled blink. No flavor? I walked around my department looking at things like, Paul Bara, Agrapart, Camille Saves, all wines with tons of flavor, trying to figure out what to sell this guy…..”You know what? As much as I would love to sell you a bottle of Champagne, I don’t think we have what you are looking for.” Hated to pass on a sale but I really didn’t have a wine that was going to make him happy. He thanked me for being honest and left without buying anything…..it’s rare but it will happen from time to time.

The big distributors tell us things like, “You don’t even need to sell these wines, you just put them on the shelf and people will buy them” not true, not our customers. Maybe if I would have had a bottle of Perrier Jouet that guy would have bought it…maybe not, he may have been just been browsing, who knows. What I do know is every time we bring in those big brands we get burned. Either by people walking right by them in pursuit of something more exciting or people that bust our balls because with their Vons club they get 10% off when they buy six….so not worth the headache for wines we don’t like to begin with.

So when these grease ball "Sales Guys" come in, (and they are salesmen, not wine guys....in fact many of them know nothing and could give a rat's ass about wine) with their knock off suits, sunglasses perched on the back of their necks, fake tans and cheap shoes trying to offer us a “deal”….”we’ll give you a free case on five.” Or “I’ll throw in a case of Brand X vodka” (that we don’t carry of course) I’m so not going to be sucked in again. I’ll live up to the attitude that they complain to my boss about, “She won’t give me an appointment to taste her on Jadot and Red Bicycle” or whatever….nope I won’t, peddle your bullshit wines, backdoor deals and kickbacks somewhere else, neither my customers nor my department are interested.

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