There are some truly wonderful people in the wine game. The people who don’t know you from Adam, but who take time from their day to throw you in the back of the ute, and cruise around the property, and then crack open some lovely wines for no other reason than because.
The wine industry is built on those people. The people who recommend the neighbour down the lane for woodwork, or because their chardonnay is better, or different. Who build a community by knowing their neighbours, and their customers. And by understanding that the key to this whole game is listening to people. Be they neighbours, or punters, or writers, or some bloke who got lost looking for the local. Listening to the people around you makes you a better person. It makes your business better, and it makes grumpy sods like me happy.
So why do I get the feeling that there are not quite enough people adhering to this simple guideline? I visit cellar doors, and can barely wring the directions out of the driveway from the person pouring the wines, let alone a heartfelt, knowledgeable recommendation about where to go next. And they keep not listening to the friend who really does not like white wine. “Just try ours. You’ll like it”. She won’t, you know. And because you weren’t listening, she is barely likely to spend money with you.
The cellar door experience can be a beautiful thing, but it is being tainted by the entirely valid, yet slightly sour taste of commercialism. If I recommend somewhere else, will they buy wine here? Maybe they will buy more there? We all need to sell our product or service, but – and I may be walking a slightly worn path here – listening, and finding the best option for that customer, be it your own, or be it that of a neighbour, a competitor, will leave the customer with warm and fuzzy feelings about your business. They will recommend you to others. They will probably buy something anyway, as a gesture of thanks. They will remember you for all the right reasons.
It is naught but common courtesy, but it seems to be left by the wayside a tad, as we compete for a $20 sale instead.
A slight tangent, but…: common courtesy says that if you request a sample, it would be nice to contact us later with a quick email saying why it was or wasn’t chosen. For whatever reason. Feedback is never a bad thing. A lovely gentleman contacted me a month or two ago. He has a social group which gets together once every couple of months, and tries some reds from a theme region. They then vote on the wines, and the winning wine – and the winning wine only – is purchased for the group. Around 20 dozen. Yes, he asked for a free sample, but he also asked for vineyard information, contact details, and price lists for all participants should anyone want to get in touch. My wine didn’t win, but I received a detailed written report within days, and a phone call to offer thanks. Oh, and new subscribers to my mailing list.
And yet samples sent to businesses whose business it is to trade wine often disappear into the ether. Emails go unanswered, as do phone calls. Or they cannot remember tasting the wine. Or they have sold it. Or they have drunk it because they were thirsty and it was there. Or they just don’t care enough and have moved onto the next deal of the week. A bar places an order then rejects it two days later because they have changed their mind. Pick up the phone. We would rather know. These things cost us money, and ultimately affect the price of the wine. Maybe if everyone had a little more common courtesy they would be a bit more upfront: “Not right now; can you come back in a month? Boss has told us to tighten our belts.” Even, a ‘Bugger, I lost it” would be nicer than the vacuum.
We understand that you are short of time. We get that. So are we. But perhaps if you tell us why a wine didn’t suit, the smart people would stop wasting your time showing you lean tight chardonnay when you are after something richer, and more round. Then the smart ones would be filing that information away, and using it to ultimately get a better result. The smart ones would not be wasting their time and yours, let alone the wine. And the less heedful ones? Well, you will identify them soon enough, and can probably shift your attention to the people who were listening. And save some time.
And there are so very many who understand this. But there appears to be a creeping edge of carelessness and discourtesy. And this in turn makes suppliers wary. Cautious. Often less willing to contribute time, wine, and general bonhomie. Which in turn… You get my drift. Circles go around. Maybe it is time we all actively started taking a little more care, and injecting a little more courtesy into our days, be it as suppliers, salespeople or buyers.
Thank people who do the right thing, whether they are placing an order or not. Listen to the whys and the explanations, should they be offered. Often much consideration has gone into them. Appreciate a venue might actually know their own customers better than you, and they know what they want. And remember the ones who are not observing the courtesies of business. Listen to your customer and point them in the right direction for them; rather than the right direction for you. Help build the wine community up.
Play nice. We all have businesses to run. Listen to your customer, and play by the unwritten rules.
Oh, and thanks to some lovely people. I am sure you know who you are but for those playing at home:
…just for starters.