Be Thankful for your Customers

An acquaintance of mine (not in the wine business) is taking a wine class at the local college and one of her classmates told a story to the class. The classmate works in a tasting room and was telling the class about some customers who came from Utah on vacation to California. The classmate started making fun of the customers, saying they did not know anything about wine and that they got excited about some sparkling wine poured for them, that the classmate did not think was very good.

It turns out that the winery did not usually make sparkling wine but they had some extra Chardonnay grapes. The classmate said that the people really liked the sparkling wine and bought a case of the wine, when really they should have bought the other wines that were much better. The person seemed somewhat disgusted with those customers for their lack of knowledge about wine. Interestingly enough, others in the class seemed to agree with her and applauded.

I am disheartened by this story and wonder how many people actually go to work in tasting rooms so they can feel superior to people who don’t know anything about wine. There might be more than I am willing to believe there are, based on the number of times I see or hear about servers treating people disrespectfully because they don’t know (what the server thinks is enough) about wine. If someone were to laugh at all the things that I don’t know, I could be laughed right out of California and halfway across the country – and this is a big country.

Perhaps the classmate didn’t mean any harm and was just enjoying having an audience. But another classmate (my acquaintance) will not be going in that winery any time soon – nor will she encourage her friends to go -, because she might feel she doesn’t know a lot about wine either, and doesn’t want to be made fun of.

We never know the ripples we might be causing that lead to lost customers and lost sales…

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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6 comments on “Be Thankful for your Customers

  1. Lynda Burd says:

    Thanks E! Sent to all our staff. Hugs, Lynda

  2. Wow, nice post. Any tasting room that makes customers feel uncomfortable or unknowledgeable, (is that a word?) whether from the staff of other know it all customers needs some serious attitude adjustment. Customers who don’t know much are the ones willing to try new things and are just waiting to be made into your loyal, return customer because you took the time to help them out..

  3. Julie St John says:

    Another great post. In my 27 years of pouring wine for people, my belief has always been that you have to start somewhere so you might as well start with something you like to drink. If it is White Zinfandel then hooray, and eventually some of these consumers make their way to Chardonnay and beyond. Educating your palate is what it is all about.

  4. Laura says:

    White Zin gets such a bad rep. I don’t like it much personally, but TONS of people do. Maybe they always will; maybe their tastes will change, and that’s ok. I doubt I will ever like Chardonnay, and that’s ok. DRINK WHAT YOU LIKE, be it “lowly” sparkling wine or “sophisticated” Chardonnay! What the heck is wrong with our industry, that we’d dismiss such a large group of wine drinkers? Maybe, we should try to make a wine in the same style, in a very good quality, and watch it get sold like crazy. Hmmmmmm…….. what a concept.

  5. farlane says:

    It doesn’t make any sense to look down on people for drinking wine, especially wine that you made.

    We talk about wine and the palate, but the “palate” is a complex interplay between flavors & thought that is unique to every taster.

  6. Nicole says:

    I hope that’s not a common tasting room behavior. There is always room for improvement, but I have to say, that is the one thing we always get right in our tasting room. Our most pleasureable moments are when we get to educate new winos and make wine approachable for them. I guess it’s a matter of which side of the line you believe you’re on – always approach the customer as though you’re in cahoots against the wine snobs rather than seeming like the snob.

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