Tuesday, March 30, 2010

That Customer #4: The Unreliable Witness

Police officers and detectives will readily tell you that people make lousy witnesses. Ask ten witnesses to recall what they saw on a crime scene and chances are very good you’ll get ten different answers. As it goes with crime scenes, so it goes with wine stores.

We’ll often have a customer come in and tell us they’re looking for a certain wine they bought last week.  It was a Cabernet from Chile and it had green capsule and a picture of horse on the label. When we track it down, it turns out to be a Gamay.  From France.  With a black capsule.  And there was a picture on the label, but it was a heart, not a horse.  But hey, that’s pretty close!

Now this is the best case scenario – where we sold the wine and can definitively recall exactly what was sold.

More often though, the customer had the wine at a friends house or at a restaurant. With no recollection of the producer. Or the region. Or the grape. But....they’ll definitely know it if they see it.

So we find ourselves gently explaining that hoping to stumble upon that wine is the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. Not that we start quoting statistics, but here are some numbers to mull over:

  • In California alone, there are 2,843 bonded wineries. (I looked that one up on the Wine Institute site.)
  • Let’s say each of those wineries produces 5 different wines. (If you’ve ever been to a winery tasting room, you know this is a conservative estimate.)
  • That’s over 14,000 wines. And that’s just California. Throw in the rest of the world and you get to a very big number very quickly. 
I don’t think any other consumer product has nearly so many labels on offer.  Think about toothpaste. Even if you throw in every earthy/crunchy organic producer, private label and near-prescription grade brand, you can probably only come up with 20. (If you can think of more, list them and I you’ll win a bottle of something. Unless you work for Colgate or Proctor and Gamble.  Then you’re disqualified.)

Wine is a just bit more fragmented.  So hoping to recall that random bottle from two weeks ago is highly unlikely. Because 1) unless you’re a highly trained detective, you’re an unreliable witness and probably wouldn’t recognize it even if you see it. And 2) because you’re probably not going to see it.
So don’t be That Customer.
Jot down the name. Or take a picture with your phone. And then we can help you find it, special order it, or pick out something similar.  Then you can be a Happy Customer instead.


Anonymous said...

Except that almost every time I am asked to guess one of these wines, I can do so. Why? Because most people are buying wines from huge wineries so it is not hard to figure out which wine they purchased.

Bro. Dave said...

Great blog!

According to chacha.com, there are 23 brands of toothpaste, not counting store brands. Within each brand are typically 3-5 different formulas.

So, there was this one wine, I think it was red...

Bret said...

You asked for it...Aim, Aqua Fresh, Arm & hammer, Colgate, Crest, Gleem, Mentadent, Sensodyne, Tom's of Maine, Ultra Brite, Close-Up, Jason, Iso-Active, Signal, Pepsodent, The Natural Dentist (run by my friend Mark Koide), Kingfisher, Ecodent, Natures Gate, Smartmouth...and # 21 Periobrite. I don't work for Colgate, but Dad is a dentist...I'll accept a glass when I return from Gabon, Africa:)

Christy said...

I should have remembered to disqualify dentist kids!

Bret and Bro. Dave -
next time you're in NYC, print this out and stop by the store for your prizes!

Anonymous -
I find customers tend to ask for the bigger brands by name. The branding appears to be working.