Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

The Middle School Dance, Revisited

January 13, 2012
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I knew cold-calling was going to be the price of admission.  What I didn’t realize is that it is EXACTLY like trying to ask out a date to the 7th grade sock-hop.  And my proclivities in that arena were on par with screen doors on submarines, Crystal Pepsi, and Creed.  That is to say, abysmal failures (or at least embarrassments, in the latter case).

This was the first day I struck out into the meat grinder of wine sales.  Popped into 12 places, awkwardly (a word white people use for every situation) announcing that I wanted to sell commodity alcohol to said places.  

Sure, I know it’s the lunch rush.  And I know another distributor just fast-talked you into a 10-case order of Crazy Bear Charbonnonay.  And I understand you just spent 20 minutes talking with the hipster chick in the stupid hat about your cheese order.  But, screw them.  Take your endless walls of wine, your established relationships, and your $20/each printed-on-real-papyrus wine lists and throw them in the f**king trash!  Why?  So you can buy wine from me!  

It’s not a position of comfort for me.  Wine is- essentially- a commodity product to many.  For most consumers, wine is the Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay that washes away the hopeless ennui of suburban life.  Nothing more.  So, trying to put one’s freshest-face forward to convince surly shop owners and (understandably) annoyed restaurant managers to drop the stuff with the heavy marketing behind it to carry small-production wines from unknown producers is tough sleddin’.

But, so far, it’s not all bad.  There are folks out there who really care about the wine.  They are evangelists, and they are buying what I’m selling.  And, damn, that makes it fun…

…like finding that girl who appreciates sweat pants and a knowledge of Legos.  Hope springs eternal, and it better, because the cold-calling begins at the crack of noon.


My Flux Capacitor (or, "The Wine Consumer, Compartmentalized")

August 12, 2011
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The one (absolutely only) redeeming quality of an awful commute is that it gives you time to think…
Even this is a stretch, but as someone who cruises 17 miles and 39 traffic lights twice-a-day, I have to justify this baffling madness. If only for sanity’s sake.
Today’s wandering mind took me into retail wine sales. As I concentrated over the creeping, sweaty feeling of my air conditioning perhaps breaking again, things became very clear. Too clear. Sort of a zen-like clarity of thought, not experienced since I realized “race car” spelled backwards is “race car”.
Quite honestly, I felt like Doctor Emmett Brown after he hit his head on that 1955 toilet, jarring loose the vision of the flux capacitor, which… makes… time… travel possible.
Unfortunately, my epiphany- a sweaty guy sitting in Atlanta traffic thinking about how to sell wine- would make a far-worse movie. But here it is anyway:
Colorful, huh? What does it mean??
Well, here’s where I’m going: seems that all wine consumers can be roughly lumped into four categories, based solely on two criteria: wine knowledge, and wine curiosity.
1. The Disinterested Creatures of Habit (low knowledge, low curiosity): otherwise known as the “gimme my 1.5L of Woodbridge, sonny!” crowd, these folks know what they like, are adverse to change, and don’t want to try new things. They are loyal to brands, appreciate consistency, and have little interest in learning about wine. As my mother once said when we ate filet mignon and drank KJ Chardonnay for the ten-millionth time on her birthday, “Son, I’ve been around. I’ve tried everything. And now, I just know what I like.” For the record, mom is not ten million years old. Not even close.
I suspect the Disinterested Creatures of Habit don’t cause shop owners many problems, and turn a good business. But they’re probably not much fun to work with, and they buy low-end, with low margin, but perhaps high-volume, sales.
2. The Annoying-as-Hell Know-it-All (high knowledge, low curiosity): I do not work in wine retail, but I can only suspect how many insecure, blabber-mouthed twits come into to wine stores to challenge the personnel. “Oh, really? ‘Grenache’ from Spain? Don’t you mean [with a disturbing, overdone Spanish accent] Gar-nacha??” As I said, I don’t work in retail, so I don’t know if this actually happens, but based on the proliferation of snobbery and one-upsmanship that oozes from the world of wine, I wouldn’t be surprised.
The “listen to how much I know” guy or gal is probably a terror to engage. But, they probably buy some more-expensive stuff, based on some knowledge, and a level of understanding in the production of wine. Higher price doesn’t always equate to higher quality, but- as they say- you pay for what you get.
3. The Geek (high knowledge, high curiosity): for lack of a better adjective, these are the most “enlightened” of all consumers. They are the ones who don’t only ask for the weirdest, most unique bottle, but they bring in something crazy for the shop owner to try. The “let’s get weird” crowd would hang around the store for hours and hours, just to be surrounded by wine, and people who like talking about it. The advantage of these folks would be that they know what they know, but they also know what they don’t know. This crowd also understands the sheer vastness of wine, and it always looking to try something new.
For these reasons, the geeks are open to suggestions, check their egos at the door, and just want to enjoy the shopkeeper’s latest gems.
4. The Eager Novice (low knowledge, high curiosity): with all due respect to the geeks, these folks are probably the best of the bunch. Because, not only do they love wine, but they are yet-to-be jaded, spoiled, or too critical (stages that all wine geeks seem to go through, yours-truly included). From a geek’s perspective, the Eager Novices are sponges for knowledge. They love to learn, and geeks love to teach. This crowd wants to try new things, takes an earnest interest in information that would send most folks into a coma, and ask all the fun questions. They are primed to be molded into future geeks.
From a sales standpoint, shop owners should never let the Eager Novices out of their clutches. If I am honest, genuine, and can provide valuable information, education, and recommendations, I’m going to create a great deal of loyalty from those who thirst for that knowledge. And as novices become geeks, they may bring new novices into the fold…
But, alas, these are merely the thoughts of a traffic-jam. If only I had hit 88 miles per hour…