Be a better wine shop

Having a better wine shopping experience • Part 2:  Suggestions for professionals

Now for you the professionals (wine shop owners, worker, and reps), there is some responsibility you share in this disconnect as well. A customer has a right to have a certain list of expectations when buying wine retail. I know there is a bottom line and you are trying to maximize profits and minimize expenses but there are many intangibles that are sometimes lost in the murky waters of the retail beverage game.

First, clean up and organize your store. If you can’t find the wine I’m looking for, then I certainly can’t. I love going into a store looking for a certain genre of wine, which I cannot find. After asking the helpful staff person, they look it up and say that they have half a case of said wine. Then we spend the next 15 minutes or so looking for it, only to come up empty handed. If you’re aisles look like a teenage girl’s bedroom, then you may want to rethink your set up.  I’m not usually shopping in a wine shop for the ambiance but if they can’t take the time to keep the place well-kept, that tells me how serious they are about impressing the consumer.

While we are discussing organization, make the shop easy to navigate. I’m not asking for a proverbial Dewey Decimal system for wine stores (or maybe I am) but please have some order to all rows and rows of bottles. Although I usually do, sometimes I really don’t have the time to walk up and down every aisle and look on every shelf to find that your wines are arranged by terroir rather than by variety or country. It may be a clever theme, maybe a bit cheeky and certainly not consumer friendly. I can only imagine the pirate shirt-wearing and saber-toting wine wanker that shows up in a shop asking for a bottle of Merlot grown in limestone rich soil.  

Most wine shops have windows but that does not give license to place your bottles of wine there. Unlike the SPF 50 that you place on your pasty cartesian plane- loving translucent skin, slightly tinted wine bottles only protect the wine so much from this potential killer called “light-strike”.  Yes, this is a real fault and it will certainly convert those wonderful wine aromas to scents of an irritated skunk. A burn that will be felt by the consumer upon opening that no amount of aloe will sooth.

More of a pet peeve but wines that do not have a price on the shelf in front of them seem to stir up my type “A” demons. This does occur from time to time and I can make the excuse of low-staffing, an inventory changeover or even a simple omission, but some stores have multitudes of wines that are just not priced. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that they do this on purpose so when you get to checkout you will let the wine go through rather than make a scene and face embarrassment by asking them to remove that bottle from the query.

From a staff standpoint, engage the customer. A good staff person in a wine shop is much like a good waiter: knows when to show up and ask if I need anything but also knows when to bug-off and leave me to my wine thoughts. As a wine shop non-gender specific person, keep in mind that you are a navigator helping the consumer find what they are looking for; even if they really don’t know what they are looking for. This involves asking some of the right questions (in a non-derogatory / non-condescending way). Yes, you probably know more than they do about wine but now is not the time to show them that fact. Sell them what they are looking for in about the price range they are comfortable with sin judgement. Don’t upsell them to that wine you make bigger points off of if you know that’s truly not what they are asking for. If you are that kind of wine salesman, then you probably sold them a Powerball ticket or a scratch-off before they could get out the door.