Etiquette from wine bars, or any business

I write about a lot of local – and distant – events in my effort to be a conduit of all things wine.  I hawk events that I attend, and some that I don’t, and all that are for charity, some that are for profit.

When I attach my name to an event, inviting the Eve’s Wine 101 Facebook group, I open myself up for comment, and in a case last week, to issues.  I welcome both.  As the customer is who we learn from, not from our own grandiose ideas of what the customer wants.  We do what we’re told, or we shouldn’t be in the service business.
So first we have to always remember that it’s about service:
“I decided that the winetasting last week would have been a fantastic opportunity to get someexercise in as well as some wine. So I rode my bike, instead of driving, the 4miles to the wine bar to have my taste. Aftermilling around for 20 minutes without anyone offering any service what so ever,I left on my bike ride back home.  I was so vastly disappointed with the service this evening, mind you I didn’teven get a greeting from any of the staff, that I doubt that I will return onany basis to that particular wine bar. Which is a terrible idea, but as I stand right now,completely true. Sad, very sad.” 
Please, if this happens to be your business, don’t start giving the excuses as we already know them:

1.  We cut back staff due to the recession.   (Not your customer’s problem, sorry.)

2.  We were short staffed and busy.  (See #1)

3.  She could have asked for help.  (See #1)

4.  The people at that table have their check but they’re lingering!  (See #1)

5.  People come in and leave all the time, lookie loos.  (Gee, isn’t that a silly gamble?)
So here it is, I have had lunch with the owner of this restaurant, the manager of that wine bar, the owner of this wine bar, the sommelier at that wine bar.  I see customers come in, walk around, wait to be approached – whether they’ve been there before or not – and then spin around on their heels and leave.

I went to my new church for months before I asked to join – you know how that feels?  Like I wasn’t wanted.  I loved everything else about the church and chalked it up to them not wanting to be pushy.  (And, by then, they knew how pushy I was …)

Oh, and by the way, I was in the service business before becoming a full time writer that happens to be passionate about wine.  I know that if I smile while I talk on the phone I sound better, that if I stand up and offer you my hand in greeting you’ll take it and, that if I like what I do…it shows.
In the case of the patron above, I don’t recall how guilty I was in doing all #’s 1-5, but what I used to always say when this happened – and with all earnestness – was, “Thank you for telling me, we learn from our mistakes and I will be sharing this with my staff and boss.”

This is how she left it when she agreed to let me share her insights with readers:“It just took me back and Ifelt as if my patronage was not appreciated. Not very often do I go to a placeand feel like a fly on the wall. It’s going to take a lot of sucking it up onmy end to give that wine bar another chance to appreciate me and my money.  It’s almost as if theattitude of most of these wine bistros now-a-days is that we need them andnot the other way around. Which is sad because I would have been much happieron my patio that night actually having a glass of wine in my hand then beingsurrounded by snobby people.” 

The customer’s name, and that of the establishment, have been withheld in an effort to get us all to think, as we’ve all been guilty.

6 thoughts on “Etiquette from wine bars, or any business

  1. ee

    I think you're right that this applies to any business.

    (I work at a university and have tried to do the same there: I'm not the receptionist, but if somebody walks into our department looking lost and I'm there, I make a point of asking if I can help. Yeah, I'm a professor and that's not my job, but it's the right thing to do.)

    That said, I think this is probably especially true in wine bars. I think for lots and lots of people wine establishments are still intimidating places, so the people who work in them can really get a leg up on their competition by being welcoming, by making the customer feel free to try something they maybe haven't tried before.

  2. Funny, when I was on a commission, it was second nature to approach everyone before waiting to be approached. Not that all businesses have to run that way, but there's something about either owning the place, or having a monetary reward, that helps!

    (I like the way you do it, betting it's just as intimidating to walk into your department as it might be for some to walk into mine…albeit mine is filled with wine!)

  3. Great post Eve! As a person who has spent most of her life working in the service industry in one form or another, I am very focused on customer service when I shop/eat/drink. Great customer service is what will keep me going back to a business and will keep me talking about that business to my family and friends. The single easiest way to increase sales is to give great customer service!

  4. Hi Carrie! I know when I read one of your Yelp reviews, and when you suggested I try the Poached Pair, you have your finger on the pulse. When you served me, as a volunteer no less at The Underground coffee shop, you made me feel like an important guest. Good for you Carrie. I sure like hearing from people that take pride in service – it is rewarding for everyone!

  5. In this competetive economy, if you are NOT doing whatever it is to make and keep the customer, you will not survive. Have you noticed that even places like Home Depot now come up and ask YOU if you need help finding anything?

  6. Hi Diane, I agree. I worked in the first retail store that, by way of greeting said, "Can I put that in a dressing room for you?". Of course, I added my own spin to that too…

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