Featured Contributor: Don Manfredi @
Editors Note: See Jamie Tierney’s original post Here.
The recent blog post “From the Other Side of the Counter” really got me thinking. As I write this I am still not sure what my feelings are about that post (other than it was well written and thought-provoking) and more specifically how I feel about the current state of affairs in the world of beer. So instead of taking a stance I am going to present some evidence and let the readers decide. Please note; I do have a local that I buy the lion’s share of my beer at and they almost always take care of me (even though their prices are a little high). I have also been on a roll lately with the beers I have been able to try so this post is not coming from a place of bitterness, more like a place of confusion.
Exhibit A: The Frequent Flyer
I present evidence in support of the loyalty program: My local is out-of-the-way for me and their beer prices are almost always one – two dollars higher than anywhere else. I foster that relationship by stopping in way more than I need to and buying more than I can ever drink in a reasonable amount of time. They have me as a customer for life because of how they treated me when I was not a regular. It was 2012 and I was just starting to get heavier into the craft beer scene. I had tried a Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), with a friend but had never hunted my own. I found out the release date and started going to multiple stores “chasing the beer truck” (a behavior that I despise now, and rarely partake in, but you don’t know until someone educates you). My first two stops I was told that they did not get any or had already sold out, stories that were clearly not true. My third stop was the store that would become my current local. I got a different answer at this store where the owner told me, “I am really sorry, but we are holding KBS for our regular customers”. I was frustrated, but instead of being unreasonable I asked the person on the other side of the counter, “How do I become a regular?” That was the start of a relationship that is still working today…instead of being a pompous know it all that tried to intimidate me, the patron explained what I needed to do to build the relationship: “Come in few times a month, say hello, get to know us. I don’t care if you just buy a sandwich; we just want to see your face”. Then he did the unthinkable, and sold me a single KBS and asked me my name. I became, and still am “Don from Plymouth” and am firmly on his regular’s list. Today I get every rare release that he carries with no stress and no mess. Here is the thing; it takes effort on both parties to build the relationship. I would not be going back there three to four times a month, spending thousands of dollars a year, if the owner had never told me the truth then taken the time to educate me. I played a part by being reasonable when he first said “no” and then he closed me with his investment of a KBS. Now has a customer for life that tells everyone he knows about his store. What would have happened if the owner had lied and told me they were all out? I would never have asked the question about what it took to become a regular. What would have happened if I had been rude or unreasonable when I was told “no”? The store owner would not have sold me the KBS and I would have gone on to another store, never coming back to his place. The other stores I had gone to said they did not get any or had already sold out so they missed out on someone who would eventually buy a lot of beer and liquor from them.
Photo evidence above that I don’t really need to go to my local once a week!
Exhibit B: The Free for All
Now I present evidence in opposition of the loyalty program: There is another store that takes a much different approach, has better prices and a better selection, but they are thirty minutes from my house. If I lived closer I would go there more, but it would not get me any special treatment for beer releases as they have a strict policy that they put everything out that they get, no holding, no denying. They will limit amounts you can purchase on some of the more sought after beers and sometimes they make a list to keep order for releases like KBS, but it is first come first served and not based on any type of “frequent flyer” program.
So which situation is better, A or B? I will leave it to you to decide. The only point I will make is that the people on both sides of the counter need to be courteous and take the other person’s perspective. Remember that the person working at the store has probably been asked about the same beer you are asking about for at least a few weeks before the release and hundreds of times that day. The person trying to buy the beer is just trying to buy a beer, and it is possible they have never tried it, or are not an enthusiast and that is all right too. A buyer, a seller, a product: a pretty simple business transaction that works out better with civility.
Exhibit C: A Rant
I present an editorial about why I am hoping things get back to normal soon: Recently I went to a Founder’s event at a local bar. This event featured Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS) as one of the highlights of the evening. A couple of friends and I planned to meet at five p.m. at the venue. When we arrived there was already a line out the door. We decided to go in anyway. The inside could only be described as chaos with two major lines snaking around the two bars in the facility. No signs, no guidance, no clue, we waited in a line that appeared to have no purpose. Like a game of telephone, the story of the line changed until we finally figured out it was the line for a ticket to get a five ounce pour of CBS. Yes, we waited in what turned out to be an hour-long line to get a five ounce pour! Turns out they had one hundred tickets at each bar. When we got our tickets there were only eight left, and we arrived exactly at five p.m.! While we waited for the CBS ticket we put our names in for a table. We did not get seated until eight-thirty! And all of this was happening on a Wednesday night!
Now, there was a great lineup that night: CBS, KBS, a three-year vertical (2012-2014) of Backwoods Bastard (BTW it gets better with age IMO), and Blushing Monk to name a few, but was it worth all the craziness? The current craft beer scene reminds me a little bit of what happened with cigars in the mid-1990’s, known as the Cigar Boom. It seemed like everywhere you looked someone was puffing on a stogie and people who had been smoking for years had a difficult time getting their hands on their favorite sticks. It was a time of great inner conflict – there was a lot of creativity happening with cigars, but the increased demand and attention to the market was a bit annoying for the seasoned cigar fan, kind of like what is happening right now with craft beer. I love the beers that are being created but I can do without all the other things that go on, which brings me back to my original point: enjoy beer for the right reasons, and support your local breweries and bottle stores for the right reasons. The person on the other side of the counter also needs to understand that he/she needs customers just as much as the customer needs that rare beer so let’s be courteous to each other. You never know when you might get a customer for life.
Comfort is the direct enemy of growth.
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