Calling bottle shops to ask for whales

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by sisterthelonious, Dec 15, 2013.

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  1. sisterthelonious

    sisterthelonious Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2013 Wisconsin

    I was talking to a guy who works at my local shop the other day, and he mentioned that he gets 3-4 calls a day asking if they have Zombie Dust. He said that his answer is always "No" even if they get one or two six-packs in as a gift from the distributor. He admitted that if they get a case or less of anything "rare", he won't disclose it to random callers on the phone. He'd rather hold it for regulars and surprise them when they come in.

    This made me thankful, since I am one of his regulars, and have gotten some rare gems from him from time to time. But it also made me think twice about calling shops in general- how likely is it that a shop owner will be honest with a random caller asking for, say, Zombie Dust or a BCBS variant or even something more common like KBS?

    Shop owners/workers: are you annoyed by phone calls asking for beers you are not likely to have? If you have them in stock, do you divulge that information?
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  2. VncentLIFE

    VncentLIFE Meyvn (1,393) Feb 16, 2011 North Carolina

    I work at Total Wine, and we get calls almost daily asking if we have Bourbon County. I hate them, but im usually honest since were a corporate store. Ill call stores that I frequent (Beer Study, Carrboro Beverage Co, Bottle Revolution, and Sam's Quik Stop), but thats it.
  3. gatornation

    gatornation Poo-Bah (6,193) Apr 18, 2007 Minnesota
    Society Trader

    Brews are becoming so sought after so limited and so scarce that stores are not posting on social media ,hiding brews. limiting sales and making you request them , raffles and lines for them it really has become a chore for retailers
  4. tkdchampxi

    tkdchampxi Meyvn (1,060) Oct 19, 2010 New Jersey

    It's never occurred to me that shop owners might lie - I call shops all the time...

    That being said, I often ask for certain employees by name when I call, and then I identify myself, so those guys know it's me.

    I just called Trader Joe's earlier though, and they gave me an accurate count of how many Vintage Ale 2013s they still had left.
  5. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    I hate calling stores to ask about rare beers. When I'm in the store, I hate asking the guy behind the counter if/when a rare beer is coming in. Unfortunately, with the insanely low numbers of these things being shipped, the consumer doesn't have much choice other than to hound stores to try to track them down. What's the point of sending 6 bottles of beer to a store?
  6. c64person

    c64person Devotee (426) Mar 20, 2010 North Carolina

    Honestly, if a shop is going to lie to me, then it sounds like a shop I do not wish to spend my money at. I understand the 'keep it for the regulars' concept, but at the same time, most of my bottle shops that I come in once a week and drop $100 at, not all of the employees know me by name. Also, I don't need them to hold special bottles for me, but if they have or do not have something, I expect them to be honest about it; this isn't used car sales.
  7. DrStiffington

    DrStiffington Meyvn (1,074) Oct 27, 2010 New Jersey

    My beer store guy has told me that he always tells people no when they call asking if they have a beer. His reasoning is "come in and ask and buy stuff." Who am I to argue? I realize it must be a pain for these beer store employees constantly dealing with the rare/limited release issues. The last thing I want to be is a pain in the ass so I'm pretty low key about asking for certain beers. Some stores will send emails out if you're on the list, which is nice.
  8. sisterthelonious

    sisterthelonious Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2013 Wisconsin

    I recently came across a shop that rec'd a small shipment of Toppling Goliath. They actually invited folks to call and reserve a bottle, 1 per name, to be picked up within a week. It was there was of saying thank you to all of their regulars who were at work until later that day, and to encourage them to take their time getting to the store. It guaranteed the sale of the beer and it endeared them to me.
  9. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,868) Sep 18, 2010 Washington

    This "secret society" shit is for the birds. Bottle shops are businesses, and if they want to build and maintain a long-term client base they need to treat all their customers fairly. Maybe they haven't considered this, but their "regulars" today might not be around tomorrow. I actually am a regular at a lot of stores, and I spend a lot of money on beer, all over town. But I don't expect special treatment. First come, first served is the only fair way to handle beer whose demand exceeds supply.

    Don't publicize that you got X beer in? Fine. Have an across-the-board policy of not confirming that you got X beer in, no matter who calls? Fine. But if I call a store and ask if they got beer X in, and I'm told no, and then I learn (as it's easy to do these days) that some other customer bought beer X at that store after I inquired about it... well, that's one store I'm not likely to patronize again.
  10. sisterthelonious

    sisterthelonious Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2013 Wisconsin

    Yeah, I can understand that. I'm a big fan of beer shops with frequently updated websites/facebook pages, and quick, courteous interaction via email or fb messages.

    Any shop owners out there who prefer one method of communication to another? Do you prefer that a guy come in, chat about beer a bit, and then ask about a specific beer, or would you rather he just shoot you a one line email or ask as soon as he's in the door?

    Ray's in Milwaukee collects rare beers around Christmas time, and then sets up an event where anyone in line before opening gets a raffle ticket. Once yours is drawn, you get to choose one item from whatever is left. Once the line is done, they repeat it until the rare beers are sold. Everyone usually walks away with one or two beers they really wanted, and it's a lot of fun.
    russpowell and tommyguz like this.
  11. nickapalooza86

    nickapalooza86 Initiate (0) Feb 23, 2010 Wisconsin

    In what world is Zombie Dust a whale and KBS something more common?!
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  12. RichardMNixon

    RichardMNixon Devotee (486) Jun 24, 2012 Pennsylvania

    I buy my beer almost exclusively from my favorite store, but it's a 20-30 min drive so I usually only get there
    ~once/month and come out with $100-$150 of beer. I appreciate that I can call and have them hold something for me to pick up when I am able to make it.
  13. sisterthelonious

    sisterthelonious Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2013 Wisconsin

    For some reason we get a ton of rotational/seasonal Founders stuff in the Milwaukee/Madison area, but Zombie Dust shipments (especially to small stores) happen maybe once a year.
  14. Halluxone

    Halluxone Aspirant (214) Dec 7, 2012 Georgia

    I never call, just show up with a smile and strike up a friendly conversation with the beer guy. Poof, the whales appear. How can anyone expect a phone call to check inventory entitle preferential treatment without the guarantee of even showing up? Maybe it's time for some of these stores to create "frequent flyer" programs based on customer loyalty?
  15. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    I get this from an owners perspective, but it's not really feasible for a consumer. I don't have the time/money/space to stop at multiple shops every week hoping to find limited beer X, not finding any, and buying another 6 pack I don't really want.
    Right. And my problem is I don't know if I'm consider a "regular" and any of the stores I shop at. Like you, I spend a lot of money on beer at a bunch of stores around the area...each store has different selection, price, and convenience factor depending on where I'm coming from. Do I spend enough money at one, or shop frequently enough that I'm considered a regular?
  16. DrStiffington

    DrStiffington Meyvn (1,074) Oct 27, 2010 New Jersey

    I definitely get both points of view. There's another store that demands that you buy another of the brewery's product, like another 6 or 4 pack, if you want their rare release. Kinda like extortion, but a "friendly" type.
  17. sisterthelonious

    sisterthelonious Initiate (0) Aug 3, 2013 Wisconsin

    I've never been a fan of "you gotta buy this to be able to buy this." I can understand, "You gotta buy this to get this free".
  18. jrnyc

    jrnyc Meyvn (1,158) Mar 21, 2010 New York

    In a perfect world, yeah, maybe. But in a world of truck chasers, hoarders, beer scalpers and people who only show up from time to time to buy limited beer , the shop owners are protecting the business of the people who show up weEk in and week out to Buy all beer, not just walesz bro.
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  19. aucanuck

    aucanuck Initiate (35) Dec 18, 2010 Georgia

    The worst is when the lie to you when you are in the store. I get not wanting to say over the phone but to lie to customers in the store is something else. Especially when the other employees were telling me exactly when they expected a certain beer. And then when I had to wait for the distribution truck to back out so I could leave. Even worse when I see people in the parking lot with said beer. To then tell me the delivery truck has not come yet and then to change the story to they didn't get any of the beer and then finally change it to "we are all sold out". Yeah, I never went back there again after that. I used to go there several times a week before then.
  20. jaIsPoAn

    jaIsPoAn Initiate (0) Aug 1, 2012 New York

    You hate them but you are one?
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  21. Preluderl

    Preluderl Zealot (504) Sep 27, 2012 Pennsylvania

    Yep. I always feel guilty for annoying the bejeesus out of them, but what choice do you have if you want it? Stores here are getting one case of BCBS.. There's no way anyone is getting their hands on it any other way than hounding them for when it's coming AND having the freedom to jump in the car and speed to the store when it finally comes in.

    Just the nature of the beast, I guess.
  22. black13

    black13 Aspirant (251) Apr 11, 2010 Oregon

    I see both sides of the coin. On the one hand, these stores are businesses and the employees are being paid to do a job, whether that be stocking the shelves or answering the phone. If a question is asked it should be answered honestly. On the other hand, there are so many people that spend their day tracking down and buying as much of a limited release as they can find, I see where stores would not answer honestly. Personally, I don't chase beers as I don't have the time and I generally have my kids with me. But if I were to call a store to see if they had a beer come in, I would hope to get an honest answer because we all don't have the time to drive across town just to see if the beer came in.
    Tgmckinn and JT99125 like this.
  23. RussBeercier

    RussBeercier Initiate (0) Mar 24, 2013 Illinois

    It's one thing if they are price gouging.........but they have the right to sell what they want to who they want. And if I'm the bottle shop, I'm holding back the best rare beers for my customers who are loyal and patronize my store regularly. Just because some DB calls in.......that does not give him some kind of right to whatever beer is in the store. It's the way things work in free countries.
  24. Jimbobebop

    Jimbobebop Aspirant (211) Jun 12, 2013 Illinois

    If I owned a shop I would have one of those messages that say we don't disclose qty. on special releases over the phone before the phone rings.

    I can see owners getting feed up with the guy that only comes in for special releases, buys that one beer and leaves.

    On the other hand if you want multiples you really have no choice but to be that guy.

    So I have one simple rule, if the shop gouged, I buy and leave.
    If not I buy something else, and divide my regular business between those shops.
    This habit ends up being better the owner and myself.
    If everyone followed this pattern, places that gouge lose craft beer customers and places that don't sell more beer and there for get better allocations.
  25. EastHarris

    EastHarris Initiate (46) Jan 9, 2012 Pennsylvania

    This just happened to be the other day. I overheard an employee at this bottle shop I frequent regularly say "yea it's in a 4 pack, but it's $26. Want it?". He went in the back and came out with Bourbon County Barleywine. The customer freaks out and then he says "I like to reward regulars.".

    #1 - I'm in there all the time. But I'm there to buy beer. Not socialize.

    #2 - Keeping it in the back, out of view, is bullshit.

    #3 - Doing this openly in front of other customers speaks volumes.
  26. sacrelicio

    sacrelicio Initiate (0) Feb 15, 2005 Minnesota

    Yup, I hate this "build a relationship with your beer guy" stuff. I have a number of stores I go to regularly, but I'm not a real chatty guy, and these stores are usually fairly busy places overall, so I don't really have the chance to build a relationship. And besides, a lot of people in my area are looking for limited releases, so I'm sure most stores have a few dozen "friends" who try to jockey for limited stuff.
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  27. TickleMeTony

    TickleMeTony Initiate (198) Sep 18, 2013 Colorado

    I work at a bottle shop in CO, and we get Pliny in probably once every month or two and it always comes on Fridays. I'm so sick of wiener's calling me and asking if we got Pliny in. However, I will always be truthful. Even if Joe Shmo calls asking for "Elder's Pliny", I will still let him know that, yes, we do indeed have Pliny the Elder in.
  28. TickleMeTony

    TickleMeTony Initiate (198) Sep 18, 2013 Colorado

    Also, when the Patagonia beer came out, I wanted to shoot myself. Every jackass wearing a Patagonia jacket and his mother came in asking for it for an entire month. Very annoying.
  29. beerindex

    beerindex Initiate (134) Jun 18, 2007 Michigan

    Beer is a luxury item, so it is categorically impossible to price gouge it.

    Also, you seem to have a huge stick up your ass. Nobody is claiming that calling to inquire about the availability of something entitles you to buy it. What people are quite reasonably suggesting is that if they call and ask, they deserve an honest answer. If the store says "yes, but we're reserving it for regulars," so be it. I, and many others, think that sucks, but it isn't inexcusable. Outright lying is.
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  30. willbm3

    willbm3 Initiate (0) Feb 19, 2010 Massachusetts

    Same here. When I go to a liquor store it's to browse around and pick up beer; I'm not making a social call. At most, when I'm checking out I might make some small talk with the clerk about whatever beer I'm buying...not asking him how his wife and kids are.

    Does the Apple store hold the newest iPhone in the back for regulars?
  31. fernz18

    fernz18 Initiate (133) Feb 6, 2009 California

    I support this. Screw hunters/hoarders.
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  32. DrewLikesBeer

    DrewLikesBeer Initiate (0) Jul 16, 2013 Florida

    you must be buying beer in the ATL...
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  33. VncentLIFE

    VncentLIFE Meyvn (1,393) Feb 16, 2011 North Carolina

    I rarely do it, only if I dont have my phone to text them.
  34. RayOhioFelton

    RayOhioFelton Initiate (0) May 24, 2011 Ohio

    You guys didn't read the post about the guy who called looking for bourbon county to a small liquor store and the lady ends up selling him a case of cherry rye this week? Any effort you are willing to make may be worth while...
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  35. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,201) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    Whether someone is a "regular" or just stopping in for one specific thing, people tend to like the policies that benefit them and dislike the ones that don't. (I'm not singling you out OP - just the opposite).
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  36. 2013beer101

    2013beer101 Initiate (0) Aug 9, 2013 Colorado

    I apologize if I have personally ever been a wiener to you :slight_frown:. But I appreciate your honesty! I am relatively new to craft beer and was lucky enough to have Pliny as my introduction to IPA's several months back, therefore I am a periodic searcher/wiener:grinning:.
    TickleMeTony likes this.
  37. c64person

    c64person Devotee (426) Mar 20, 2010 North Carolina

    I've had this happen in Chicago. Stopped in a store on my way through and asked if they got any OTA in, they said 'no man, maybe next week'. I was sad; but as I checked out, I saw a case on the counter, "Isn't that OTA right there?" "Yeah man, but I can't sell it to you, it's not priced and I am holding it for people." Oh, thats fine, at the point, I said no thanks to the $200+ of beer I had on the counter and went to a different shop that had no problem selling me a OTA and an RTA they still had.

    I guess it's up to the owner with what he wants to do with a product, but with more and more limited releases, does that mean more and more beers that can't be sold to Joe Smoe? Perhaps, but that means I'll go to less and less stores and just go directly to the source and cut out the middle man, even if that means I miss out on certain releases.
  38. aucanuck

    aucanuck Initiate (35) Dec 18, 2010 Georgia

    Yep. Since I stopped going to that place a new placed opened that is a ten minute walk from my house and everybody who works there is really cool. I usually go in there after I play hockey on Friday afternoons and hang out and sample beers with them. I also bring stuff too that I got in beer trades and buy a lot of stuff. Like on Friday I picked up a bottle of Sweet Repute but also bought Hairy Eyeball and Harpoon Bronze King. I might go to Hop City for a special release just to make sure I get it but pretty much only go to this other place now.

    They are honest and I can deal with that. When they thought they were only going to get a small allocation of something they pretty much have let me know there might only be enough for the employees to get, which is fine with me. They should get beer before I do imo. But they have been really great about everything.
  39. Paulydeets

    Paulydeets Initiate (0) Oct 8, 2008 New York

    I think its messed up to lie about it over the phone especially here on long island. Traffic is crazy, I work long hours, and there are beer people that are all over this stuff and if you werent there the day the BCBS variants came in you missed out unless you had a place that reserved them for you. Thankfully every shop I called was honest and that was probably about 10 places, I know they were honest because they all had gotten some in.

    I know of a lot of places that put some to the side for true regulars, as in people that are there multiple times per week, and put the rest out sale. I think that's a good way to do it.

    And also confused about the "whale status" of zombie dust and the commonality of kbs??
  40. aucanuck

    aucanuck Initiate (35) Dec 18, 2010 Georgia

    I get not wanting to say over the phone because it might not be there when the customer shows up depending on where they are coming from. It also prevents the whole "can you hold a bottle for me" business that I think most bottle shops are not comfortable with.

    It would be ideal for them just to say they don't say over the phone instead of just saying "no".
    ncaudle likes this.
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