Can the retail craft community "up" its customer service.

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by scottakelly, Dec 13, 2014.

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  1. BeerMeBro720

    BeerMeBro720 Initiate (0) May 2, 2013 Ohio
    Deactivated

    It's like whenever I order a beer over 8% here in Ohio and get "that's really strong, are you sure?" response.

    Keep in mind most of our bottle shares here include beers over 12%. It's sad when you begin to think 7 to 9% is sessionable :slight_smile:
     
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  2. Chuck_IPA_Mathus

    Chuck_IPA_Mathus Initiate (0) Oct 29, 2013 Massachusetts

    ... agreed... here is my favorite

    Me : "I'll take whatever IPA you have on tap"

    20 minutes later

    an Amber colored beer is set in from of me with the first nose ... not hops... but MALT

    Me: "This isnt an IPA, Ill drink it but do you have somehting hoppier next time?"
    Server : "That is an IPA"
    Me : "Who told you that, and what is the name of it?"
    Server : Bartender, and its called Red God..

    LMFAO
     
  3. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,902) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona
    Society

    For long term quality relationships, I agree. But the norm at the beer bar involves a huge roll of the dice with a given employee vs. the resource base of BA where I have known reviewers I like.
     
  4. rgordon

    rgordon Meyvn (1,302) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    High gravity beers.
     
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  5. DarkerTheBetter

    DarkerTheBetter Poo-Bah (1,907) Sep 30, 2005 Minnesota
    Society

    I'd go with,

    "Out of all of the nuances hops can add, you're going to go with 'bitter'?"
     
  6. GreenMachine

    GreenMachine Initiate (0) Dec 5, 2014 North Carolina

    I can completely understand where you are coming from. There are some decent bottle shops in my area that I don't even feel welcome at because there is a "secret handshake" or the special releases are "reserved for regulars". I get that you want to provide excellent customer service to the regulars, but I know my beer and don't deserve to be talked down to or denied a beer because I don't come to your bottle shop 4 days a week.

    I've also found that because I am a woman I clearly know nothing about beer. Or so must servers or bottle shops think. I even had a man at the register tell me "women don't know good beer". I find this highly rude and if you want to run a business you cannot be picky on who your customers are. At times I find it amusing because half the time I end up showing them up on my knowledge of styles and anything related to craft brews.

    Guess I would suggest laughing it off and not returning to said shop. I know I've started going to corporate places to get my beer, at least no one bothers me in there.
     
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  7. Sponan

    Sponan Initiate (0) Jan 20, 2008 Tennessee

    Nothing more annoying than a customer trying to impress the staff by asking multiple questions about the beers while there is a line ten deep at the bar.
     
  8. Providence

    Providence Champion (821) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island
    Trader

    I don't think it's that crazy for someone to think Red God is an IPA. I mean the CBC folks could easily have just described the beer as an IPA when they sold it to them, delivered it, etc. It's a pretty hoppy brew and considering there are a number of hoppy beers with a similar color, it doesn't seem like a bad ball park descriptor. Additionally, given that you just requested an IPA and nothing specific, a beer that is in the ballpark of an IPA doesn't seem that unreasonable to get for you.

    It's responses like this that I think get us (beer geeks) into trouble. We walk into a bar, knowing full well that we know more about beer than most in there, including, in all likelihood, the folks that work there. Then we request something in the very broad category of IPA and mock the server/establishment when they bring us something listed on a website as an "American Amber" and not listed as an IPA, even though the beer, by non-geek standards and even by many geek-standards is quite hoppy.
     
  9. elektrikjester

    elektrikjester Initiate (0) Nov 15, 2008 Georgia

    Fair and true enough. I guess the other issue in play is the type of establishments we elect to frequent. Case in point, I generally don't frequent bars, but when I do go, I try to keep context in mind.

    If I'm at the Brick Store Pub or Porter Beer Bar in ATL, then I'm probably going to ask for a recommendation if I don't have a clear idea of what I want. Most of their servers and bartenders have cicerone-level knowledge (and quite a few are cicerones). If I'm at a bar not known for beer, then I will either take a chance or just order a beer known to me.

    A few issues in play:

    One is the role of beer lists and menus themselves. How well a list describes a beer will inform my approach. In fact, the presence or absence of descriptions is telling, in and of itself, about the place you're and the service you'll receive.

    Second, is size of the beer offerings. Bigger is not always better--I'd rather go to a place like Augustine's which has a well-curated, focused selection of 20 taps than a place like Taco Mac with almost 10 times that but no effort to describe.

    Finally, there's the matter of knowledge and experience. I may know a lot, but I don't know everything. And I'm okay with that. Beer is not a competition. I usually can benefit from other folks' perspectives.

    There also seems to be this idea implicit in this thread (and dangerous, IMO), that each beer we consume must be amazing or else. Just my take though.
     
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  10. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,902) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona
    Society

    In the Cicerone case, great, but even at very well known beer bars it isn't uncommon to have servers with minimal knowledge. Even worse are the ones that have minimal knowledge but pretend to know more than they do. I'm fine with the ignorance, actually, as long as the situation isn't counterproductive. I don't enjoy being talked into a beer I don't want, or talked out of something I do want. I just want a clearly labeled and accurate menu so I can make up my own mind. In fact I try to not talk about beer and just keep the conversation on the menu itself.

    Sorry but I have to take you up on the "dangerous" idea that beers should be amazing or else. I think they should. We already have enough amazing beers available from distributors in most major markets that just about any beer bar could be filled with amazing beers. But they aren't. There are competing reasons for why this or that beer mediocre beer is on tap. So, I can't help but stick up for drinking the best if the best is actually available in your market. Don't settle for mediocre taps.
     
  11. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I guess I'm spoiled since I don't encounter any of the problems many people are describing in this thread.

    The bars I frequent have very good rotating tap lists ranging from a some amazing beers through some high average beers to occasional less than stellar beers (which are typically not repeated). Their tap lists typically include a nice mix of local, national and international offerings. The beer managers clearly know their customer base since most kegs kick within a week or two of being tapped even when there are as many as 24 active taps. (They clean their tap lines regularly and won't pour/serve an off beer or the wrong beer. If a mistake does get made, as sometimes happens, they get it corrected.)

    The servers and bartenders are both knowledgable and/or eager to learn about customer reactions to their beers and never ask me if I know what I'm asking for. They are often able to make recommendations for something on the menu they think I might like to try and sometimes even volunteer to bring samples of new beers so that we can chat about the beer. As a result I've tried some beers that I'd never have thought to order left to my own devices. Those servers who drink have sampled most of the beers on tap and have their own ideas about what those beers are like. Even those servers few who don't drink have been given some basic training in what the beer is going to be like or feel free to check with the bartender who gives them accurate information and/or a sample to bring to me.

    So I'm hard pressed to think of ways in which the craft bars I visit could step up their game.
     
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  12. doppletheGOAT

    doppletheGOAT Initiate (0) Nov 27, 2012 Texas

    I don't go to bars that often but I've had some bad experiences with the retail people that work at the Specs Liquor Stores here in Houston. They just seem really short with people and act like they couldn't care less what you're looking for.
    I mean, I don't always get this with Specs employees but it happens more often than it should and to the point where I rarely buy beer from them. I choose Whole Foods and HEB for my beer purchases now.
     
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  13. parrotsnest

    parrotsnest Initiate (0) Aug 16, 2010 Washington

    All servers at Pyramid here in Seattle allegedly have "Cicerone training," but the last two servers there told me they didn't have any Double IPAs. They did however have some Imperial IPAs... SMH. :S
     
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  14. THANAT0PSIS

    THANAT0PSIS Champion (815) Aug 3, 2010 Wisconsin

    All I know about beer I learned from drinking it and BA. When I enter a store/bar nowadays, I am almost always among the most knowledgeable people in the establishment, and the other people in that category are seldom the employees. Sure, there are exceptions at high-end beer-centric places like Four Firkins or The Beer Temple, but usually I know more than the person serving me. I've even run into this type of situation at places like Kuma's Corner.

    Of course, I don't talk down to the server or anything, I just make it clear that I know what I want, and if I don't I will ask for a recommendation and provide guidelines within which to receive said recommendation. It's also pretty rare that I run into an actual Cicerone anywhere, let alone at a bar or bottle shop.

    What I'm saying is that you knocking BA and the Internet, the latter of which is maybe the greatest accomplishment in the history of mankind due to the fact that nearly the whole of collective human knowledge is collected here, is pretty silly. There's no substitute for experience, but knowledge serves as a pretty damn good guideline.
     
  15. THANAT0PSIS

    THANAT0PSIS Champion (815) Aug 3, 2010 Wisconsin

    La Cumbre A Slice of Hefen and New Glarus Dancing Man are both better, I think.
     
  16. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,902) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona
    Society

    I hear you. I asked a server at a local brewery if they had any seasonals on tap. Her reply was no, they only had their beers.
     
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  17. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (9,996) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Honestly now, how many non-beer nerds call the Double IPAs? It, much like "Bomber" to describe a 22 oz bottle, is a term I see used exclusively amongst us beer nerds. All regular beer lovers, the majority of any bar/breweries business, call it an Imperial IPA. I, personally,have never used the phrase Double IPA. Or Double Stout for that matter.
     
  18. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (13,813) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Thanks to THANATOPSIS for backing me up. I was surprised that nobody really stepped forward to support/defend BA... ?

    I do agree with MostlyNorwegian to a certain extent, but not regarding BA. I give a huge nod to the ratings on BA because for the most part it's an educated community who cares, not just people rating their latest restaurant visit on Yelp. Maybe a new brewery or beer might slip by here and there, and there are beers that are under-rated because of their big-brewer origins, but for the most part the general scores are a very good indication of what's going on. I use BA all of the time to guide me to the best brewpubs and beer bars when I travel, and to choose certain beers from a specific brewery that I might want to look into. KUDOS to all of you who've put time and effort into reviews!
     
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  19. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    There's a schism in how some people on this site view reviews and ratings. At a basic level there is a group of people who think that reviews and ratings can be one of several useful sources of information to guide or inform their explorations. Then there is a group of people who think that nobody is going to tell them what to think and that looking at ratings and reviews means someone who does is mindless and unable to think for themselves. While not everyone falls clearly into one group or the other, I've pretty much found that neither group can do much to change the views held by the other.
     
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  20. SmashPants

    SmashPants Initiate (0) Jun 24, 2012 Australia

    If you work retail or particularly sales and judge a book by its cover then you're doing yourself a disservice and potentially losing sales. The biggest difference that I find is between small owner-operator stores, and (generally) larger retail stores where the person serving you either a) doesn't care or has no interest in the product, and / or b) doesn't know their products and has simply been employed to work the till. I tend to get into chats with the owner-operators as they are passionate and helpful with my selections, whereas a higher percentage - though certainly not all - of the larger retail staff want to sell a product and then get back to their smart phone game.

    And yes, as with you I do find that sometimes people appear to be a bit judgemental on your appearance (in my case a somewhat scruffy early-thirties generally in shorts, t-shirt and thongs), but once I engage them and start talking about different breweries and styles and they know I am into craft beer they generally loosen up and I find they enjoy their craft.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that a lot of people selling craft brew probably don't want to start out speaking to customers assuming knowledge or they might be seen as being 'holier than though'. It would be akin to a mechanic saying to a customer that "you're rear main seal is gone" without explaining "There is a seal between the back of your engine and the front of the transmission that is leaking..." To another mechanically-minded person the full explanation might seem a bit simplistic, but to most people they just want to get the car fixed and don't care about the full explaination. Similarly in a brew shop, the majority of customers probably just want something to drink. I'd say they aren't really judging you that much, as once you engage them on a higher (or more craft orientated) level, they'll probably be more than glad to have a chat.

    TL;DR
    1) In my experience, owner-operated small bottle shops tend to be better than larger retail stores for engagement.
    2) A lot of craft brew specialists may not wish to engage all customers as a craft brew enthusiast, as some customers may feel as though they're being spoken down to when they just want a case of Millers.
     
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  21. nlethbridge

    nlethbridge Initiate (0) Jan 21, 2014 Canada (AB)

    I supervise at my local liquor store, with arguably the best selection for wines and beer. Every time someone comes in looking for a recommendation, it doesnt matter to me if they are 18 (legal age in my area) or 80, I get excited that people are drinking GOOD BEER. When craft-lovers come in to try the latest offerings, or discover a new favourite, I still feel the same thrill, because I can connect with the person on a completely discrimination-free level.

    If your local staff are looking at you with scorn for wanting to give them money, they need to be in different positions. I would never let ANY of my staff talk to a customer in a way that would cause them to not want to come back.

    On the other side, if a customer smugly asks for beer-geek notes on the not-yet-released-esoteric-beer from the micro ten hours drive away, sorry bub. You get to wait another week until the rep gets me the info sheets on it. Or, (and this is my favourite peeve) if you try to quiz the female staff, expecting their answers to be wrong, and I say "she just said more about *insert beer* than I could learn in a month." You aren't really the kind of person I want to share my passion with.
     
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  22. erichall

    erichall Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2008 Kentucky

    As a liquor store owner, I would suggest visiting during weekdays to get the most accurate answers. The guy working then night shift doesn't meet with reps and isn't privy to the exact release dates or allocations of certain beers.

    Trying to maintain competitive prices and a thoroughly knowledgeable staff is tough.
     
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  23. johnInLA

    johnInLA Savant (983) Jun 12, 2005 California
    Society Trader

    I have to say, like other, I've never fully experienced what OP did.

    I am certainly on the older side and as far from a hipster as you could get. Yet, I have found craft beer establishments to be amonst the most welcoming places that I have come accross.

    Yes, sometimes servers know surprising little. But as a BA, I think patience is called for. I once too, knew less about beer. As for comments like that's really bitter. I find come backs like "I like really like bitter beers" is very effective.

    I remeber a time when a server responded to my order with "I think that beer tastes like ashtray". I looked at my friend and smiled, then responded, "sounds delicous". She raised her eyebrows and we all laughed. As it turned out, I split it with my friend and we both enjoyed it.

    I guess my point is as a BA have confidence in your orders and patience with those that know less.

    One final point on customer service. I'm a firm believe in the power of the purse. If I find service lacking, they lose my business. Like many of us, I spend alot of money on quality beer. Trust me, these businesses do not want to lose a BA's business.
     
  24. msscott1973

    msscott1973 Devotee (477) Dec 28, 2013 North Carolina

    The bottle shops I frequent (in Durham, NC) are great as far as customer service. I consider myself fortunate.
     
  25. Lard_City

    Lard_City Initiate (0) Mar 31, 2014 California

    I look at advice on craft beer the way I look on advice about golf. Most everyone into it wants to give you advice. Some do it with good intentions and some just want to show off. I feel about 5-10% of the advice is worthwhile and just let the other 90-95% pass as graciously as possible.
     
  26. parrotsnest

    parrotsnest Initiate (0) Aug 16, 2010 Washington

    You're obviously not Cicerone certified...
     
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  27. parrotsnest

    parrotsnest Initiate (0) Aug 16, 2010 Washington

    Btw, nice avatar. Dostoyevsky? He's my favorite author.
     
  28. Darwin553

    Darwin553 Initiate (0) Jan 5, 2009 Australia

    To the OP, you can't expect a retail assistant or bar attendant to know who you are based on the first visit. It sometime takes a couple of visits for them to truly understand you are serious and not just placing their toes into water that they don't really want to go into.
     
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  29. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    Maybe North NJ is a beer never/never land. I never run into these problems either.
     
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  30. OrangeMen

    OrangeMen Initiate (0) Jan 26, 2014 New York

    For ideal customer service you never assume a person is a master or a novice. Taking time to learn about the person's background in the subject matter is the core of serving the customer. Instead of just telling the person an IPA is going to be bitter, you ask them, "how familiar are you with IPA's"? Asking questions instead of making statements makes the person your serving feel comfortable.

    I can see this being tough at a bottle shop, sometimes there are just too many people to make this feasible. But if your a bartender and your not familiarizing yourself with your patrons.....your failing.
     
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  31. duchessedubourg

    duchessedubourg Aspirant (259) Nov 2, 2007 Vermont

    As a middle-aged woman who's been chasing craft since the late 80's, I'm occasionally annoyed by barkeeps/servers/clerks who seem to peg me as having whatever their mom's tastes are (or were.) Instead of freezing up in confusion, simply open with "What can I pour you?" and then listen to the response before interjecting with your own assumptions. The places I always frequent are those that don't jam me into their demographic box the minute I walk in, or subject me to their personal biases. Good craft beer is not strictly a phenomenon of the last decade!
     
    #71 duchessedubourg, Dec 14, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2014
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  32. HelpMeBloody

    HelpMeBloody Initiate (0) Jul 22, 2013 Rhode Island

    "Shut up" would work for me.
     
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  33. quinnsi

    quinnsi Aspirant (222) Nov 22, 2008 Illinois

    "Pefect" would also work, and express your preferences in a more polite manner. (AKA no spit in your food)
     
  34. TCJ0100

    TCJ0100 Initiate (0) Oct 9, 2014 California

    There is definitely a problem in the beer world with customer service. My girlfriend's great aunt and uncle went to 3F's and compared the customer service to a restaurant were the meanness of the servers is a draw. (I remember there is a famous place in Chicago that does this sort of thing.)

    They were also pretty off-put by the violent movies playing on TVs mixed with the doom metal playing the background. Like I get 3f's likes its tough metal image, but I cannot condone treating people so poorly and having an atmosphere that is so heavy handed.
     
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  35. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,902) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona
    Society


    I think there is a sort of counter-culture part of the craft beer movement that really is trying to overturn norms for customer service. I'm not kidding. I think much of it is reactionary from server jobs where higher (normal) standards of service are enforced. Some don't want to be bothered with greeting a table relatively soon after they've been sat, or making sure the beer glass never goes empty, etc. It's as if those who didn't work out so well at various restaurants and bars with these sort of enforced standards have all gathered in the craft beer restaurant/bar/brewpub world for solidarity. Their hero is Jennifer Aniston in that movie Office Space.
     
  36. Leinie

    Leinie Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2013 Indiana

    I went to a couple of hipster craft bars in a town about an hour away a few weeks ago. My dad is 65, I'm 40, and we were dressed like farmers. I ordered a DIPA, he got a stout, and we chatted with the bar tender about their rotation. Got a few free samples too. I've been to other tap houses in Virgina, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. I think you get what you give. But if your server is ultimately an a**hole, don't tip. You can vote with you wallet.
     
  37. IPAandGreenChile

    IPAandGreenChile Initiate (0) Jun 25, 2014 Colorado

    I'm in my 20's and often wear a backwards hat.
    Yesterday a guy at the liquor store tried to tell me my obviously infected bottle of Christmas Bomb "smelled completely fine."
    It literally smelled like hot garbage. Maybe Prairie changed their recipe but the last time I had it, it smelled phenomenal.
    I guess if you wear a backwards hat, you only drink bro beer.
     
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  38. mohawk5

    mohawk5 Initiate (0) Jul 24, 2014 New Jersey

    It depends where you go. If you go to a TGI Fridays like establishment don't expect your 21 year old waitress to know anything about beer.

    If you go to a solid craft beer bar where they rotate their taps regularly then you should expect knowledgeable service.
     
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  39. woodchipper

    woodchipper Poo-Bah (1,581) Oct 25, 2005 Connecticut
    Society Trader

    I generally run across 3 types of servers/clerks. Ones that know as much as me or more, ones that don't, but are super gracious and listen to the customer and finally those that are clueless and push crap.
    I have often contemplated saying to the clueless-"Look, I try at least 150 different new beers per year, do you?". However, I am not a dick and kind of suffer through the B.S. they feed.
     
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  40. Chuck_IPA_Mathus

    Chuck_IPA_Mathus Initiate (0) Oct 29, 2013 Massachusetts


    I will agree to disagree.. this beer is not hoppy on my pallate this beer is a MALT Bomb, not a bad brew but definitely not hoppy. I didnt Mock the staff, I didnt even make a comment , other than it wasnt an IPA.. all comments about my beer "SNOBINESS" is usually done with my wife or whoever I am enjoying brews with. I tend to remember most dont drink beer like it s a fine wine like some of us.. LOL

    thanks for the feedback though Providence
     
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