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

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

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  1. Patbrown2

    Patbrown2 Initiate (130) Nov 27, 2013 Connecticut

    I experienced the former last night. I get it that the 21yr old doesn't really know beer. But don't give me the eye roll when I ask you to go back and find out what beers you have on tap.
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  2. gopens44

    gopens44 Poo-Bah (2,423) Aug 9, 2010 Virginia
    Society Trader

    Just a thought here, but it seems to me that people set a higher standard on customer service at a craft bar than say, a fast food joint. And actually, that is reasonable from the perspective that a customer service experience that depends on a more technical interaction, like say craft beer ordering v. fast food, opens us up for more disappointment when we feel like our needs are not being met. Those needs can include detailed information on the lineup, nuances of each beer that spikes our interest, as well as the reciprocated "respect of knowledge" that you may feel entitled to as a craft beer fan. Is it fair to hang that responsibility on a bar that quite often draws from the same hiring pool as say, Applebee's? No. Not fair at all. That's when it becomes incumbent upon us as consumers to know which bars we can go to for a great customer service experience (the bars that put effort into hiring, training and rewarding craft savvy servers) and which bars to hit when something awesome hits their tap lines, but we don't really need the whole "shebang" of having our craft beer egos served as well as our palate.
  3. rozzom

    rozzom Meyvn (1,059) Jan 22, 2011 New York

    Weird - I never expected Drie Fonteinen to be the type of place to have doom metal and violent movies playing.
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  4. Fox82791

    Fox82791 Devotee (462) Jun 20, 2014 New York

    I just hate when I know more than the workers about their own bottle shop/bar than they do. Getting different answers from different workers at the same place is quite annoying.
    yemenmocha likes this.
  5. sjverla

    sjverla Disciple (397) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    That's what they do at my favorite brewpub. "Have you had sour beers before?" Gives pause to the unfamiliar and just requires a simple "Yes" from me.
  6. pjvie

    pjvie Initiate (0) May 30, 2014 Oregon

    Sadly, I live in a beer-illiterate (is that a thing? Can we make that a thing? I like it) part of the state, so after browsing these forums and this site, I know a lot more than your average beer drinker/server. I just don't expect to receive better information than what I have. It's a treat for me to go to awesome places in DC/NYC/Philly with people who know way more than me, but for now I'll have to make do nerding out about beer with my buddies and browsing BA.
  7. Providence

    Providence Champion (821) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    I hear where you're coming from and I didn't mean to insinuate that you mocked the staff while there (rather that you are poking a bit of fun of them here on the boards). The percentage of beer drinkers in the world that think Red God is a malt bomb is probably in the vicinity of 1%. So to me, the recommendation of Red God when you asked for an IPA isn't an example of t poor customer service (which is what this thread is dedicated to, or at least that's my interpretation). It's certainly not in the same category as some of the other staff mistakes seen in this thread (for example, I was at a store the other day and the customer said they wanted a red ale and the clerk recommended Chimay Red. That too me is a good example of staff not being knowledgeable). But I agree with you, when we take beer as seriously as we do, such encounters are bound to produce a reaction.

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  8. gopens44

    gopens44 Poo-Bah (2,423) Aug 9, 2010 Virginia
    Society Trader

  9. Lukass

    Lukass Meyvn (1,418) Dec 16, 2012 Ohio

    Either that, or when they say, "Is that gonna be really dark and heavy? I'm not a Guinness kind of guy."
  10. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Initiate (0) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    Speak softly and carry a big stick, etc.
    I don't expect counter staff or bartenders or servers to understand half of what I know or have learned about good beer, and those conversations when we get to talking about it are fun and I'm that much better a customer / client for them, cos they know it from one angle, and I know it from another and if they have the time to have a chinwag, we get to share knowledge. But, I also have experienced beer from the perspective of a production brewery and have home brewing knowledge on top of the years of drinking, researching, reading and such.

    My knock is directed at the "drinker" who is relying on the instant wisdom generator for their perceived sense of beer awesome so... It's a great resource, and I would never deny that. But.
    Speak softly, and carry a big stick, etc.
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  11. ChicagoGuy

    ChicagoGuy Initiate (0) Dec 2, 2014 Illinois

    That really sucks right there. Wish you were closer to Chicago, I'd urge you to go to my favorite shop...both the guy and the girl I've encountered behind the counter there have been equally knowledgeable, friendly, and laid-back every time I've gone. They both have a fantastic vibe, like "I'm really enthusiastic about beers & would like nothing more than to chat with you about them". I just can't see anyone there treating a customer differently because of gender, age, ethnicity, etc., and would be shocked if anyone said they experienced (or even heard) otherwise.

    Every time I stop in with the intention of seeing if they've got something specific & then being on my way after 5 minutes, I end up hanging out for 40 minutes, hearing about new stuff, chatting about beer likes/dislikes, laughing about the latest hot new release craziness, sampling new/rare beers, etc. I really can't say enough good things about this place (For any Chicagoland folks here, I'm talking about The Beer Temple...I see you in this thread, @quinnsi - hats off to you and your awesome shop!).
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  12. TonyLema1

    TonyLema1 Poo-Bah (1,932) Nov 19, 2008 South Carolina

    When someone comes into my store (other than my regulars) I smile say hi, and ask if they're looking for anything in particular and let them know that I'm available if they need help finding someting, or need a recommendation. I really friggin' tired of saying that over and over:slight_smile:
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  13. TCJ0100

    TCJ0100 Initiate (0) Oct 9, 2014 California

    Sorry I meant three floyds.
  14. rozzom

    rozzom Meyvn (1,059) Jan 22, 2011 New York

    Haha sorry I know dude - I was just being (un)funny
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  15. GreenMachine

    GreenMachine Initiate (0) Dec 5, 2014 North Carolina

    This definitely reassures me that not everywhere is as pretentious as where I am. Glad to know there are shops out there that aren't bias or judgmental of others. I just want to enjoy my brews and have a good conversation!
  16. KindbrewCali

    KindbrewCali Initiate (0) Aug 14, 2013 California

    As someone who has worked in gastropubs, craft beer bars, as well as retail bottle shops... and after 12 years in the customer service industry, I think its best to assume that everyone is an asshole until proven otherwise. Majority of newbs who need help always say the same thing when I ask what they normally drink...light beer, shock top, blue moon...which is easy to tranisition them into craft lagers or wheat ales. But then you get the other spectrum, where people throw out that their favorite beers are those only exclusive to the brewery tasting room/region once a year, like they are collecting beer points to cash in for some prize later. Im saving the good stories for my memoirs because there are too many, but I still have people calling and asking if we have pliney the younger on tap, 10 months later.
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  17. yemenmocha

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

    I can't speak for everyone, but a good number of us are complaining that we can't even get mere ordinary service at beer places. If they are drawing from the same hiring pool then they need to take notes from Applebee's and others because they're not hiring decent servers. For me it's usually the empty glass in front of me for 10 minutes, or walking past me 2-3 times after being seated but not acknowledging that this person is the server for our table, or not knowing or having a little cheat sheet for the names of the seasonal/rotating beers at the brewpub, or being served the wrong beer and actually being argued with when I point it out, etc. These are all items which are not the norm for me at "regular" non-beer focused restaurants.

    Regarding knowledge, I also think that many of us have set the bar at an appropriately modest level and it is still incredibly common to see so many issues. Think of what steak or fish restaurant servers have to know. It's not too much, but they do have to put forth some effort. They know a few things. Even more appropriate comparison - the wine bars. A good base level of knowledge is all that most of us ask for, along with accurate knowledge of what is on the menu where the person is working. And you know what, in my experience the servers at those wine places put the beer bar servers to shame. It's just... not... that... hard.
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  18. Beef_Curtains

    Beef_Curtains Initiate (0) Oct 14, 2013 Ohio

    This is a great point. I hear so many complaints about "hipsters" being pretentious and judgmental of "non-hipsters", but the people making these comments are pretty much behaving the same way.

    That being said, one of my favorite beer shops hires primarily twenty-something hipsters and I've never had a problem with them. They are always friendly and helpful and actually know a few things about beer.
  19. gopens44

    gopens44 Poo-Bah (2,423) Aug 9, 2010 Virginia
    Society Trader

    I'm afraid that I set the bar fairly low for most everything in life. In other words, I don't really expect much from most anyone and view above average experiences as the exception, not the norm. Perhaps I'm a pessimist, but that's the way I approach most everything. Expect the worst, hope for the "ok", cherish the best. Shockingly, I'm actually an upbeat and pretty easy going person. Maybe because it's rather difficult to disappoint me!

    As for the talent pool, I guess the service in our area really, really is just about on par with Applebees or Red Robin or whatever. I really was making a comparison based on the service I have received at both craft leaning generalized bars v. craft as a purpose bars / Applebees v. local "foodie" eateries. Levels of knowledge insofar as beer or food, level of competency, attention to detail, etc.,. I felt were dead on. That's why I made the comparison. Granted, I can honestly say I've never been to a wine bar, so I have no idea how that comparison goes but I stand by my hiring pool comment if for no other reason than it's pretty accurate for my area.

    Not sure if this serves as a possible rebuttal, but maybe it clarifies my stance a bit?
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  20. Onizilla

    Onizilla Initiate (0) Apr 25, 2009 New York

    It's like I wrote this myself, Whoa. If I knew where your store was, I'd totally come in and buy a 6 pack of Bu... Sea Hag! :wink:
  21. Hrodebert

    Hrodebert Aspirant (273) Sep 2, 2013 Michigan

    I don't see poor service in a craft bar being any more, or less, than in any other retail market.
    I think much of it has to do with the customers who have to wave their beer boner at everyone.
  22. TCJ0100

    TCJ0100 Initiate (0) Oct 9, 2014 California

    It really does make a huge difference in how I perceive the beer of a place though. My girlfriend and I went to Upland last night and I usually stray away from their beer because it is expensive and just okay, but the experience we had at the brewpub was excellent. Very attentive waiter who kept my glass filled constantly, and he seemed to want to make my experience worthwhile.

    I wish breweries like Three Floyds and (I have only heard this through heresay) Cigar City would up their game a bit. These places are destinations and they should cater to that first and foremost. I have infinitely lessened my purchase of Three Floyds beers after visiting their brewery, and now I am considering purchasing more of Upland's beers which usually do not interest me: all because the experience was world's better.
    yemenmocha likes this.
  23. rozzom

    rozzom Meyvn (1,059) Jan 22, 2011 New York

    For somewhere like Torst in NYC, I think it's reasonable to expect a very high level of service/knowledge, as the place is marketed and priced as a "high end" beer nerd mecca.

    For more run-of-the-mill bars and especially for a lot of stores, I don't think you can (or should) necessarily expect the same.

    Edit - in fact - just thinking about a couple of my favourite beer bars, I would actually be turned off if I asked "hey what's that new beer from [insert local brewery X]" and got a monologue on the brewing and barrel-aging processes involved in the beer's creation.
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  24. fooferjw

    fooferjw Initiate (0) May 28, 2014 Florida

    would have offered him a dales pale ale good starter
  25. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    LOL well said. It does seem that a number of BA's have a sense of entitlement because they are umm ---BA's.
    rozzom likes this.
  26. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (3,531) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Society Trader

    Question for bar, store, festival workers: So when a new customer you don't know walks in with a Russian River, FFF, Pipeworks, Prarie, Hill Farmstead etc. T-shirt/sweatshirt etc, is your initial impression a)this person is a craft beer elitist duche-bag" b)world champ beer advocate/someone who knows the good beers/worldly individual" c) most likely a poser who probably never drank beef from the world-hyped brewer, but someone said sporting attire of these places when you go to craft bar, festival etc. will make you look really cool"? d) other?
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  27. chcfan

    chcfan Zealot (563) Oct 29, 2008 California

    It's wine, but my first thought upon reading that was "...and I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!"
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  28. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Initiate (0) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    D other worker does not notice tee shirt
  29. yemenmocha

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

    We're actually much closer on this position than you may have thought. Like you, my expectations are tempered accordingly, given the way people are and the current norms in the service industry.
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  30. terrapinfan88

    terrapinfan88 Initiate (0) Nov 15, 2009 Virginia

    I work at an independent that is coveted for service. I also shop around and I've found some of the same.

    I've walked into total wine and asked just off hand if they had CBS day of release in my area, had literally no expectations just couldn't hurt to check. the guy pfffffft'd me and laughed exclaiming my pathetic quest was fruitless. although they are competition any place with a decent selection generally gets 20 - 60 dollars of business from me, unless thats my first interaction walked out without browsing and haven't been back.

    Your package and grocery stores don't have a huge incentive to please beer customers. Total is making all there money in wine and WF is doing it with grocery. beer is just something for the husband to do while the wife is shopping for pinot grigio, or something you grab on the way out with your groceries. Typically they hire anyone who is willing to work ridiculous hours for no money.

    Independents for the most part have always treated me well, being in the industry I have a little more to be chatty about but for the most part empathy gets you far. The small guys normally can't compete in terms of price sometimes selection, so they have to rely on service. I can assure you if you called my store and spoke to the owner about an employees manners keeping you from giving us your business that employee wouldn't be here much longer.

    There are also smaller guys that have a great selection but aren't friendly and/or over priced… you just have to decide what your willing to pay/deal with on a beer run. Regulars are also generally getting slightly better at least more outwardly friendly service because they are familiar and, they help pay the rent…. every single month. loyalty means a lot to any small shop, or at least it should.
    BrettHead likes this.
  31. Smakawhat

    Smakawhat Poo-Bah (8,400) Mar 18, 2008 Maryland

    You know... call me jaded... call me spoiled.... I dunno...

    but these "events" just NEVER happen around where I live in the DC area.

    The excellent beer establishments, NEVER act like this... and there are several... so it sometimes makes me wonder if I get spoiled down here...

    Servers are well educated... food is decent... if it isn't... your restaurant/bar... just wont cut it..... you will be done in a year...

    just ask Coyote Ugly... :wink:
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  32. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (384) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    I don't recall ever having been treated condescendingly by a bartender or a beer store employee. I'm not sure if this means I'm lucky or I'm inherently lovable or I'm just already so far up my own butt that I don't notice when I'm being insulted. I don't feel any antagonism toward that vaguely defined cohort known as "hipsters," which may help.

    As to knowledge, I'm not surprised when a packy wage earner can't tell me much about a particular brew. They're not working for tips and often they're not paid very well, so unless they're beer geeks themselves they don't have much incentive to pick up a lot of product knowledge. C'est la vie.

    (And for what it's worth, knowledge itself can be a double-edged sword, in that there are plenty of people who seem to interpret displays of knowledge about things that the masses aren't into -- like craft beer, for instance -- as pretentious grandstanding.)
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  33. aasher

    aasher Poo-Bah (3,608) Jan 27, 2010 Indiana

    Rhone blends or die :wink:
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  34. terrapinfan88

    terrapinfan88 Initiate (0) Nov 15, 2009 Virginia

    I think a lot of it has to do with 1.) Servers are generally making less than 3.00 hourly and normally younger less experienced palates looking for something to pay the bills with. Couple that with hoards of people a decade or so older than you questioning your knowledge, being generally intoxicated, and sometimes down right rude and pretentious gets old. There are a lot of career servers and few professional ones.

    2.) Demand most go these breweries don't have problems moving product in fact quite the opposite plenty of demand nationally (even in states they don't have distro in) so maybe as far as they see it the dining portion of your experience locally won't have any bearing on that. Cigar city for example ran out of henny on release day and people were chanting cigar city suck cigar city sucks, in the face of something like that its very hard to want to value some people as customers, you may even grow to resent some folks.

    It's the same way in retail, I can say there are some customers I dread seeing and tend to avoid. Not many but some and they still get at least my B game in terms of service. Not all of my colleagues are even putting that much effort into serving them. The guy who scoffs because you don't stock 120 minute year round, the guy who can always get it cheaper elsewhere and yet still comes in to bust my chops regularly, the guy who quizzes me to see if Im worthy of working at a craft beer destination.

    throw all that at a 21 year old who's just waiting tables for spending money and you have one grumpy inhospitable server on your hands
  35. Providence

    Providence Champion (821) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    Why? Why do you hate it? You happen to have advanced knowledge in something as a result of it being a hobby you are interested in. They potentially look at their employment at the shop/bar as simply a means to an end (a job that pays them). They likely try to be knowledgeable about their products, but given that most drinkers don't drink craft beer, the incentive to be as knowledgeable as you, is fairly low. I don't understand why people get so upset about this. Seems like "hating" someone at a bottle shop because they don't know as much as you do is just an attempt to show others how superior your own beer knowledge is (I'm not directing this at you, it's a comment towards a number of people in this thread). Think of it this way, what do you do for a living? Is it conceivable that someone in the world knows more about what you do than you? I wager it is. Would it before for them to "hate" the fact that they know more about than you? Seems unreasonable. Just my two cents.
  36. PostRockandCats

    PostRockandCats Initiate (0) Oct 23, 2014 Florida

    Honestly, if it's a person who is reaching beyond the American Adjunct Lager bubble, I'll happily recommend a Fat Tire Amber Ale to them; it's a very drinkable beer and a bit strong if their idea of a rich beer is a regular Bud rather than a Light Beer. Throwing concentrated, liquid hops at them defeats the purpose of bringing someone to the dark side of craft beer. Start them easy with a mild ale or a heavier lager and go from there!
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  37. PostRockandCats

    PostRockandCats Initiate (0) Oct 23, 2014 Florida

    Customer service. Now, are we talking about a bar where you're asking the bartender to talk about the 10238098309283 beers they have in detail when the place is packed, or is it just a jerk in an empty bar with a crappy mustache and a dirty flannel shirt lamenting the mainstreaming of his favorite whatever? Generally, you get what you give. If you assume the bartender is clueless beyond the normal Macro offerings and/ or an idiot, you'll always leave disappointed. Also, if you're asking ultra specific questions about a relatively unknown thing, you'll also probably leave disappointed. If you ask good questions (what kind of pale lagers do you have? What's your favorite IPA? Do you have ___?), you'll more than likely leave happy!

    Unless it's the aforementioned jerk who is sneering at you over his free range saison because you asked about IPAs (they are SOOO mainstream). Then you'll probably be mad. :wink:

    A good bar, like any other place, wants you to be happy. But you've got to meet them halfway!

    PS- that said, sometimes education is important. I was at a local bar and grill last month and had to teach my server the difference between lagers and ales. So, there's that.
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  38. yemenmocha

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

    Where are these poor souls who are being horribly exploited? only $3/hour? The ones here I know are allowed to obtain tips, and the tips are in the teens to twenties per hour on average. But anyone who only makes $3/hour? What is this, sweatshop labor!?
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  39. yemenmocha

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

    I think it's a perfect recommendation in that case. Echoing sentiments of some others above, and in other threads, sometimes it can get old to be assumed to be new to craft beer for no apparent reason.

    I try to keep the conversation focused on an accurate list of the menu and make up my own mind. Perhaps I'll ask what style a new tap is, but that's about it. I prefer to avoid the sizing each other up, posturing, etc.
    szmnnl99 and PostRockandCats like this.
  40. PostRockandCats

    PostRockandCats Initiate (0) Oct 23, 2014 Florida

    My understanding as someone who doesn't work as a server or bartender is most of them!
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