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Monday, November 21, 2011

For No Good Reason

Service in New York City retail is a VERY uneven experience. Many single-location privately owned operations which are legendary have an attitude regarding customer service bordering on the arrogant. I have seen salesman curse customers for no good reason. And yet I have seen the same salesman as sweet as sugar. The reason? It often depends on how you approach the sales staff - your attitude, knowledge, and other factors. Retail sales can admittedly be very trying, however, a customer should not have to walk on eggshells or ingratiate or prostrate himself to assure good service. It should not be that way, but welcome to New York.

The large, high-profile retailers or chains are much less inclined to risk reputation than a mom-and-pop operation working with a captive audience in a specialty. When a store attains iconic status in New York City, arrogance may often become a component of service. The differences become strictly a case of management style.

If you read reviews of places like Warehouse Wines & Spirits at 735 Broadway, you will find a virtually inexplicably broad spectrum of reviews and customer experience, from one to five stars. Not unusual for a place like this, known for its very competitive pricing, often the lowest in town.
What brought me to Warehouse recently was a very specific mission. A friend was desirous of exploring wine, however, their previous experience with headaches made them apprehensive. The subject of red wine headaches is debated. Many naturally occurring substances have been blamed - sulfites, tannins, histamines, and prostaglandins. Rather than wade through the literature, I decided that finding a wine salesperson with real customer experience regarding wine and headaches would be a simpler, more effective solution.

As I entered Warehouse Wines, I approached and asked the first salesperson visible who might be the resident wine expert. He responded, "that would probably be me." I told him of my mission, asking of his experience, if any, with wine headaches (sometimes referred to as red wine headaches, owing to the feeling that red wine is more problematic than whites). He made immediate suggestions and accompanied us to an area with a number of wine which, from his personal experience, were successful with his customers who previously had wine headaches. Although added sulfites have been implicated by some and dismissed by others, we chose an organic white.

I was impressed by his knowledge and asked about his wine background. He introduced himself as Dennis Johnson and told me that he had worked 22 years as cellarmaster at the Windows of the World restaurant.*

I was elated at my shopping experience at Warehouse Wine with Dennis. It is ironic that in New York City, I have become so inured to the unpredictable nature of customer service that I often feel that great service comes for No Good Reason :)

*Windows on the World was a restaurant on the top floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Related Posts: Trimmings for Sale, Instincts, We Don't Do Windows, No Students After 1, Pick Two


Leslie said...

Funny, I haven't been there in years. Perhaps I don't even consider them because of too many nasty attitudes in past years, but maybe it's more that the florescent lighting is really unpleasant. Certainly their stock is quite worth the trip.
Now that Astor Wines is looking so beautiful they are my first choice. I've also gotten some good help there.
Six of one, half a dozen of the other, right?

Mary P. said...

If it wasn't (weren't?) for headaches I might be a drunkard now...

Boye By Red said...

Interesting post. Customer service here in London is almost always great. Very rarely will you get a bad service and on the rare occassion that you do, you can kind of forgive as you can safely assume that the person had a pretty bad day.
As for wine that doesn't give a headache - Wolf Blass, Australian Shiraz, yellow label. Pricey, but well worth the money.

Anonymous said...

"Customer service here in London is almost always great."

ha ha ha ha ha ROFL!

*wipes tear from eye*