Last week during our trip to MA we stopped in at a well known wine store in West Springfield. We had been to their sister store in Northampton many times and since they were temporarily closed for reconstruction we decided to check out their other location. Interestingly the places bore some physical resemblance to one another although our experiences were vastly different.
We wandered into the store and since the weather was warm I went straight to the sparkling wine section. I like to see what's available in the different wine stores and I was feeling the urge for something bubbly that evening. It looked like an impressive selection, an unusually long row of bottles stretching down the aisle. To give them credit there was a good selection of interesting bottles. Oddly though some of the bottles were repeated, so that halfway down the row I was experiencing deja vu. Didn't I just see that bottle a minute ago? That one too? They repeated several of the selections randomly and separated bottles by the same wineries so that a regular brut was six feet away from a vintage bottle and the rose from the same producer resided at the far end. It's a small thing. I just like to see all of the sparkling wines from the same producer closer together so that I can make an educated decision about which one to buy. It also seemed odd to repeat the same bottles in different places along the same row. Why not put them all together? Admittedly I no longer sell wine in a retail environment. The set up simply struck me as odd.
I went off to look for Alex and found him a few aisles over with a cart in hand that seemed to have quite a few bottles in it. As I walked towards him the salesman he was talking to enthusiastically threw a few more bottles in. I quickened my step and arrived to hear a patented spiel about the benefits of unusual wine varietals. As I peered into the cart the salesman targeted me with a wide grin. He then proceeded to inform me that I would not be familiar with any of the varietals in the cart because he was focusing on unusual wines for those who were willing to explore wine. By the way, there was no white wine because he liked red but since I was there he would add some white wines and with that, he took off down the aisle.
"You don't just drink that same old Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc do you?"
"Well no, we drink a variety of different whites. This time of year we-"
"Great, I have some real beauties for you. Here's a Viognier, only $10.99, you'll love it!." Dropping it in the cart he grinned again and galloped off towards the Italian wines. "Wait right here, I'll be back with more."
I looked disbelievingly into the cart and furiously whispered to Alex. "What's going on? There's like fourteen bottles of wine here."
"He just asked me if I like wine and if I liked to explore. Once I said yes there was no stopping him."
I was sorting through the cart. "Malbec, three bottles of Malbec. We don't usually like Malbec. Carmeniere, there are three or four different bottles of Carmeniere. Are we doing a tasting or something? How much South African wine did he put in here. Are these all $10 bottles."
"I'd say it's more like a range of $8-$12 bottles."
"Did he even ask you what we like? Flavor profiles? Price range? Anything?"
"Nope, just went into his spiel and started throwing in bottles. I couldn't figure out how to turn him off. He's like a human steamroller."
The salesman headed back our way with three more bottles of wine, two of which were red. Thankfully another woman had questions for him and we were able to take our full basket and escape to the relative calm of the empty Bordeaux section. Before we left he advised us to save our receipt and take notes on the wines so we would remember what we liked. It was the best piece of advice he had given us and redeemed him a bit in my eyes. He was a salesman to the core but maybe he actually did love wine underneath the aggressive techniques.
We were irritated and frustrated with our experience. Worse, we had a full cart of wine that we would have to sort through and either buy or return to the shelves. The salesman was still lurking in the aisles where we had wanted to shop, although the desire to buy wine had pretty much vanished by then. We had a brief debate about shopping or fleeing and precipitously abandoned the cart and headed for the door. I felt a little bad about that but we had no idea where all of the wine went and didn't want to face the salesman and have to explain our reasons for putting it back. It was a new sensation for us and not one I'd like to repeat.
Here's the thing, we went in there excited to buy wine. We knew that they had a good selection and we do enjoy trying new things. We're not wine snobs per se, although we enjoy good wines. There are not a lot of $10 wines in our collection, mainly because I'd rather spend on quality over quantity. We usually enjoy working with sommeliers and sales people because they know their inventory better than we do and can show us new treasures. Had the salesman asked us a few questions he could have helped us find some new wines and made a sale. Instead we slunk out of the store, almost beside ourselves with annoyance and frustration and without wine. Not only that, we told the story over and over again to the people we ran into. Not to bad mouth, simply to get it out of our systems. We were pretty upset by the whole experience. It just goes to show you that in every profession, technique is so important.