Friday, March 17, 2017

A rant from the Afro.

From time to time I may use my version of a soap box to just rant, and this is one of those times. And while this may seem like a “No Duh” statement to some of you, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I did if it was common knowledge. So, to all the Sales Representatives out there, whether you’re a 20+ year veteran or brand new to the job, remember one thing; your attitude reflects the people who gave you your business card. And this really goes for any line of work, but since it’s in the title for Sales Representatives, and that’s where my rant originates from, let’s focus on that.

Almost 4 years ago, I was at a trade event and walked up to the table/booth of one of the bigger Bourbon Distilleries out there. In fact, this was the first Bourbon Distillery I went to after I turned 21. Growing up in The Wine Country I had seen their bottles for years, and their entry level Bourbon was one of the first Bourbons I tried. So, when I turned 21 (2010) living just an hour outside of Bourbon County, touring that distillery was one of the things I wanted to do. My family came out to celebrate the event and we had a blast there. A great tour, funny stories, great pictures and very fond memories. Jump forward to 2013 and I’m in front of this booth talking to a very nice young woman, Halie, about the fact that I lived in Louisville for 5 years, how their Distillery was my first stop the day I turned 21 and how the whole experience was really nice. She in turn says “Let me introduce you to Mr. Smith”.

Mr. Smith wasn’t just a Sales Representative, he ran all the sales for this distillery, the guy who controlled the allocations of their rare and unique stuff. Mr. Smith was just wrapping up talking to another person at the event and Halie says “John, this is Jeremy, he works at The Wine Country, he’s actually been to the Distillery and just wanted to say ‘Hi’.” I reached out my hand, like polite people do when meeting someone for the first time, to which Mr. Smith just takes a quick look at me and says “Yea, if you want our specialty stuff make sure your carry Product X, Product Y and Product Z and I can get you a few bottles of A, B, or C.” then just turns around and stops talking to me. I had no intentions in talking shop with Mr. Smith, I just wanted to share my happy memories of the place he calls work, just wanted to thank him for what he does and just wanted to say hello. I wear my emotions on my face most the time and I could tell by the look Halie was giving me, slightly shocked, that I was wearing a stunned look. And it was in that 45 seconds I lost all favor for that Distillery. That awesome day spent at the Distillery, my enjoyment of their Bourbons, all disappeared with one guy being a tool. 

Just under 1 year and a half ago I was at another trade event, this time I was on the hunt for Agave Spirits. When I moved back to California in 2012, I really got into Agave; Tequilas, Mezcals, Bacanoras, Sotols, Raicillas, I love them all and still get super pumped when I find something new. And at this event I did, this newer Mezcal producer with some funny merchandise and a cool look. I walk up to the booth and start talking to their Sales Representative. I tell him about The Wine Country, I tell him how I’ve been looking for new Mezcals and was interest in what he was selling. The guy, we’ll call him Al, says “Oh cool” then pours me their Blanco and goes back to looking at his phone. Doesn’t tell me what type of Agave they use, how long they roast the Agave hearts for, dude doesn’t say anything to me besides “We like to let the drink speak for itself.” Well in this interaction the Mezcal did more talking than him for sure. I tried the Mezcal and it was pretty good, nice rounded flavors and good depth to it. After taking a few notes (yes, I’m the guy who takes notes at a trade event), I looked up and waited for Al to see if I wanted to try either of the Mezcals that had been aged for a little bit. Instead of that, Al was on his phone. 

Now I’m not trying to act like I’m some big deal in the booze industry because I’m not. But when it comes to retail stores in Southern California, my store is a big deal and somewhere a lot of people would like to see their stuff sold. And I wasn’t expecting Al to know that but seriously dude, Mezcal is still trying to get off the ground if you’re looking at it in a popularity sense. If someone is in front of you trying to geek out on something I’m sure he had to walk people through 100s of times that day, making your job easier because I know the basics of making the product, why not spend some time with the person and just talk to them? Since then I have had people try to sell me that product, and I have run into Al once or twice since that too. And to all of it I say the same thing every time, “Nah, I’m good.” 

When you are the representative for something or someone you must think about more than yourself. Because that company/person is counting on you to make them look good. And like I said, this can be related to any job really. You think people who leave bad Yelp reviews about restaurants are mad at the owners of the restaurant? No, they’re mad at the server who was rude, the chef who under cooked their steak then overcooked it, or the bartender who kept messing up their cocktails. But that's the first thing they'll think of when considering going back to that restaurant. Or since they’re on Yelp, they might just be a pain in the ass. But this is something I deal with at least 5 days a week. When someone comes into The Wine Country and needs my help, no matter how annoying they might get, how irritating their questions are, I treat them with the respect that everyone deserves. Why? Because when they leave there I want them to say “Man, that store was awesome, I want to come back here all the time!” Not, “Nah, I’m good.”  


  1. Couldn't agree more with everything you said. The smart rep talks to everyone, realizing the 'young and unimportant' often grow into 'veteran and highly desireable' after they're seasoned. It's foolish to not treat everyone with respect and interest. Good on ya, Steve Pinzon

    1. Exactly Steve,

      Or who is to say someone who looks "unimportant" is actually a big deal. Everyone is someone really.

  2. Ya know, you just never know who the guy you are talking to is. And unless that customer/patron/trade show attendee crosses a line into rude or abusive behavior, it's your job to treat them, and their inquiries as you said, with the respect they deserve.

    Hell, a SMART rep would ask you about YOUR store if they were unfamiliar with it...they might be doing themselves a huge favor getting in good with you.

    Yeah,'s busy there are 100s of visitors, but isn't that the damned reason you show at the show?!?

    Great blog, and not so much a rant as an astute observation. Keep it up!

    1. Thank you Dale,

      I was taught early in my retail life that everyone should be treated the same, just blows me away when others don't know that.