Bad Wine, Big Ego, Poor Attitude
I'm smart enough to know that the customer is not always right. After all, I'm a customer. However, the customer is always accommodated. Twice now, in a very short span of time, I've been correctly accommodated by a restaurant that served me bad wine, but in the process there was an intimation that the wine was not "bad", just not preferred by me.
This blog post is about ego.
This past weekend, while getting together with friends I'd not seen in 20 years, I encountered a very familiar situation: "You're in the wine business, would you order me a red wine, please," I was asked by a friend who in High School often shared a "Jack and Coke" with me. A couple others who similarly observed up close my drinking habits in high school ask the same of me.
I like being given this opportunity. I get to show off, plus I get to introduce folks to things they probably haven't tasted.
In any case, the order for a Sonoma Valley Zin was taken when not moments later the server returned to inform us that they had another Zin that they thought was better that they are featuring in the restaurant by the glass at a good price. My old friends said, "no, will go with the recommended wine, thank you." Gotta love old friends.
The server returned about five minutes later to inform the table, "I'm sorry, we are out of the wine you ordered. But we do have another Zin that I think is better and we are featuring."
Whatever, bring us this other Zin.
The wine that was brought to the table was so clearly "cooked" it could not be mistaken for anything else. I was drinking a Manhattan, so I didn't know this until an old high school girlfriend pushed the wine at me and said, "Taste this."
Curious, I smelled it first. A little off. But when I tasted it, it gave off that tell tale sign of extreme prunniness combined with hints of oxidation. This wine had sat either in the sun or in the back of a very hot delivery vehicle.
I grimmaced, picked up the three glasses of the place's "featured" wine and returned with them to the bar:
"Hi, I'm sorry but this wine is bad. I wonder if we we might have it replaced by the Syrah on the menu".
The man behind the bar looked at the wine, then me, then smiled and said, "We don't want you to have to drink a wine you you don't like."
That should have been the end of it. But damn it, the ego kicked in.
"Actually, it's not that we don't like the wine. The wine is actually bad."
"This is the wine we are featuring, sir," said the man behind the bar.
"Yes, I know. But if you taste it I think you'll find the wine is cooked. It's undrinkable."
"I've been serving this wine all night to a number of customers," he said.
This is when the ego kicked in and my impatience became apparent.
"Yes, I'm sure you have, but you shouldn't. This wine is undrinkable. It's cooked. It's been exposed to way too high of temperatures either here or on the truck it came in or at the distributorship. Either way, it shouldn't be served to anyone."
"Sir, I understand you don't like the wine, I'm happy to get you another selection."
And I should have just taken the wine and walked away, right?
"Thank you, I appreciate it. But really think you should taste this wine, memorize its characteristics and never let a similar wine be served again."
There are a couple things going on here.
1. I shouldn't care nearly as much as I did that my palate was validated by a guy who wasn't even alive when I started drinking wine.
2. I should have been wary of a "featured wine" that I'd not heard of before and that was only $4 a glass.
3. I'd bet all the money in my Paypal account that either the distributor who sold the restaurant the wine or the restaurant or both knew this wine was bad, but decided to find an audience they thought they could unload it to.
Of course the restaurant did the right thing and did replace the wine without charge. I was accommodated. But, I was also right about the wine. Very right. In fact, unmistakably right. Yet, I was made to feel that I didn't know what I was talking about. That pissed me off. I'm not right about a whole lot of things, so when I know I am, well, I like to roll around in it awhile. That's the ego talking. But what's worse than a customer with an ego is an establishment defending a poor choice with a bad attitude.