Since I decided that I hate comment fields on webpages, I've deactivated that feature on ours. However, like those old-fashioned things we used to call newspapers, I still get "letters to the editor" every now and again. I'd like to post part of a recent response here for you to read from K&L customer Ben:
I'm young compared to the stereotypical malt enthusiast. I'm learning quite a bit from specialty bars and blogs like yours and becoming quite a rabid malt maniac. In fact, ever since I discovered your blog and K&L I have shopped exclusively at your Hollywood store. I used to go to BevMo, but K&L really struck me and I don't want to go back. I've found better deals, better service and better, more interesting products (I'm sipping on my Bladnoch 18 now!). I've gotten my girlfriend to shop for wine at K&L and steer my friends toward you too for any and all booze. Is that not loyalty? If I tried to buy a special release online you wouldn't see much history from me. That's because I still like to shop the old fashioned way. I like seeing bottles on shelves and talking to knowledgeable staff. And I simply can't afford to buy $100 bottles of Scotch every week, like the best K&L customers. You have no idea how many times I've stood in a K&L daydreaming of a shopping spree, but the cold hard reality is I have to think before I buy. Yet, it's kind of sad to think my pay and online record translates to whether or not I deserve to be allowed to buy a special release. If you're going to assume I'm not loyal, who is the other guy online shopping?
If I want to buy a special bottle, I'll know not to go to K&L since there's no way I'll have a chance. I can't afford the chance. I'll go elsewhere.
You simply don't know who you're dealing with online and for that reason, better or worse, the lottery is still the fairest way. For every cherry picker who wins the lottery, just think there might be someone like me, who saves up for 6 months and enters a lotto praying he'll get a bottle of Brora - and one day finally does - just imagine that joy. Imagine that loyalty from then on.
These are all fantastic points for keeping the bottle lottery going, and yet simultaneously are reasons NOT to do the lottery. While there have definitely been times in the past where I have helped great K&L customers get that bottle of Pappy they want so much, there have been just as many times where I've helped guys like Ben get one as well. The great part about holding back bottles of special release booze is that it allows us to actually use them in exactly the fashion that Ben is describing. I remember recently when a new customer came in looking for a bottle of Old Potrero and I happened to have an extra on my desk. That guy was so happy and thankful for that bottle and I've seen him in the store on a regular basis ever since. Knowing that you don't necessarily have to "earn" your way into the special release pool is definitely a reason to shop at K&L.
However, concerning the whole point about:
"If I want to buy a special bottle, I'll know not to go to K&L since there's no way I'll have a chance. I can't afford the chance. I'll go elsewhere."
We already have people going elsewhere because they know we simply can't get enough. A lot of my best customers know to head over to BevMo right now to grab the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection bottles because there are simply more to get. Part of what separates us from other stores in my opinion is the fact that customers can email myself or David OG at any time and we'll always do our best to help out. However, as we continue to expand our customer base, our ability to provide that kind of "local retailer" service will diminish because we simply don't have the time or the resources to help every single person with limited edition products.
The point there is: if you you're a resourceful shopper, you can definitely get a bottle of BTAC or Pappy from a larger retailer right off the shelf. I literally get ten phone calls from guys like this everyday. They're going down a list of retail stores and hitting every single one to check on the availability of these bottles. My point about checking order histories to determine allocation of these bottles wasn't necessarily focused on handing out Pappy to the guys who purchase the most. It was more about making sure those weren't the ONLY bottles these customers ever purchased. I don't see the benefit from our end, nor from the perspective of loyal customers like Ben, in letting our hard-earned Pappy bottles go out to customers who use us only for that specific purpose.
Ben also brings up this issue: If you're going to assume I'm not loyal, who is the other guy online shopping? You simply don't know who you're dealing with online and for that reason, better or worse, the lottery is still the fairest way.
The problem with the lottery is that it definitely does not take into account people who just walk in. If they're not connected via email to David OG or myself, then there's no chance. The lottery is done via email, so I really don't know who any of the entrants are unless I know them from the store. The whole process is already an insider thing, so to try and make it something more tangible for walk-in shoppers is almost impossible. The point that definitely needs to be made clear, however, is that an "online" profile is no different from an "in-store" profile. You can have any purchase you make in the store added to that list automatically just by using the same credit card, so there's definitely no discriminating between online and in-store.
For now, we're definitely not straying from the lottery. However, you can see that it's a touchy subject - from our side and from the side of our customers. What I hope you all know is that we're definitely committed to keeping all of you happy. If we were to just put these on the shelf and have a free-for-all, we would make the exact same amount of profit as if we were to raffle them. There's no monetary advantage in doing the lottery. It's about being fair and allowing everyone to have a chance.
Maybe people who have won before should be excluded? I don't know. I continue to be haunted by this issue and express these feelings here on this blog.