Lessons of the Wine Business

I was talking to one of my best whiskey customers about wine last night, and the fact that he does business with a number of other stores besides K&L.

"I'm starting to get annoyed with ________, however," he said to me. "I'm not going buy as much from them anymore."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Because they've screwed me over on a number of purchases—certain pre-arrival wines never showed up, but I bought from them because they had better pricing than other guys. Things like that."

"Ahhhh.....I see."

This isn't uncommon in the Bordeaux futures business—to guarantee a hot price on forthcoming wines, but then not actually have the ability to obtain the product. Our pre-arrival process is what put K&L on the map in the wine world—we had good prices, good service, and our customers always got their bottles. We might not always have had the cheapest price, but we were competitive and you could depend on us. That's still the case today.

What's funny, though, is that we still get a number of people who call and want us to match pricing with some of these shadier operations. As one of my colleagues once put it: they want the Nordstrom service with the TJ Maxx prices. Unfortunately, you have to pay a little more for quality service—that's just the way it is. We can't afford to pay our knowledgeable staff and have the cheapest prices on everything. That's the trade off. We do our best to have both, however.

It's not just wine, though. I get people all the time who want me to match prices with the Whisky Exchange in the UK ("Uhhh....sir, you're looking at the price in pounds, not dollars"), or with some store in New Jersey that doesn't ship out of state and doesn't seem to have the product they're advertising (Sir, have you actually clicked on the link? They're out of stock.....and apparently out of business, too")

It's a crazy world out there; full with all different kinds of expectations.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll