A new boutique wine shop just opened in Bethesda, Maryland, and if they don’t change their attitude near future, it will soon go the way of the clay amphora. The Beer, Wine & Co. (located at the 7029 Wisconsin Avenue in the heart of Bethesda) is the sister project of the Food, Wine & Co. restaurant across the street. From the moment you walk in the door, you get the feeling that it could be something special. The only problem is, the customer is not anything special.
I have now had the unfortunate opportunity to visit this shop not once, not twice, but THREE times and have yet to get anyone behind the counter to even acknowledge my existence. On my last visit, there were three – count ‘em, three – employees behind the counter watching –and I am not making this up – women’s platform diving on the TV!
During my “alone time” I had a chance to peruse the selection of beer and wine on the shelves. While the wine inventory was ordinary (but fairly priced for a Montgomery County retailer), the beer selection was other-worldly, with choices ranging from cool domestic labels to exotic international choices. Oh, how I wished someone would have sold a few to me!
But the problem is that you can’t get anyone to help you! And, judging from what I overheard on one visit (I believe it was my second time in), I’m not sure I’d want anyone’s help! I was in the shop for ten minutes – being ignored – when a woman walked in and asked for help. She was looking for a red wine to go with cheese. Easy enough. But the salesperson had not a clue as to where to begin. Oy! He asked her what country she wanted to try. She said she did not care, but it had to go with cheese. He asked her what type of grape she wanted to try. She said she did not care, but it had to go with cheese. So he recommended a Chianti from Italy. Now, maybe there is something about this Chianti that I don’t know, but with so many other reasonable selections to choose from on the shelf, it seemed like an odd recommendation.
Maybe the reason they don’t offer to help customers is because they don’t know what they’re doing (yet).
Okay – so I decide that it is time to let management know. I walk across the street to the sister venture and ask to speak to a manager there so that they can pass along my concerns to the non-existent management at the wine shop. She took my information down and said she would pass it along to one of the owners. Sure enough, I get a call from Carlos an hour later. When I explained what happened, he merely said – and again, I am not making this up – “We don’t like to be too pushy.” Fair enough, but to completely ignore a customer on three separate occasions isn’t not being pushy – it’s being aloof. What’s more, he explained that he was the manager and one of the owners, and – you’re going to love this – he was in the store during my last visit. He was one of the guys who was watching TV!
Once Carlos figured out that I knew that he was part of the problem, he abruptly hung up. Weird.
I may not be the biggest name in the wine world, but I do know my way around a wine shop and I can tell you that ignoring customers and making questionable wine recommendations is not a great recipe for success… If you find yourself in Bethesda and you’re in need of a bottle or two of wine, check out Cork and Fork around the corner. The staff is not only knowledgeable (the owners are former winemakers from France), but they are eager to help. Unfortunately, their beer selection is not nearly as impressive as the unfriendly Beer, Wine & Co.