It’s just over 2 weeks before Christmas and the shop is buzzing. My colleague is already busy with a customer and I can see another one coming up the steps to the shop. The phone rings. Do I answer it or leave it for the answerphone so that I can serve the next customer? I gamble and grab the phone, after all it may be an enquiry I can deal with quickly and still get to the customer who’s just arrived....
“Good morning. Wines of Interest” and I wait for the person who’s called to speak. Before they do there is the unmistakable sound of a call centre in the background and my heart sinks. We get calls like this at home as well. No doubt you do too. You know what’s coming and within only a fraction of a second, sure enough, there is the distinctly Asian voice at the other end is asking to speak to “the person who deals with our gas and electricity”. It’s not always gas and electricity of course, nor necessarily Asian (Glasgowand Cardiffcrop up frequently too). You could equally substitute Business Rates, Website Design, Search Engine Optimisation, Telephone Systems....the list is almost endless. I know they’re only doing their job but calling a Wine Merchant 2 weeks before Christmas with this sort of thing is just daft. It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the person you’re calling. You might as well ask a Minister of the Church if he’s doing anything special at Christmas! Seriously chaps, just think about it!
Our burglar alarm company rang up last week to arrange a “service review” (which means they want to sell us something) and apparently it had to be done that week. We were actually quite pleased when the chap due to visit phoned in sick. Not pleased he’s sick you understand, just grateful that an unnecessary December distraction could be moved to January when the customers have all gone into hiding and we actually have time to deal with such things in the careful and considered manner they deserve.
Visiting another small local business last week (where the owner is a prominent local businessman and keen champion of similar businesses) my colleague was discussing Small Business Saturday with him. Apparently he had been invited by the powers-that-be to go to Norwichfor a big launch for this flagship event. The organisers were terribly surprised when he refused. The asked why? “Because I run a small business of course!” he replied “I’ll be open and it’s 2 weeks ‘till Christmas!” Seriously chaps, just think about it!
The icing on this particular cake of idiocy came in two formats last week. Firstly an envelope landed on my desk from the Office of National Statistics asking for our turnover figures for November. A piece of legislation dating from 1947 meant that I was legally obliged to respond. Failure to do so would apparently result in my family being tarred and feathered and my business partner hung, drawn and quartered. Distractions we could do without frankly. Many thanks HM Government...
Then the email landed. It was from a publication called “The Wine Merchant”. Hard copy of this lands with us every week and is a decent read – it is clearly written by people who seem to understand our part of the trade. The email contained a link to a survey which had been designed to ask us what particular challenges faced businesses like ours at this time of the year. I hit reply (ignoring the survey) and typed “The biggest challenge to our business at this time of year are people wanting us to complete surveys asking what the challenges facing our business are at this time of year”. They seemed terribly surprised... they’d obviously not thought about it either!
I have concluded that next time I have “Michael from Mumbai” on the phone I shall simply ask him how many pallets of Champagne he wants... just to see if that might make him think about it (probably won’t though).
Just for the record, our December blog articles are not written when we should be busy doing other things like selling wine. We write them in our spare time, usually at 4am when we can’t sleep because we’ve been lying awake thinking about ordering, stock levels and how we can best avoid conversations like the one below which occur annually on about 22nd December:
Customer: I’d like a case of ABC please”
Us: “I’m very sorry, we’ve run out of ABC”
Customer: “What do you mean you’ve run out of ABC? It’s Christmas!”
Us: “Yes, we know. That’s why we’ve run out”