From the REPublic: Supplier Workwith Code of Conduct

October 31, 2011 · 5 comments

I wish I had time to add to this wine rep’s pleas to our dear suppliers… but O-N-D continues to march on into N, and I’m in the weeds. I’m sure you’ve noticed the lapses between my posts as of late. It’s not because my winebuyers have been behaving themselves, they’re still acting out as should be expected… it’s just that I have NO TIME. The good news is, I think my new friend has covered the bases pretty well, don’t you? I’m thinking of printing this list out as a flyer and handing it to my supplier for light reading material as we start our day.

Dear Supplier,

I know you think you know my customers, who I have called on for years, better than I do. So, when we are riding together please try not to muck-up the hard work I have put in for years with MY customers. I have taken an enormous amount of crap and have spent endless sales calls trying to build good will and credibility with my customers. I simply do not have the time to spend my entire next week apologizing for your bad behavior or pressure tactics. Yes, I know your wines are the best and everyone should be selling them or pouring them by the glass. In an effort to make our day together go smoothly here are some simple rules to follow:

1) Do not act like the customer’s best friend, even if you have been there before. It really creeps us out.

2) Do not get pissy if my customer and I review some items that need to be addressed during our visit even if they are not your wines. It is still my sales call and I need to invoice the products the customer wants to order so I can get a paycheck.

3) Do not think you can talk my customer into placing all your wines into his Friday night / Saturday afternoon tastings for the upcoming weekend. He or She will do what is best for their business.

4) Do not say, “I hope we see all restaurants today” without being forthcoming about your expectations PRIOR to me making all the appointments. You will be disappointed.

5) Do not think you can change up the accounts that I have worked hard to make appointments for our day together. No, we are not “swinging by XYZ restaurant” because you know the buyer. Read #4 again.

6) Do not get upset if a customer has to cancel. I know it sucks but if something comes up I cannot force my customer to see us. It happens all the time, get used to it.

7) Do not, for the love of God, spend your entire time in my car on your cell phone. We will run late if I have to spend 15 minutes outside my car, at every other stop, listening to my voice messages so I can get orders taken care of for my customers. Probably half of those messages could have been taken care of if I had a chance to answer the phone in the car but you were talking to everyone in the world while I drove you around. Interact with us, “What does your wife do for a living”, “Do you have kids”. Simple, human conversation works.

8) Do not complain if a customer likes your wine but does not order on the spot. Most of the good wine buyers will follow through and order the wines.

9) Do not, under any circumstance after our market visit, have the audacity to send me an email with a spread sheet asking me fill in who we visited, who liked what wines and who purchased which wines. I will not do your job unless you want to send me your paycheck. Read the reports our office sends you every month. Better yet, take notes while back in the car instead of talking on the phone.

10) Quit sending emails to all MY customers about your entire f’ing portfolio. It irritates them to find an email every day about your wines in their inbox.

Finally, please do Thank the customer for taking time to see us. Thank the customer, even if they order just one bottle of wine. You never know who may buy the wine….

Wine Rep

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

The Supplier November 1, 2011 at 12:46 am

I tend to love reading the wine reps posts that poke fun a the crazy-old winebuyer. And, this letter might very well be helpful to a large number of amateur suppliers out there that really shouldn’t be in their position in the first place. HOWEVER, let me issue a response from a pro that might benefit a number of wine reps out there…

A Letter to Wine Reps about Supplier Work-Withs:

Dear Wine Rep,

Yes, I know you don’t really want me in your car today. I know that you have soooooo many orders to grab and sooooo many people to see so that you can push your mindless, factory-made juice that keeps your lights on at home. I get that. But, perhaps…just for a second…consider that I might be able to help you. All of this wine in your portfolio that you don’t know shit about….this is the day you find out about it. So, let’s follow these general guidelines, and we should have a good day:

1. Please accept the fact that I may very well be closer to this customer than you. Did you forget that it was my last visit that got you into this account in the first place?

2. If you would like to do other business during our sales call, I understand. However, it is best that you get it out of the way FIRST so that the last thing we cover are my wines. There is nothing worse than to have a sale made only to have the rep remind the buyer about all of the other things that he/she needs to order first.

3. Do not underestimate our sales abilities. If we can get our wines inserted into this weekend’s tasting, we will do so, and you will benefit. Keep that in mind when you’re buying your next flatscreen TV…or, more likely, next week’s weed.

4. Quality suppliers don’t care who we see during the course of the day. While you think slamming together 12 stops and rushing us through every presentation, it’s selling wine that we’re primarily about. Quality over quantity. Don’t forget that.

5. Please show enough pride in your job to not wait until the DAY OF to make our appointments. I know you were busy yesterday, but we don’t make our market vist schedule the day of or even week of…you shouldn’t either. Yes, I know your dumbass manager only told you about this 2 days ago, but blame them instead of pouting and complaining all day. If you’re worth a damn, you can still put together a meaningful day.

6. It’s certainly understandable if a customer has to cancel. Those of us that have been at this long enough know and expect that. HOWEVER, if it’s 4 of the 8 we are supposed to see that day, isn’t that a little convenient?

7. Let’s make a deal…I won’t talk on my phone if you don’t. Fair? While your orders are soooooo important to get all through the day, consider for a moment that I might have, say, 6 other entire states to deal with on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t want me on my phone, get the hell off of yours. Likewise, we don’t really feel that safe when you are texting your boyfriend while driving and while we are trying to tell you something that might be useful to you in the future.

8. We’re not so concerned about a ‘good wine buyer’ following up…they usualy do. It’s you that rarely follows up. We come to town, put it on a platter for you, and you drop the ball. Do your job and the job of your company. Who knows, you might just sell a little wine…

9. Pros take notes. That includes you. If you think you are that ‘PRO WINE REP’ that likes to lay down a list of rules as if you are credible enough to do so, take notes during our visit. Don’t talk on the phone to another customer at the end of the bar, text your ‘bestie,’ or simply sit their in your hangover daze. Take a few notes.

10. I’ll send as many goddamn emails to you customers as I want to or feel the need to. Keep in mind that our asses are often on the line like yours. Do you think your rent payment or car payment is any more important than ours? If I think it’s going to sell wine, you better believe I’m going to do it. If you actually knew as much about sales as you think you do, you’d have a job like mine. Let the pros do their work.

And, finally…how about thanking us once and awhile. We spent god-knows-how-much of our budget to come to your market in hopes of helping distribution. If we are successful, you benefit. A work-with isn’t some fucking excercise…it is what its name suggests…’work.’ And, oh yeah, your welcome for buying you AND your husband/wife dinner. More likely than not, it was a complete waste of money. But, who knows, some of us suppliers are still dreamers.


The Supplier

PS: If your piece-of-shit owner wasn’t such a cheap-ass, you’d have all the samples necessary for your business. We pay for 50% of those daily samples, you know. If there is a limit put on it, it’s coming from your penny-pinching,fat-cat, Mercedes-driving boss that somehow got walked all the way to 3rd base and still thinks he hit a triple.


winerep November 1, 2011 at 4:20 am

big talk… and frankly, I agree with several points.
I have to completely disagree with the following:

“If your piece-of-shit owner wasn’t such a cheap-ass, you’d have all the samples necessary for your business. We pay for 50% of those daily samples, you know. If there is a limit put on it, it’s coming from your penny-pinching,fat-cat, Mercedes-driving boss that somehow got walked all the way to 3rd base and still thinks he hit a triple.”

Not all of us work solely for distributors, depending on the state… Some of us rep for brokerages. And where this is the case, the winery pays for all of the samples… so yes, in that case, that sample allowance would come directly from the winery, and not from our fat-cat bosses. Although many of the brokers out there I know definitely fit in the “penny-pinching” category.

“If you actually knew as much about sales as you think you do, you’d have a job like mine…”

Speaking solely for myself, I’ve been offered jobs like yours, and I’ve turned them down. I prefer to sleep in my own bed every night, or at least the bed of my choosing, over being packed up and shipped off all over the country to spend the days with a wine rep like myself who is torn between resenting me and rejoicing me, and the evenings dining alone at the bar somewhere sweet-talking the somm or tap-dancing at a “winemaker” dinner at some country club in Missouri. In spite of all of my complaints about the day-to-day toils of being a wine rep, I very much enjoy what I do and I take pride in my work. And really, all of these stories I share are what makes my every day just that much more challenging and enjoyable. I’d get bored sitting behind a desk every day, just as you probably get antsy when you’re back at the winery or in your home office analyzing depletions, adjusting allocations, and approving sample bill-backs… eager to get back out there on the road to spend time with all these quirky characters (wine reps included) that make up our professional lives.

Hand in glove, this should be a symbiotic relationship. After all, we’re both after the same thing at the end of the day. And now I have The Smiths stuck in my head…


The Supplier November 1, 2011 at 11:48 am

Oh Wine Rep…you’re more sensitive than I thought. My response was intended to be humorous and with a bit of hyperbole. I apologize if I failed at both of those.

I’ve actually never had all 10 of these issues with a single wine rep (or even half of them) at the same time. I just combined quite a few years of bad experiences to make a point. I understand that there are young bucks out there carrying a bag that simply don’t know how it should go yet. I am always patient with them, and I understand their plight.

So, no offense….just trying to be a little funny and make a few exaggerated points.

Good luck on the street today!


Supplier November 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I’ve been out with reps while they have taken me on their personal errands such as diverting to their house while they pick-up something, been shopping under the guise of getting familiar with the important retailers in their market and I even attended an art exhibition with a rep. My fault putting up with this but if they don’t take the time to schedule out the day I can’t make the appts myself.

Nothing is worse than wasting my time aimlessly trying to drop by and catch buyers since the rep didn’t have his/her shit together to set up the day.


Juice Slinger November 9, 2011 at 5:59 pm

AMEN to #2. Remember supplier, we’re interrupting our regularly scheduled program to drag you around and show your wines (which our customers probably didn’t want to see to begin with).


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