I used to work on the cellar door at a very busy winery in a popular wine region. A year ago, I quit my job at the cellar door after five years of being a loyal, obedient retail robot. If I had any doubts about quitting, they were all cast aside after the tour group from hell. This is the story.
About 11am, a group of 50, already on the way to drunk, middle-aged ladies rocked up for a pre-booked wine tasting.
We are used to dealing with large groups and it had been a slow morning, so by the time they arrived the two chirpiest of us had 50 glasses set up on a long table with their first wine already poured and a spittoon and water jug full of icy cold water at either end of the table. We stood behind the table ready to receive them and pour together to save time so that no one had to wait too long. Basically, we had already gone out of our way to make sure they enjoyed themselves.
Once they were all there, I did my usual big greeting and introduction, during which almost no one listened and everyone started grabbing at glasses and talking among themselves. Fair enough – I'm used to that with groups.
Just as I finish explaining the wine in their glasses, Lady 1 comes up to the table, points at the glass that has a tasting in it and a bottle behind it and asks, "is that water?"
"No ma'am, that's wine. The water is in the jugs at the end."
"Oh," she replied, disappointed, then looked up hopefully, "do you have rosé?"
"Yes, we'll serve it after the two white wines."
She proceeded to try getting a taste of the same wine from a different staff member after every tasting and wasn't happy when we explained that that isn't how a tasting works and we'd have to cut her off.
Lady 2 comes up to the bar just as we are getting the second wine ready with the two (now) empty water jugs and slams them down on the bar. "THESE JUGS ARE EMPTY!!" she screamed at us. "IT'S A VERY HOT DAY AND YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE THERE IS WATER FOR US AT ALL TIMES OR SOMEBODY IS GOING TO GET SICK! THIS IS JUST UNACCEPTABLE!"
Our plan had been to refill the jugs after the second tasting, but obviously this wasn't fast enough. We also had another five full water jugs on the bar next to them, but apparently they would get sick from dehydration if the jugs weren't on their table (keep in mind this is all standing room and they were set up right next to the bar). We apologized, refilled them (while being screamed at some more ) and did the next tasting (once again, no one listening).
Lady 3 topped it all off for us.
She came up to the bar after the third wine and said, "We have a problem. We've been to two other wineries this morning and both of them kept us much more topped up than you have. I can see ladies with empty glasses and that is just unacceptable. All I want is for everyone to have a good time and how can they do that if their glasses are empty? You need to top them up much quicker!" All of this was said in a very low, aggressive voice.
I apologized to her and explained how we usually run groups – they tell us how long they have with us and we spread out the tasting to span that time so that they weren't left with nothing for 20 minutes at the end. Keep in mind, they were there for 40 minutes and tasting 7 wines, so we were pouring a wine about every 5-6 minutes. Once again, apparently this wasn't good enough and I received a long-winded lecture from her about how poor our service was.
We headed straight out with the next wine only to meet her at the bar again immediately afterwards, asking for our manager by name. When we explained that he wasn't coming in, she demanded that we give her his mobile number so she could call him to complain immediately. This was a Sunday morning on his weekend off. No way was she getting his private number! So she added that to her lists of complaints that we heard again and again after the next few tastings until they left.
The worst part? Being my last shift, I had some great witty comebacks and smart-mouth comments I wanted to make ("because they can't fire me – I already quit!") but we work on commission based on a team budget and I wanted to squeeze as many sales out of these people as possible to help my awesome workmates out.
Guess how much these 50 rich-looking women bought between them? 3 bottles. That's right. Guess I should've been a bitch after all.