Working in the wine industry seems like a glamorous life, what with the sipping of various juices throughout the day, the suits and dresses with little pins fastened to their collars, and don’t forget all of those exclusive, late-night tastings and dinners. However, wine industry jobs require an immense amount of work and are generally far less elegant than you think. Not convinced? Let’s take it back to the wine industry employee you probably know best. We’re talking about the man or woman who sees you week in and week out, and might even know you on a first-name basis. They see you on your days of celebration, your worst days ever, and, honestly, most have probably seen you tipsy in pajamas, coming for that second bottle of the night. We’re talking about your local wine shop clerk.
Many consumers believe that wine shop clerks simply sit around all day, sipping and swishing until it comes time to ring up someone’s beloved bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. But the day is actually much more intense than that. Your local shop might not open until around 11 a.m., but many employees are there well before that. Like a restaurant, there’s a ton of prep that goes into getting a wine shop ready for the day, from firing up computers to restocking empty shelves and refrigerator shelves from the night before, to routing local deliveries out for the day. Many shops nowadays also have some form of online retail as well, so don’t forget the lengthy procedure of processing orders, creating FedEx labels, boxing up orders in the proper shipping materials, ensuring that all forms of receipts are included, and getting those to the post office on time.
After prep, it’s computer time. No, that doesn’t mean sitting on Facebook endlessly. After first checking voicemails and messages on the phone, it’s time to move on to the plethora of client emails, online inquiries, and other various questions that flood the inbox. Emails can range from a simple bottle order to an inquiry regarding large-event wine supply to a random winemaker questioning if there’s time for a quick appointment next week. Once emails are answered (though they never fully are), it’s time to go onto the back end of the site and build a promotional email for a list of clients, pushing whatever the latest and greatest bottles recently added to the store may be. This all generally happens before noon.
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After grabbing a quick lunch, which is usually consumed quickly in the back of the store, emails are still coming in like crazy, though now there are walk-in customers to tend to as well. For the most part, customers are friendly, though like anywhere, there’s always a handful of difficult seeds. Most days generally have an afternoon meeting or two as well, whether it’s meeting with a winemaker who happens to be in town and is hoping to get buyers interested in their wines, or sitting with a sales rep from one of the many distributors to find that perfect bottle of Etna Rosso to fit the gap in the Italian section. These meetings are interrupted constantly, between ringing phones, email notifications, and various walk in customers as well.
By 5 p.m., the email traffic has slowed down a bit, but the walk-in traffic is at prime time. People of all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds share one thing in common: at 5 p.m, they want to be at their local wine shop, grabbing a bottle (or three) for their dinner tonight. Each exchange with a customer is customized and important, making sure they feel comfortable in their selections and want to come back. After all, customer relations is all based on trust. This continues until closing time, when the door is promptly locked and lights are dimmed. After a brief sweeping of the store, closing of the batch, and saving of all documents, it’s off to home, or the local dive bar to decompress over a beer. After a full day of wine bombardment, your wine shop clerk most likely does not want to be thinking about that precious fermented grape juice to unwind.
And if there’s any downtime at all? Study, study, study. After all, many wine shop employees are on the job to get hands-on experience for whatever certification they’re pursuing at the moment. But even for those who aren’t, the wine world is constantly changing, and there’s always something to learn. It’s one of the many fascinating components of the industry that makes it so unique.