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Jun 05

Kegs to go, or not…

Not a week’s passed in 2012 where C and I haven’t debated the pros and cons of offering kegs to go at the ol’ beer shop. While it’s nice to offer kegs of beer to customers who are good, there are some that behave badly, putting us through the wringer, quite literally.

Cases in point—

It’s MY keg; I bought it!

When you buy a draft beer, you’re LEASING the keg shell and BUYING the beer in the keg. This is something that I continue to struggle with in conveying to customers. When I hear them imply they’ll be keeping the keg, I remind them, “You are not buying the shell. The shell is the property of the brewery and needs to be returned in good working order — after you drink the beer.”

It’s especially important that those buying kegged beer from small, local breweries return the empty shells in a timely manner. Little breweries don’t have a lot of shells laying around and by not returning the shell in a timely manner, they’re put in a stranglehold.

Despite calling and leaving messages for a customer who purchased a local craft beer, the keg was never returned. To keep a good relationship with the local brewery, we paid them $180 so they could purchase a new 1/2BBL keg shell, which our customer never returned. (As I post this, it’s been nine months, with no return despite calls.) This customer is now on my “No orders from this person” list as by not returning the empty shell he stole the keg from the brewery…and he also stole the party pump tap he rented from us.

I ordered that, but not that!

Woman calls in. Orders four half-barrels of Budweiser for an event. As this is a lot of beer — one 1/2BBL is 15.5 gallons — and she’s ordering 62 gallons worth! I repeat the order three times on the phone, making sure I have everything correct. I always let folks new to ordering for events that it’ll take a little time to fill out their Washington State Keg Registration forms when picking up the kegs, as well as the information needed for the forms (driver’s license, storage address, serving address). She’s cordial on the phone, and since it’s for a nonprofit event, requests an additional discount. Since it’s FOUR kegs (bulk) and helping support efforts to cure cancer, I extend 15% discount (that’s equivalent to 50% off our gross margin, very generous on my part!).

We place the order, the beer comes in. She is called and notified of the Budweiser kegs’ arrival.

She comes in to pickup the kegs, is harried. Despite having been told in advance that it takes time to complete the state-required forms, she’s parked illegally and left her child waiting in the auto. She tells the beer clerk, “I’m here to pick up my Bud Light kegs.”

…did you catch that? She just changed her order to Bud Light at time of pickup! I know she ordered Budweiser as I was the one who took her order and confirmed the beer with her three times on the phone. I step in and re-confirm, “Budweiser” and she nods ‘yes’ at me. She runs out to mover her vehicle; again, leaving the child waiting. I complete each of the forms, writing “Budweiser” at the top of each; she signs each form in receipt of each keg of Bud. I review the receipt with her, again, confirming “Budweiser.”

The next day, during her event, she calls and complains, “I ordered Bud Light and these are Budweiser kegs. I want you to refund me for one of these kegs.” You gotta be kidding me! Ugh. I really can’t take calls like this. She has just called me a liar on the phone, and I KNOW I am in the right here. This is a case of: “The customer is always right, even when they’re wrong.” I hate this about retail. I really do! I got her what she ordered. I can’t help that she may have changed her mind, that she accepted and purchased what she originally ordered, but tried to get out of it later because someone else at the event was unhappy that she’d ordered the wrong thing. Now her error has become my error, even though I did it totally right! Double-Ugh!

The following day, she returns three empty kegs, and one unused keg, and asks for full refund on the empty. I already depleted all my “play with” money on her sale because I agreed to give her nonprofit an extra discount, but C still gave her a little extra refund on the kegs. She’s still not happy. So what’s done to make her happy? My husband gives her $40 cash from his own pocket. That’s his pay; and as a small business owner if you calculated his pay vs. hours worked he doesn’t even make minimum wage. And he’s giving her $40 of his pay. WTH?! She’s still not totally happy, and I’m not sure I want customers like this.

We invoke a new company policy: No special discounts on kegs for nonprofits.

My eyes are bigger than the kegerator.

Customer has a new kegerator and orders a 1/2BBL keg. They get it home, it doesn’t fit into their kegerator. They attempt to force it, call in saying they had to “bungy cord their kegerator door closed and it’s still not working right,” then demands return and full refund. Shopkeeper takes the keg back, resulting in nearly a $200 loss to the small business. If you’ve got a kegerator, be sure to know its dimensions as well as dimensions of kegs BEFORE you go buying the keg… check out keg dimensions on MicroMatic. We will not do this again.

New policy invoked: Customer acceptance of keg before it leaves the store.

I’ll make it fit!

customer destroyed kegCustomer orders a European keg. The keg goes on backorder because some Euro kegs are hard to get, two weeks later we get the keg in for the customer. At time of order we asked the customer if he needed to rent a Euro tap. “No, I have the Euro tap already,” he replies. When the keg comes in, I ask him when he’s picking up the keg if he’s got a tap for it already, and he again confirms.

Customer returns later with two keg couplers in hand, frustrated. “I can’t get my Euro tap to work on the keg.” I look at the coupler; he has the wrong kind. There are five styles of Euro taps/couplers and he’s got the wrong kind for the beer he ordered, despite having told us he had one. I hesitate to rent him our A-style coupler as I’ve had customers tear apart ours for use on their home kegerators despite them not being able to work on those systems due to the absence of the CO2 valve. He agrees to leave the hand-pump intact and rents it for his weekend party.

Later he calls and says his keg is damaged, claims it was the handpump which works perfectly on that style of keg, but we clearly realize that he FORCED either his other Euro style or an American Sankey style coupler into the keg, breaking the keg.

We take the keg that left our store in 100% operational condition, and is returned in broken/damaged condition full of beer that’s now gone flat because the customer damaged in, and we lose nearly $200 in the deal. Again, WTH!?

We haven’t yet established a new policy for cases like this. If it were up to me, he wouldn’t have gotten a dime back for destroying the keg, not even his keg deposit. But C felt that he didn’t want bad publicity (scathing online review) from the customer. “But it was the customer’s fault,” I argue. I really, really, really hate this part of retail.

What did this customers learn from the experience? That he can buy a perfectly good item, take it home and damage it to the point that no one can use it, and then get his money back.

As a retailer, what did I learn from this? That I don’t want to work with customers like this. He just cost me nearly two weeks of grocery money for my household.

And the discussion question continues:
“Kegs to go, or not…?”

All this also leaves me wondering, “Should the retailer take a financial hit in effort to avoid a bad online review by a customer who’s been behaving badly?”


My dad’s question echoes: “Are you sure you want to go into retail?”

1 comment

  1. Tiffany

    Grrr. And today I received an email from a customer stating,

    “I was in last tuesday, to order a keg of mannys, I was told the week before that if I had my order in by tuesday I could pick up the keg on friday…. well I came in at 3.30 pm to order my keg and the lady said that it was too late the cutoff time is 2.30 ??????? This made obtaining a keg alot more difficult and time consuming, also the lady at the counter was much less than polite and bordered on darn right rude, no apologies and was looking over my shoulder to the customer behind me like I was not important , and I was wasting her time. I will never use your store again for any of my beer purchases in the future and will tell anybody who asks how I was treated. I do not know if the person reading this is the person who waited on me, but you or they need lessons in customer service.”

    We (all staff) always say, “Orders are due before 3PM Tuesday, for in-store arrival by 4PM Friday.” It also says that on the website. And when we promote keg special orders in the newsletter we say that there too.

    The “much less than polite and bordered on darn right rude” person he is talking about is me. He and wife waited ’til after the cutoff time to come in and order their keg, despite being able to CALL or STOP in anytime during business hours up to that time — we are open 7 days a week, 62 hours total weekly but he waited ’til the last minute…after the last minute.

    Normal week cutoff is 3:00PM Tuesday. They walked in at 3:40PM and our orders were already in — and our cooler was already full with orders submitted on time (full as of 2:30PM), but that doesn’t matter. The orders were already in and the deadline had passed. He tried to make excuses, then huffed out. I wrote down 3 other businesses who do kegs on-demand and handed it to his wife. Why on earth do people wait not only ’till the last possible moment to order things?! And then take it out on the person behind the counter? And why should I make the guy behind him wait and wait and wait when there’s nothing more I can do other than extend referrals? *sigh* I really wasn’t cut out for this type of retail. I need a mental health counselor.

    While I wish I could help him, I was unable to. And then he was attempting to hold up the line for other customers when there was nothing more I could do except give the referrals to places that offer kegs on-demand. Clearly, this upset him, but was I supposed to make the other customers in the store stand there and wait and wait and wait while he threw a fit? That’s not fair to the other customers.

    ‎”I’m sorry, but the deadline has passed” wasn’t good enough.

    If we went running all over for people who neglected to order on time, we would never be open to serve the majority of people who are really great customers, who adhere to business shopping hours, who place orders early rather than waiting until (or after) the cutoff, etc.

    Certainly, the people he talks to won’t hear this:

    I arrived there 40 minutes after the drop-dead cutoff for orders, demanded that they get me a keg, and was told they couldn’t because the orders had already been submitted. In fact, they had so many keg orders for that weekend that they weren’t able to help me if they could because all available spots in their cooler were already booked! That’s one busy beer place!

    The lady at checkout was conscientious of other customers — making sure they got checked out so they didn’t have to wait while I complained to her about not being able to get a keg from her. But she was nice enough to try to look out for me, taking the time to write down three referrals for me, places that offer kegs on-demand.

    Next time I’ll make sure to get my order in advance, rather than waiting until the last possible moment.

    You can betcha he won’t be telling anyone that story. As a small business owner I can only hope that whoever he talks smack to realizes that he delays things to the last minute and then expects people to bend-over backward for him. I hope that they take his complaints about my business with a grain of salt. There’s two sides to every story, and the simple fact that he chose to come in after the deadline and that I offered referrals are important factoids that I’m pretty sure he’ll leave out.

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