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Jul 07

Everyone’s a critic

Recently a facebook friend’s family opened a new business, a specialty pizzeria, with a thoughtful wine and beer menu. After years of planning and months of hard work building the business, they finally opened their dream. A few days after opening she found herself, “…so exposed, so proud, so physically sick with nerves” and “…bummed out by Yelp reviews after one of the toughest weeks of my life — pushed to tears and two panic attacks over the selfish things people wrote.”

I can relate.

Everyone is a critic.

Criticism can potentially be an invaluable life lesson, but most people are in no position to be handing those lessons out.
—Linze Griebenow, Northern Star: Take criticisms with a grain of salt (…or a pound or two of salt.)

Even your best customers will offer criticism, though some may wait for days, months or years to do so. But at least these ones have had time to experience what you have to offer, get to know how you operate your business. Their critiques rarely come across as harsh as those from strangers. Their comments are more driven from how you can better help them. They may come across a little rough, but it is with goodwill intent. From them, it’s advice and recommendations, not so much criticism.

Take Criticisms With a Grain of SaltHowever, the majority of criticism comes from naysayers, not from those with your best interests at heart. Those who have their own interests at the fore, even in their personal relationships. I can only hope that if these ones badmouth my business that their friends and colleagues take it with a grain of salt, realizing this person is just a negative nelly.

As a small business owner you must develop a thick skin. But sometimes our skin isn’t so thick.

There are days where I hear customers commenting, “It’s not that great.” Or I read, “So much hype.” I have no control over the fact that their friend may find my beer store the next best thing since sliced bread, but they liken it to a cesspool.

All I know is that we do our best to do right by our customers: Working within the politics of the beer industry, attempting to get sufficient supply for them. We don’t put on airs. We strive to maintain a clean, organized shopping environment. We try to answer questions with knowledge and offer any guidance upon request. Our goal is to get people into beers they’ll enjoy. We are not driven by quotas or brand contracts. I, my husband, and our staff really care about the product: We are lovers of beer. The store is my “child;” we have no kids. This is it. When I overhear negative comments I sometimes want to say, “Hey, I heard that.” And the people who make the really mean comments, I daydream of going to their house or place of business and criticizing their kids or product of hard work, love, and devotion. Terrible, I’m sure. But the thought does cross my mind.

Like my facebook friend, I’ve cried over the things people have written on Yelp, RateBeer, BeerAdvocate, and other online review sites. C thinks this is silly, but I see his anger flare up, I hear his frustrations when he sees and hears similar comments.

Negative Yelp Reviews or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BombRecently a customer challenged as to why we only had 68 bottles of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA to sell; the tone of writing somewhat accusing, as if we’re hoarding bottles to ourselves. C’s immediate feeling, “This is my beer; how dare they question?!” His answer, diplomatic: “…there are 24 bottles in a case, so that would be 72 bottles total. Since we received 3 cases, and 99 Bottles has 4 employees; employees of 99 Bottles have the opportunity to purchase the allocated amount just like everyone else. That’s how we came to the 68 bottles of DFH 120 for purchase. So to answer your question, we kept none for ourselves.”

I added that we even went so far as to not make the even more limited Positive Contact available to our staff for purchase, choosing to split one bottle six ways so they could try it, but sell the remaining 11 to the public: first come, first serve. And I felt bad by not allowing our staff advance purchase of a bottle each of that.

Fairness in business practice is something that we struggle with. Our employees are the backbone to our business, but it is our customers who sustain us — and our staff. I am thankful that my staff understands this.

We know there are shops that set limited and rare bottles aside for themselves and friends, selling none or few to the public. We also know of shops that don’t allocate rare beers, allowing one or two customers to buy them all up.

But C and I agree on one key goal: To look out for beer lovers. We will always try to do right by our customers.

But even with trying to do right, we are criticized.

This is something I am still, after five and a half years of running a bottle shop, something I am still trying to come to grips with.

You can’t make everyone happy.

And you will always have critics.

…a reason for another pour. ;-)

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