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  • Writer's pictureGregg

What Does It Take To Be A Good Customer?

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

The following post is written and shared by David Driscoll at Two-Nineteen shortly after recording Episode 24 with The Spirit of Time.

Earlier this year, in response to not being allocated a rare bottle he had requested, a retail customer told me: “I’m never shopping with you again. I’ve been a good customer and you’ve given me nothing in return.”

Let’s forget about the fact that, previous to this singular moment, this customer had been given every bottle he had asked for, and I had gone out of my way to take care of him. It was simply too much of an ego blow to learn he clearly wasn’t as important as he thought he was. Otherwise, I would have given him the bottle, right?

Because of my failure to recognize the importance of his business with the allowance of that particular whiskey, he was hurt. And that’s all it took for him to pack up his business and move elsewhere for good.

For those of you confused by this scenario, let me explain how American whiskey works for retailers in the modern age. The producers of these rare and coveted bottles allocate their limited supplies to their best retail accounts, and then we—the retailers—get to allocate the bottles to our best customers.

Or not.

Some retailers just throw them on the sales floor and let nature take its course. Others will jack up the prices to realize the true market value of each bottle. My strategy is to reach out personally to my good customers and spread the bottles around as widely as possible.

Maybe I couldn’t get you that bottle of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, but I’ll make it up to you later with a bottle of Thomas Handy rye. I’ve been working with many of my customers for years, so they understand the situation and trust that I’ll take care of them as best I can.

The problem that can arise with that strategy, however, is the uncomfortable situation I mentioned above: when a customer learns that despite spending thousands of dollars with me over the course of the year, it’s still not enough to move the needle on a bottle of Pappy.

Obviously, they’re a good customer, but it seems not quite as good as someone else. What client wants that kind of gut punch during the holiday season?

No one, that’s who.

I recently sat down for an episode of the Spirit of Time podcast with my friends Matt and Gregg to discuss the parallels between the booze business and the watch industry. Matt mentioned during the conversation that Rolex customers are currently experiencing a frustration quite similar to that of whiskey consumers: too much demand, not enough product.

At one point Matt said: “Rolex is a commodity now. If you want a new Rolex and you’re just an average Joe, you’re shit outta luck. If you don’t have a significant purchase history with a dealer, you’re not getting one.”

Clearly the same rules apply for luxury watches now when it comes to allocations. Dealers don’t have enough watches to go around, so they are forced to make a Sophie’s Choice type of decision with each transaction. In essence: which customer are you willing to lose as a result of that decision? If the shit goes down and the guy who wasn’t selected blows a gasket, are you willing to lose that business to save the other?

Savvy watch consumers like Matt and Gregg know enough about what’s happening in the industry to not take such a slight personally should it happen to them, but the average consumer is completely unaware. Hence, the reality of what it takes to be a “good” customer feels to them like the goalposts are being moved.

And they are!

With so many new people jumping into these hobbies each day, the amount you have to spend to be considered a “good” customer goes up continually. It’s no different than buying a house today, competing against dozens of other buyers who drive the price well over the original ask.

At some point you have to decide what’s actually worth paying for and what’s simply too much to stomach.

-David Driscoll

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Steven Bremer
Steven Bremer
Jan 05, 2022

A great article and I love the parallel with the bourbon market. For me at least the bourbon market is even worse because this market has more restrictions on how one can procure what they want. The fact is that it is much more difficult to buy the stuff online unless you are on social media; which I am not. This has led me to expand my tastes into other types of whiskeys and stick to what I can find.

Jan 06, 2022
Replying to

That's actually a great point: particular state laws can make getting a hold of certain liquors nearly impossible, regardless of allocations, pricing, etc. At least the watches are generally available (or not lol) in most locales. Your last point rings true for both hobbies though - find what you like and stick to it. Cheers Steven.

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