Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bad Mouthing The Competition, Trashing The Potential Client, And All On Twitter: The Story Of Top Ten Wines

I buy a lot of wine, both locally, and online. I buy locally to help out small merchants who are struggling to make it in the wine business, and I buy online for the same reason everyone else buys anything online - to find the best deal, and maybe save tax and get some free shipping.

So last night I see this on twitter from @toptenwines:

Just got off the phone with my distributor: I can offer 2006 Caymus Special Selection for $150/btl +tax +$12 per case shipping

This is a great wine.

So I look online and see that it's basically the same price as all the other online retailers.

I'd like him to do well on twitter, so I respond with what I normally pay for that wine:

c'mon $135 free shipping.

He considers a free shipping offer and then responds:

Caymus won't let me sell for under $150 or they won't sell to me. As for shipping it's $1/btl by the case.

OK, that's fair. Most standard shipping is about $35 a case, so $12 a case is a decent deal.

But as information, I send him a link to show that his price is in line, not cheaper than anyone else on the net, and in fact one of the merchants is significantly cheaper.

Along with the link, so not to appear as if I'm touting him as expensive, I say:

"but $150 is a good price from a good place like yours."

Then I get ready to send out a link to his Caymus and try and help this brick and mortar wine shop in their attempt to find success on the net. I'm going to buy some and tell my friends.

But it turns, quickly:

He plays cop:

thanks for the link...I sent it to Caymus. Caymus won't sell to them again

This reminds me of the advertising lawyers who instead of working on their own practice, file Bar Complaints against other successful advertising lawyers in order to gain an advantage.

Then this barrage of desperation and anger:

If you find someone willing to cut you that many deals, then you're looking at a merchant who cuts too many corners.

Read: Be afraid of everyone online who has a cheaper price than me - their wine is baaaaad.

Well if you're willing to pay lowest price for improperly stored product that someone's trying to dump on the market go for it.

Read: fine, go use someone else and buy their crappy wine. My wine is the best, because everyone who offers lower prices sucks.

I don't know why you're trying to prove a point here; I'm offering one of the best prices on the internet anyway.

No, you're not. You're offering a similar price to many merchants. Rule #1 of the net: be honest, today would be a good day to begin using that philosophy.

I mean your argument is that paying a couple bucks more than lowest price isn't worth an investment in the wine's provenance.

Investment in the "wine's provenance?"

Not interested in a discussion of the business, he ends with this send off:

In any case if you're not interested in buying my wine, don't waste my time"

OK, I'm not interested in buying your wine.

After I call him a jerk, he says:

I don't know why you can't be polite.

Heh heh.

This exchange is like many I've heard over the years between bad lawyers and potential clients.

There are lawyers who peddle their services through talent and confidence in their work, and there are those who lie to clients, and bad mouth other lawyers just to get the case.

Every good lawyer will say "I don't bad mouth other lawyers." The bad, desperate, talentless lawyers will make the potential client believe they are making a big mistake if they don't hire Mr. Bad mouthing make me feel stupid lawyer.

There's nothing wrong with engaging in a debate over fees and business philosophies. Just yesterday a potential client asked why he should pay me more than the other lawyers he spoke with. If I am charging more, I should be able to justify why. I should not make the potential client feel bad for asking, nor get arrogant or make him feel that his case will be poorly handled by another lawyer.

Clients often tell me they didn't hire a lawyer because he bad-mouthed other lawyers. Clients and customers aren't stupid, they can tell when a lawyer and business owner is trying to make the sale through condescending comments, and statements of fear.

So no "top ten wines," the other merchants I buy from like Wine Library, Liquid Discount,, Wine Chateau and Wines 'til Sold Out don't "cut corners," and I don't get "improperly stored wine" simply because it's less than your prices.

You are a shop trying to make it on the internet with storefront prices and arrogance. It won't work, ever. Sorry to try and help, especially in this economy.

Oh, yeah, and you're invited to respond to this, although I understand you'd rather just push your wine and not engage in a discussion about it.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit



Christopher G. Hill said...


Great post. I have always wondered why lawyers in particular bad mouth each other. Frankly, we get enough bad press as it is. If another lawyer is good, I'll say so, even if I am trying to point out that I am better.

Clients should ask questions about the lawyer they hire, but stick to why a client should hire you, not why he should not hire someone else and a client will trust you and be more likely to hire you in my experience.

South Florida Lawyers said...

Great post. Unfortunately, I believe there is an uptick in lawyers badmouthing other lawyers, from say 10 or so years ago.

Anonymous said...

Great post! It really helps to think about my practice from the standpoint of a client/customer. Bad-mouthing definitely turns me off as a customer. I am willing to pay more for something better. For wine, I'd pay more for the same bottle if it was at my favorite little Mom 'n Pop wine Shop than if it was at a huge chain store. Online, though, price is pretty much all that matters. Oh, and someone who said something about the higher price being due to imaginary storage issues would totally lose credibility in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if they do this in FL, but here in CA there are wineries that have "wine clubs". Basically you pay a membership fee and get a pre-determined number of wines per year/per month, and a discount on other bottles. Or variations on that depending on the vineyard. Some also say that wine club members get first dibs on new or unreleased bottles.

For instance, a small organic vineyard in Sonoma County (next to Napa, arguably same if not better county for wine) that I love has a wine club where you get 3 bottles of your choice 3 times a year and 25% off on all other wines of your choice. It's a good deal for smaller vineyards that might not have a big presence in the stores, or that is really expensive that you love.

Dunno just throwing that out there.

Anonymous said...

Two excellent points came from this post:

Point one:

Badmouthing the competition hurts you more than it hurts anyone else. The minute you walk away the prospective client will think "I wonder what he says about me".

Point two:

Nobody ever wins an argument with a prospective client.

If you are an attorney and you have a prospect sitting across the desk from you, you must decide if they are a good fit for your firm. If they are a good fit, your first job is to CONVINCE THEM to act in their own best interest. All too often I hear stories of attorneys who argue and fight with prospects and clients about the strategy and tactics involved in the handling of an issue. Good attorneys will help convince ("sell") the client on the appropriate course of action. The client must buy into the solution. Persuasive communication is more effective than a fight.

In the matter of the wine guy vs. Tannebaum the wine guy lost a client and he lost a good deal of potential business because he wanted to win the argument.


Josh King said...

Great post - whether lawyers or business, never a good idea to badmouth the competition.

BTW, check out Brick and mortar shop with a solid online presence, including lots of old/rare stuff (they buy collections). I've been in a couple of their wine clubs for years (and used to shop in their SF store when I lived in the Bay Area) and they do a really good job.