Gary….

Meet Barry, Barry is the heart of the little village I live in.  He works in the local shop you see, and he takes on far more than his job role entails.  Above and beyond is the phrase I think most people use.  If you go into the shop for something and it’s not on the shelf, you can bet he’ll be first to shout up and say he’ll check out the back, he’s always on hand to help the elderly locals with packing their bags, and then carrying those bags to the car in many instances.  It’s his positive smile and willingness to try to make the shopping experience as pleasant as possible which makes the shop itself such a key asset to the area.  All communities need their hubs.  Almost asif the purpose of those hubs runs secondary to the bond building developed through simply locals being in the same place, that shop is the most likely place to bump into people you know. It’s the core of the local village connections.

Bit of a shame really, but I was in there last week.  Barry was in but he seemed down.  He is ever willing to try and help people, so if someone asks him a question he tries to answer as honestly as possible.  Barry is the sort of guy that you can see is genuine the moment you meet him, but sadly he was on the wrong end of some online abuse.  All he was doing was telling people the position that the company he works for has taken for many many years.  He didn’t know that there were pockets of people far more wise in the area than him who would jump on the words that he used and use them to beat him with.

Sometimes I don’t think the beery social media world does a very good job of selling the sector.  You know this sector has been filled with a lot of positivity due to the years of exponential growth.  That growth brings optimism and the feel good factor.  That growth is only sustained by attracting more consumers and growing the market itself.  Which is why I cringe that the holier than thou approach of abuse that gets thrown at people from outside our bubble for not knowing certain things.  Such a reaction will drive people away from the sector, not encourage them into it.

Gary from Sainsburys was simply stating the way beer has been handled for many many years.  Supermarket staff, not into their beer, wont view craft beer and other beer differently.  So the way one type of beer is handled must be ok for all types of beer, is the subconscious thought until specifically told otherwise.  And that is the key here.  Supermarkets aren’t investing heavily in sommelier training for all their staff.  It’s a reflection of the absence of knowledge in the business about what the beer geek market expects of the way beer is handled, whether that is realistic or not. Gary hasn’t had sufficient training to be best placed to answer that tweet to this audience.  But that’s not his fault.

Ironically, many comments focussed on the fact that beer should be stored in a fridge.  But that’s not really the area where most damage occurs.  The best thing for beer is a consistent temperature which most shops have, but it’s the transportation where temperature variables come into play.  The same packages can be moved in the blazing heat as well as the severe frosts.  Swings in temperature play havoc with the genetic makeup of a beer.  But that’s out of Gary’s control.

Supermarkets will try and portray a personable friendliness.  Big example here is staff putting their names to tweets, so as not to hide behind the brand, but demonstrate that there is human interaction going on. And in many respects I think that’s a good thing.  Ultimately its individuals who make your experience in store positive or negative.

I feel like there is a very obvious aggressive snobbery on social media right now.  Far too quick to aggressively put someone in their place.  There is no way someone would be spoken to in the same way if we were all in the same room.  Why do it online then?

Which brings me to my other big bugbear here.  There is a subculture of showing off within social media.  I think its probably systematic of the way social media works, but its repulsive and brings out the very worst in people at times.

When you get aggressive snobbery and a neediness for showing off, you quickly find pockets which repel people from the market instead of encouraging people to try.  One of the worst places for that is UK Craft Beer Forum.  I know I’ll get stick for this, but here’s my stance.  The good thing about UK Craft Beer Forum is that it gives a place for people to express their views, well this is me expressing mine.  I have watched that group have a lot of fun at times with beer, but inevitably with the advent of videos and facebook live, I can’t help feeling like its becoming more and more about promoting egos than about promoting beer.

I was quite active for a spell getting involved in certain discussions, but it became clear that the comments which get the most responses are the ones which give those in the forum an opportunity to be critical.  I never really felt like I had strong stimulating discussions over any topic.

The forum itself prides itself on the number of active members and I’ve seen the recent social media savvy marketers making use of the forum to connect with those numbers.  But I for one have become abit bored by the antics of those in there, which ultimately will have an impact on the perception of those who seek publicity within the forum.

So, in summary, be nice to people, smile at people, encourage them to try the wonderful world of beer that now exists.  The future of the sector is dependent on it!

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