Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Duty of Hospitality

is not just expected of the Host

My dad, Lou, in the 1950's - the consummate saleman

I received an email from Italy, via a concerned and upset supplier, whom I regard as a friend.

“The person you arranged to visit our property in Tuscany never showed up. They never even called! Do you know what happened? We were waiting. We are still waiting. This happens too many times! Please make sure the people you set up visits for really want to come to visit us!”

I cannot tell you how many times this has happened. And with the tourist season ramping up, I fear more incidents like this. In this case I made three calls, filled out visit forms, three properties I made arrangements for and the client was a no-show at all three. To quote my dad above, "WHAT'S THE DEAL?"

The client, whom forever going forward will be persona non grata in my books, emailed me a month ago. “I am going to Italy, to Emilia Romagna and Tuscany. Please set up some appointments for me and my colleague. We are planning a fall trip to take our customers on a tour and we’d like to find some nice spots to visit.”

So I drop everything, make some calls, fill out some forms, stop what I am doing. Because that is what we do. We are in the service business. I can go straight to the vineyard, these people are my friends. But even friends have limits.

I don’t know how to say this but in the most direct of ways. Italians value hospitality above almost anything else. So when someone, a client or a friend, is presented to them by someone with credibility, such as myself, they treat a visit as if it were a family visit. Ospitalità. Often cranking up the oven, cooking lunch. Bringing out the linen table cloths. Friends of my friends are my friends. That kind of thing.

When one crams appointments, trying to make two or three stops in Tuscany in a day, and the inevitable happens, and one doesn’t call, it makes it an embarrassing situation; the impression is that ugly self-centered Americans are at it again. And of course I get the inevitable call asking me why I didn’t know better than to set up an appointment for these deadbeats. The Italians don’t say it that way but that’s what they mean, when they ask me simply, “Why?” And I cannot provide them with a suitable answer.

So, going forward, to anyone reading this, if you ask someone to set you up in Italy (or France or California), for God’s sake have the courtesy to show up and if for some reason you cannot make it, at the very least, call and express your regrets at not being able to make the appointment.

You are being welcomed into someone’s home. It is simple civility to act with a modicum of respect for everyone else’s time.


Unknown said...

bravo Alfonso! I totally agree with you. More than once we had to wait for people that announced themselves and never showed up, w/out even giving a phone call. It's lack of respect. Thanks for bringing up tue issue

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks Chiara -

These are wineries whose families I have eaten with in their home. What can I say to them? I apologize, but that doesnt seem like enough.

It happens more and more often lately too. I am mortified.

Hande - vinoroma said...

Bravo! Say it out loud!
I am not a winery but the same thing happens with me, too - people call/write and make a thousand promises that they'll show up but then *poufff!* not even a call, sms or mail. That is why I require pre-booking (with payment) for any reservation. I can do it, of course, but a winery, where you are just being welcomed, this behavior is terrible!

David said...

Ah, but on the bright side, I spoke with two customers this past weekend who had absolutely magical visits with suppliers in Napa. Customers for life!

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks David:

When it's good, it's really good. Glad for the success story!

Keeper Collection Team said...

Well said. It is the same when you are hosting a winemaker in your home for a tasting - must limit the tasting to a small group and people say they are coming but don't show up. Bad for host, winemaker, and those that would have liked to have been there but their spot was taken! Thanks for this post.

fromyourmindseye.com said...

People can be so rude and disrespectful. We get it in the office all the time, that's why we have a 24 hr cancellation policy. If they don't call, they get charged. Of course that's not possible in this situation but maybe you could say something upfront that would get through.

The Sebastiani winery you set up for us a few years ago called the other day and invited us to come again. I thought that was so thoughtful of them . They made such a nice day for us. We will take them up on it again and buy more of their wines.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. When people aren't financially invested, there is not commitment. Giving and accepting a gift is no longer what is was. I, too, know what it feels to be left hanging and I feel terrible for you and your winery friends. Thank you for posting this!

Alfonso Cevola said...

thanks sis!

Anonymous said...

Alfonso, i feel so much of your pain because the same situations have happened to me sooo many times. And the funny thing is that these people never once take the time to make a phone call and say the are not able to keep their appointment. In a super connected world it should be easy to call, send a txt message, a email, whatever it takes to let the people that are waiting for you know that you won't make it.
I have gotten to the point that i am very very selective with the people i set up to visit our wineries in italy....

Brooklynguy said...

Every day I am amazed, even though I was amazed the day before that, by how many people there are who seem to lack basic courtesy and decency. Not keeping appointments sure, but how about little things like playing music loudly enough on the subway so that the old lady next to you is forced to listen.

What's gone wrong with people?!?

Good for you for sharing your thoughts on this in such a non confrontational and human way.

Tracie P. said...

Sono cafoni! Veramente cafoni. I hope they read this! And the bad thing is that u can't really say that u won't help, at least for those 'big' clients.

Anonymous said...

Alas, most of the old traditions, called manners, are lost...along with respect, and common courtesy. What is this world coming to?


Thomas said...


Boors who haven't experienced Italian hospitality are clueless concerning its depth and passion.

Then again, boors are generally clueless.

Think of it this way: anyone capable of doing such a thing is also likely after showing up to have made a fool of him/herself (and of the person who got the visit lined up). Maybe the no-show was a blessing in reverse.

Alfonso Cevola said...

The saga continues.

The person whom, when we reached out for them, let us know they over committed but they were on their way to the winery the next day. didn't they realize that they missed their appointed time? The window of opportunity was shut. I couldn't believe what I heard, like the winery people were just waiting around to receive them, like that was all they had to do?

Marco Cafono said...

What Tracie and Tommaso said

Marco Ceco said...

Wait a minute, friends of friends I get. But people who do this because they are over extended, well get under extended a little, non? You have more tact than I, amico. Then, of course, I am not in the bizness per se.

Marco Mannagia said...

Oh, I forgot. Cork a good Riesling. Isn't there a limit on how many comments someone can make on a post?

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing about this. I had a buyer no-show several years ago, not at one but TWO Northern Italian wineries in the same day. This was when I had just come over to the other side and I thought "Oh my God, something terrible must have happened--sudden illness, car accident, crime victim, and so I reached out to them with no response for weeks. Finally I saw the buyer at his store and asked what happened and he said "Oh we just got drunk with so and so and didn't feel like going. No call, text, email, nothing. Aren't we all in the service business and how you treat vendors and customers is paramount. Where were the parents for the manners lesson? One of my wineries had canceled their employee party for their visit and reception. I still hear about it three years later. Don't do any business with that retailer unless they call first any more-big surprise.
Still horrified and alot more selective for visits. There is NO excuse for bad manners or disrespect.

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