You know, I’ve been thinking about this story for a while now, and it’s really been bugging me, so I thought I’d get it off of my chest. Also, I have zero desire to name any names or start some sort of brand boycott. This is just a little look inside my head. Here goes:
Earlier this year, I was contacted by a big liquor company (okay, it’s never by the liquor company directly, but always through the agency they’ve hired to manage their interactions with the trade – but since these agencies are acting as the face of the brand, I see very little difference). The brand asked if I would join them for a three-day trip to an exotic location to experience the brand, tour their distillery or whatever, and generally indulge in the sights and be wined and dined on the company tab.
Here’s the deal: I’m getting older and these “free” brand trips can be really taxing on me. The schedule is fast-paced, there’s always a lot of alcohol and rich food, and then I of course have to miss out on several shifts behind the bar, where I earn my money.
While I used to take brands up on those very generous trips, I now have to politely decline, If I’m going to get on a plane, I need to be working and earning money, otherwise I’d rather just spend the time here at home with my family.
So I politely declined and informed them that I have a whole staff full of incredible, passionate, talented bartenders who would absolutely LOVE an opportunity like this.
The folks who offered kind of hemmed and hawed for a while and after some gentle pressure from me, they admitted that they were interested in having me on the trip because of my “name” and my “following”, but were going to ask someone else rather than engage with my award-winning team of bartenders.
As you can guess, I later saw on the old social media that the person they’d selected in my place was an “influencer” in the cocktail space, someone who had no professional connection to the industry other than a few tens of thousands of purchased followers.
Here’s the part that I hope people will share and take notice of: without making a big deal about it, without calling for a boycott or freaking out online, I quietly removed that brand from both of our bars permanently. I’m passionate about people supporting bartenders, especially the brands who rely on professional bartenders to pay the bills.
When you hire an agency who values hits and clicks and followers and posts over education and support, you’re sending a message to young, up-and-coming bartenders that you don’t value them. I’m trying to support the next generation of bartenders, and I’m going to do it with or without you.
Rant over. Thanks for listening.