One night not long ago, a customer came into the store and said “I need a wine that won’t upset my stomach.” I looked at him, then looked around for the crew from “Candid Camera.” When I realized he was making a serious inquiry, I took a deep breath and stood up from my desk.
“Well,” I said quizzically, “are you looking for a red or white wine?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I used to drink whiskey and rum but I’ve found that those upset my stomach too much. So I thought I’d try wine.”
“I see. So,” I repeated, “would you like red or white?”
“You tell me. Which one has less acid?”
“Hmmmm. Well, acidity in wine is different than the way we think of it with most foods. What wine people call acidic has more to do with the way it feels in your mouth than what it does to your stomach.” I said all of this with trepidation, knowing he could become annoyed at my lack of “expertise” on the matter. “So, thinking of it that way, most white wines are more acidic, so I guess you should look at something red. Have you tried red wine before?”
He scoffed at me and said “Of course.”
“So what have you liked?”
“What does it matter what I like?! I’m asking you to recommend something that won’t make me sick.”
“Oh. Well. There was a study recently on red wines and antioxidants. Would something like that help?”
“NO. That’s not what I’m talking about.”
“Ok….” I was growing impatient. “Well… I guess.. I’m sorry sir, I’m just not sure I understand entirely what you’re looking for.”
At this point he stared at me, blankly at first, then with growing resentment. “I just want a wine that won’t give me heartburn.”
So take some fucking tums.
“Right. OK. Let me show you this,” I said, walking him toward a cheap sweet red wine that was certain to please him at the time. I didn’t care anymore about his stomach problems, I just wanted to get rid of him. He stopped in his tracks, looked at the boxed wines, pointed to the Franzia and said “What about this stuff?”
Honestly, that was it for me. “These will last in your fridge for a long time. But, I really can’t say how you they will make you feel. You might want to ask your doctor about it?”
“Is there someone else here that knows more about this?”
“Well, sir, I am the senior wine consultant on duty. No one here tonight knows more about wine than I do. I know about where the wines come from, what they taste like, and what foods they pair with,” I said. “But I’m afraid I don’t know what effect they will have on your digestive system. I’m not a doctor.”
I DON’T EXPECT A YOU TO BE A DOCTOR!” He was enraged. And frankly, the madder he got the more entertained I was.
This was probably to date, the most ridiculous situation I’d found myself in while in retail. Can you imagine? What if he went into the butcher with the same request? “I used to eat pork chops but they gave me heartburn, so which cut of steak should I buy?” Or the ice cream shop? “Will a hot fudge sundae give me gas?” Or McDonald’s? “I want a burger that won’t upset my stomach.”
WTF dude. Still, ever the corporate slave, I smiled and assured him I’d ask around if any store associates had experience with this sort of medical situation. I went to the customer service desk, certain my head was going to explode, and asked the mom on duty what she thought. Thankfully, she was extraordinarily patient and gracious, the way she would have handled it if one of her kids came to her with a belly ache. Together she and Upset Stomach Guy settled on sulfite-free wines. She showed him where those were, calmly explained he should consult his medical professional about it, and sent him on his way.
I learned a valuable lesson from my patient colleague that evening. But I still think, and hope, that jerk got the extreme diarrhea he deserved.