How do you break it to a client that their wine is fake?
The answer is that it really depends on the client.
When dealing with a professional buyer, who has called you in to vet a potential purchase, they know that there is always a risk, and the reason we are called in is because they have determined that risk, for whatever reason, is higher than they are willing to accept. If we say the wine is fake they will be disappointed, especially if it is promised to another client, but there is little other emotion involved, except perhaps a sense of vindication for having called us in. This is a relatively easy situation, and I usually will simply report my findings to the client verbally, caveating them as necessary.
A professional who has already bought a wine that turns out to be fake is a different matter. Here, there is usually an element of shame, for having been duped, together with anger. Depending on the circumstances of the business, there may also be worry about the impact on the cash flow situation. Here, my job is to reassure the client that we will do everything we can to ensure that they recover their money, from the original vendor or via an insurance claim. I will also praise their ethics in making sure that they only sell genuine wine – and make sure they know what a valuable resource companies like them are to our business and our clients.
Finally, and hardest to break the news to, is a private client. This is especially true when he (it is usually a he) has bought the wine outside of his normal pattern, in anticipation or in celebration of a special occasion – an anniversary to look forward to, for example, or because it was his now deceased father’s birth year. Here, the emotions are more complex, and while there will of course still be anger and sometimes embarrassment, there will also often be grief, and at times, a sense of betrayal. I always begin with “I am so sorry”, and I mean every bit of it. My role here is first and foremost to listen, to let him express whatever it is he is feeling without judgment or censure, and to encourage him to work through those emotions until they are sufficiently exhausted, at least for a while, to have a discussion with him about the way forward. Here again we will offer to help in recouping their financial losses, but it is important for us to recognise and acknowledge that there are times when those are the least important factors.
Of course, the easiest news to break is when the wine is not fake! One of our clients, a vendor, called me in because their client had claimed a bottle he had purchased from them (but not yet taken delivery of) must be fake. I visited the bottle, examined it in detail, and was pleased to inform our client that there were no signs that it was not real. They were delighted. Their client, whom we began to suspect did not actually have the money, was surprisingly less so…. But I let them break that news.