The Mrs and I went into a new store in Chapel Hill yesterday called 3 Cups. Formerly at a smaller location, it relocated a few months ago to the plaza with our local Whole Foods and ABC (state liquor) store. Smart move. The three cups of the title refer to wine, coffee and tea. The store combines the sit-down-and-linger ambience of a coffee shop with the selection and expertise of a high-end retail shop. Copious notes on all the items on sale lined the shelves and experts on all three cups were standing by.
We spoke with Jay Murrie, partner and wine guy, and he showed us the web site. I noticed a “follow us on Facebook” link at the bottom, and that got me excited. I should point out that I was working on a severe sleep deficit, caused by a long first night with our new Wii followed by a long evening with some of my favorite relatives. (It’s not often you find a family member who responds favorably to the offer, “Would you like to try some Icelandic schnapps that taste like carraway?”) So I’d had a few cups of coffee already and was a bit wired. I immediately started bombarding Jay with ideas.
I buy a lot of relatively cheap wine and then forget to make notes on what was tolerable and what was not (although I don’t need notes to remind me to steer clear of German pinot noirs in the future). Let people create a membership on the site that tracks their purchases, I suggested, and gives them a place to make notes. Turns out they’d already thought of that. When you make a purchase at the store they offer you a “3 Card” with a membership number. At checkout they swipe your card and every evening upload the day’s information. Your purchases show up in your account, along with their expert notes about each, and a place for you to write your own comments.
Plus, they have social bookmarking features on the site, so if I buy a wine I want to tell people about, I can share it on my Facebook profile, del.icio.us, Digg, StumbleUpon and Furl. Genius. I will happily pay a bit more at a store that offers not only friendly, expert advice but also some useful technology.
Jay said he only updates the Facebook status a few times a week because he doesn’t want to overload people, but I don’t think that’s a problem. With all I see in my various inboxes every day, I’m not going to mind seeing a brief note about a wine I might want to try or a sale.
I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the Facebook page. Right now they’re posting information about events and holiday hours. Let’s see some reviews, or links to useful and interesting related information, or recipes that go well with the wines. The discussion board is currently empty and there’s a lot that could happen there.
Their Facebook wall is mostly messages from well wishers, as well as two complaints from a UNC student who wants longer hours and more electrical outlets. I’d be happy if they ignored that request. I’ve been to plenty of local coffee houses where you can’t find a place to sit because undergrads are spread out on every surface. Some of them – and this never ceases to amaze me – don’t appear to have purchased anything from the store where they are taking up space. When I tended bar in London, etiquette required that if you came in just to use the toilet you still had to order a drink, and the owner definitely got the hump when people ignored that. But that’s not a social media issue; that’s a social graces issue and not within the scope of this blog.
I also suggested a Twitter stream to Jay, where they could announce sales, new arrivals and general items of interest. I restrained myself from wresting the mouse from Jay’s hand and creating it for him on the spot.