Temp Jobs at the Wine Shop: Let the Orientation Flow (NYT)


THERE’S nothing like a little extra cash from a part-time job to make the season jollier. Most holiday jobs are mindless and hard on the feet; it’s the money that makes them worthwhile.

Then there are the jobs at Sherry-Lehmann, the Madison Avenue wine shop. Every year the popular store takes on some 60 additional people to help with the holiday crush. About half go to the store’s Brooklyn warehouse, where the fine points of white Burgundy are not terribly important. But the others are destined for the selling floor in Manhattan, if they’ve got the right stuff.

Which means they first must get through the store’s unmercifully tough boot camp. In a week’s time the successful candidates will have taken crash courses on the world’s best-known wine regions and tasted fine wine from most of them. They will also have learned to deal with some notoriously tough customers and to write out a lot of impossibly complicated sales slips.

The idea is to take a bunch of raw recruits and turn them not into experts but into confident wine enthusiasts ready to help knowledgeable and not-so-knowledgeable customers. The intense course does just that. It also winnows out the terminally clumsy and those unfortunates who are incapable of adding the prices of a bottle f red and a bottle of white. “It was rough,” said Marcia Blitz, a member of this year’s class, “but I loved it. In fact, it was the training course that hooked me.”