Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Gallo/Turning Leaf Story

Some may remember that in the 1990's, Gallo started its Turning Leaf brand:

Turning Leaf

They were promptly sued by Jess Jackson who was attempting to protect his Kendall-Jackson label, claiming that Turning Leaf was an attempt to pawn off the product as K-J's:


Now, just about everyone in the wine industry has been sued by Jess at one time or another (in the Bonny Doon parody "Vinquirer" there was a great story "Jess Jackson Sues Own Badass Self"), but that's not the focus of this story.

Ever notice that all of the big brands in the supermarket are right at eye level? That's not by accident. You see, an acquaintance of mine worked for Gallo at the time as a field sales rep. Now sales reps would do the dirty work in the marketplace that the sales people didn't want to do (often for fear of losing their job because of the quasi-illegal nature of what the work sometimes entailed). Much of this work entailed "helping" to restock the shelves at night and making sure that your products were where you wanted them.

This individual, whom we'll call Joe, worked in the San Jose area. His job (among other things) was to go into the grocery stores late at night when the restocking was being done and take all of the Turning Leaf off of the shelf, move the other bottles near K-J and then put the TL bottles right next to the K-J bottles! Of course, this was completely illegal, but the practice was generally tolerated by store management as it actually served to keep the wine stock current and neat. Naturally, K-J detested this side-by-side display, so they sent in their own sales reps to put the TL as far as possible from the K-J.

The problem, however, was that the Gallo reps had nearly a 2:1 bodycount to the K-J staff and could afford to cover more stores. This began to wear on the K-J staff as they were unable to keep up with the changes being made by the Gallo reps and complaints to management fell on deaf ears. Gallo reps were always driven to keep their stores current, because legend had it that if Ernest came into your store, even at nearly 90 years of age, he'd get down on his knees and start moving bottles around.....needless to say, you didn't want that to happen.

Toward the end of the saga, Joe remembers coming into a store at some ungodly hour and seeing the K-J sales rep just leaving through the back door. He nodded to her and after seeing who he was, she began to cry, realizing that he was about to undo all of the work that she had just done. K-J sales reps turnover was pretty high......

Eventually, K-J lost the suit to Gallo and the practice of reworking the shelves became less tolerated. Jess Jackson found other people to sue and Gallo went back to dominating the wine universe like an 800lb gorilla.


Blogger Christian said...


Kind of scary to think about the practices of the 'big boys' in the 'big stores'. Yet another example of why you should support the local shop instead of the uber-corp.

Years ago, I was out drinking with an sales rep. He has since retired but at the time was working for a distro of a major U.S. brewery. As we were driving from one bar to another, I noticed a spray bottle of light blue liquid in the floorboard. Looking out the windshield, it was pretty obvious he wasn't cleaning his car (he was quite the smoker). Once I had enough beer in me, I asked, "What gives".
His reply: "I'm always the last rep at (insert store name here), and the last thing I do is spray the tops of the cans (of his competition).
My sales are up 15% at this store alone."

Suffice it to say, I haven't had a beer in a can for some time.

September 23, 2004 11:32 AM  
Blogger Huge said...


Agreed on supporting your local wine shop though.


September 23, 2004 1:58 PM  

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