How to Kill a Wine School

Posted by Keith Wallace

How Krunch went Yelp

A small little wine school in Chicago got a whole lot of attention back in 2012. It showed how social media could destroy a small business. The story is worth knowing.

It starts with Master Sommelier (and runner up in the International Silly Name Contest)  Krunch Kretschmar, who unwittingly discovered how to build a virtual nuclear warhead with nothing but social media.

Groupon at a Wine School

Krunch owns Bottled Grapes, a tiny wine school in Chicago. He recently opted to do a Groupon promotion.  That alone was a bit crazy since there is a growing amount of proof that a poorly conceived Groupon promotion can bankrupt a small business.

For his Groupon, he sold  $35 tickets for $17.50 each. Since Groupon takes 50% of the revenue of each sale, that means Krunch earned $8.75  per ticket.  At that price, he was losing money for every Groupon sold, and there were over three thousand of these deals sold. Since he only offers an average of four classes a month, he was looking at loosing money for a few years.  That sucked, big time.

Yelpers at a Wine School

Add to the mix a Yelper. Yelp is a powerful thing. Yelp and its aggregated reviews are widely trusted as a barometer of quality. Large businesses will have hundreds of reviews, so a single review won’t affect them.

However, a single bad review can cause major damage to a business with less than ten reviews, thousands of dollars of lost sales to a small company. That is the type of power that should be handled carefully and gently. Unfortunately, the power of Yelp is largely wielded by the most callous groups in America: affluent white twenty-somethings.

It’s Always Customer Support

So, the Yelper in question, Cecelia Groark, bought a Groupon. She didn’t like the customer support she received, so she left a scathing Yelp review.  If facing bankruptcy via  Groupon wasn’t enough, now Krunch’s reputation was tarnished, too. Yelp plus Groupon is a volatile mix, that’s for sure: it can implode a business in a few short months.

How Not to Deal With a Bad Yelp Review

What turned this from a sad tale to a nuclear chain reaction was Krunch himself. He figured out the identity of the Yelper, and engaged in the type of  payback every small business owner dreams of, but never does: he struck back.

He created a blog under her name, and according to the Chicago Sun-Times he “accused her of ’embezzling’ from her employer, of having a drug addiction, and of “turning to the oldest profession to gain funds need[ed] to support her habits.”

And The End of a Wine School

Unfortunately for Krunch, he seems to be something of a dumbass. After creating the blog (which included her cell phone number), he emailed a link to Ms. Groark. He was then facing a half-million-dollar lawsuit.  How that ended up, we don’t know.

In the end, Yelpers trashed his reputation. The school limped on until 2015 before closing. While Krunch “I hope to God your middle name isn’t Kris,” Kretschmar is not much of a protagonist, this is one of those stories that every small business owner should take notice of.

8 thoughts on “How to Kill a Wine School”

  1. He’s a total con. He used to go by Dr. Jeffrey Kretschmar. I’m not really sure of his REAL name, as he’s changed it several times. He has/had TWO different Social Security Numbers. His background … that he came from Europe is untrue. He is from Michigan. He claimed that his father was some kind of diplomat. Once again, untrue. Had an investigator run a background check on him … I ended up with a book. Arrested and jailed several times; bouncing checks, and at least once arrest for lewd and lascivious behavior. He lived in Tampa and had several “companies” … one of them was KMA USA (he described it as a non-profit company). He lived in a small apartment that he eventually was evicted from. When I knew him, he was on food stamps. He now claims to be an internationally known sommelier. Fat chance. I know that he had some kind of computer store – KMA Supply Corp. – in Urbana, Illinois. Now what would a sommelier be doing working on a computer supply store? Don’t trust this guy. Don’t give him money. He’s a total con artist.

  2. This is the first article I’ve read on this web site, but I just gotta say, this site is in serious need of a copy editor. For a web site to be taken seriously, it can’t be loaded with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors.

    • Agreed! It’s the problem of having a group of talented writers who are used to having the editorial staff of a newspaper or magazine. An online magazine is new for all of us, so there are going to be growing pains. We really aren’t that worried about not being taken seriously, as we have some serious firepower on our bench. Just no-one who can spell for #@*$&$.

  3. The deal with the Groupon sale was for $35 you could come to one of his tastings. He, in his own words on a video on his website Bottled Grapes, states that he sold 4000 tickets between Groupon and Living Social. $35 times 4000 = $140,000
    Krunch received immediately from Groupon (presumably) $70,000

    From Krunche’s own lips…….

    This guy is a con man. All of his credentials are fake. We checked them all out. Now as a result of this implosion
    others are checking him out.

    He tried to con us out of wine. We lost a few thousand but we were never taken in. Speaking to Costco, they fired him; the Store chain Potash fired him. He was a clerk. Not a Sommelier. No Harvard Grad. No Rothschild connection. They do not even give out titles.
    Richard Wallace

    • That is the other side of the coin. Our topic was the Groupon/Yelp dynamic, and really didn’t touch on the possibility of KK being a con artist.

      On another note, what’s up with Wallace’s being in the wine trade? I know a dozen or so. Is it a Scottish thing?


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