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How would you respond ?

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Christina Georgina

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How would you respond ?

by Christina Georgina » Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:39 pm

On returning a bottle of corked wine to the place of purchase, the owner started SCREAMING about how she was sick and tired of my returning bottles "because you don't like how it tastes". It was the middle of a Saturday afternoon, the store was packed, and she proceeded to rant about how there was nothing wrong with the wine and that it was perfectly fine. [ She neither smelled or tasted the bottle ] Over the years I have purchased thousands of bottles there - her selection happens to be the best within 200 mi. The policy has always been to accept bad bottles and I have returned bad bottles in the past. I happen to be sensitive to mouldy smell and taste and returned only such bottles. She continued to be abusive despite the fact that I had another case for purchase.
I was speechless. I would take my business elsewhere but there really is no elsewhere and I can't stock entirely by post.
Mamma Mia !
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Stuart Yaniger

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Re: How would you respond ?

by Stuart Yaniger » Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:42 pm

How far is Madison?
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Bob Ross

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Re: How would you respond ?

by Bob Ross » Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:10 pm

This is a very tough issue, Christina. I think you have two choices.

One is to continue to buy from this store, and stop returning corked wines for a refund. As a practical matter, I believe the great majority of winelovers do just that. I've rarely returned corked wines, partly because my belief is that most retailers eat the return and don't seek a refund up the distribution chain, and partly because it is such a hassle to do so.

If you want to continue to both continue purchasing and seek refunds, you have to sit down with the owner and talk out the situation. On the bright side, it was the owner that went ballistic. Whatever you are able to negotiate will be a done deal.

A few suggestions -- your own mileage will vary depending on personal style -- but this would be my approach:

Gather together as much documentation as I could on how much I've purchased over the years -- you write that it's thousands of bottles, and you might have credit card receipts, other receipts, whatever, that will give you some hard numbers. The owner may well know that you are a "regular", but the returns may loom much larger in her mind than the purchases that stick.

Try to estimate what percentages of your purchases were returned -- if it's in the 5% area, you are probably on safe ground from even a cork sensitive consumer's perspective. As a purely economic matter, though, if it's higher than that and if the retailer has difficulty getting refunds higher up the distribution change, a 5% loss on sales is very difficult for a retailer to absorb and still gain a profit.

The basic reason for doing this analysis is to try to empathise with the owner and having hard numbers is a very good way to open the discussion.

Call and set up a formal meeting, preferably at her store in the office area where you and she can meet one on one.

After reinforcing your credibility as an important customer, try to find out if she can get refunds from her distributors for corked wines. She may be reluctant to do so for a variety of reasons.

A great deal then depends on whether as a regular customer who returns say 5% of her purchaser you are a "profitable" customer.

Based on the personality you've demonstrated in the past on WLDG and FLDG, I sure you'll know how to handle the owner once you understand the sitch from her perspective.

***

You may decide to stop returning corked wines during or after this meeting. If you do so, be sure to tell the owner you are going to bear the risks of corked wines in the future. From time to time thereafter, when things are slow in the store, tell her privately how many bottles you have purchased that were corked.

I've dealt with a retailer for ten years, we maintain a very friendly relationship, and I know that he gives me special treatment because I don't return corked wines -- although from time to time I mention my corkers and we discuss the general problems of corked wines and attempts to solve the problem.

Regards, Bob
Last edited by Bob Ross on Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Bernard Roth

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Re: How would you respond ?

by Bernard Roth » Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:12 pm

Write her a nice letter explaining how you appreciate her policy, how you buy X bottles per year, a small fraction of which are defective and need to be replaced or refunded. Tell her that you would be happy to contact the distributor directly if she finds it inconvenient to serve as intermediary. Indeed, you might contact some of the distributors anyway to find out how they handle defective bottles returned to them.
Regards,
Bernard Roth
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Bob Ross

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Re: How would you respond ?

by Bob Ross » Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:24 pm

Good suggestions, Howard, but being originally from Wisconsin myself, I would recommend a one on one meeting rather than a letter. Directness usually works better in that state's culture I found.

Otherwise, right on the money. Regards, Bob
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Christina Georgina

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Re: How would you respond ?

by Christina Georgina » Mon Jul 10, 2006 10:40 pm

Thank you very much Bob and Bernard. You've helped me see the light.
Mamma Mia !
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Oliver McCrum

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Re: How would you respond ?

by Oliver McCrum » Thu Jul 13, 2006 2:42 pm

Speaking as a distributor, most retailers do indeed send back bottles that are genuinely corked, so she shouldn't even have to bear the cost of the return. (State law may affect this, but I doubt it.)

The frustration for most retailers is that the great majority of wines returned as 'corked' have nothing wrong with them, the customer just doesn't like the wine...It's a strange product defect we're dealing with here.

Let's hope the lady was just having a bad day, and will repent.
Oliver
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James Roscoe

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Re: How would you respond ?

by James Roscoe » Thu Jul 13, 2006 2:51 pm

May I play the devil here? Send them all to Tim Mc. He LOVES the romance of the cork and hates screw caps which would have solved your problem to begin with. Beyond that bit of stirring an old pot, I have nothing to add to the good advice that has already been given.

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