Wine Club Fail Follow Up

Last week I wrote about an email I received from a wine club I belong to.  The intent of that post was to give a warning about how not to run a wine club.  Basically, the winery decided that it would “do me a favor” by increasing my wine club shipments by 50% per year without providing any options to keep my shipments as they were or any other way not to receive an additional half case of wine.

While it may not seem like it to you readers, I actually do have a wine budget. Adding 6 extra bottles from one club, plus the shipping costs, would take a bite out of that budget and limit the diversity of wineries I am able to buy from.  I wanted to give the winery a chance to respond to my concerns and see if I could resolve this issue while remaining a club member which is why I declined to name the winery in the first post.  Unfortunately, and I say this with the utmost sincerity since I really love this winery and its wines, I am unable to remain a member.

I reached the winery mid-week and expressed my concerns about the increase in the wines sent each year and the associated costs, how a case and a half of wine from the same winery just in club shipments seemed a bit much, and the burden of shipping costs plus the inherent inefficiency of shipping 9 bottles at a time to the East Coast really wasn’t going to work for me.  The person I spoke to on the phone informed me that the rationale for expanding the club requirements was because club members were not currently getting to taste all the wines offered because they were selling out in the tasting room before the club members could order since they hadn’t gotten a bottle to taste in their tasting packs.  Additionally, she told me I shouldn’t worry about the shipping because they’ve negotiated a special 9-bottle rate that’s less than the shipping for a full case.

She offered to allow me to delay the transition to the 9 bottle shipments until my November shipment to ease the transition, keeping my April shipment at 6 bottles.  I could also move to a different club that ships more frequently but ultimately still sends 18 bottles a year (um……..yeah, no, shipping to me more frequently does not help save on shipping costs, it actually increases them.)

First.  You have at least 18 different wines you produce a year?  Holy cow!!  Second, I don’t need to taste every current release you have (this club  has never sent me an older vintage or anything like that), I truly do not believe that is the point of being a club member.  The point is to taste a sampling.  And finally, I stick by my assertion that you should be doing everything you can to make sure your club members can stay with you through this downturn, and not be pushing them away by increasing the cost of membership.

So Bella, as much as it saddens me to do so, I bid you adieu.  I see you have a waiting list for your wine club, so I guess you won’t miss me.


12 Responses

  1. I wonder if their waiting list is a marketing facade, to appear exclusive. All the same, I guess if Bella doesn’t feel like they need you as a customer, you should literally shout it far and wide that Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves doesn’t want customers. Clearly, they have a waiting list, so don’t bother signing up to join their wine club, because they don’t need new customers! Since they have a waiting list, they obviously don’t need you.

    Their wines might be spectacular, but their wine club staff are misguided in their strategy, at best.

    Sorry, when I see bad business decisions like this, you have to call BS on it.

  2. Yep. This is a crock.

    Though I’m in no position on how to tell anyone how to run a business, they told you loud and clear that you can take it or leave it.

    Looks like you are making the right choice!

  3. Too many companies in so many industries fail to be customer focused. Just think how much more successful they’d be if they made it easy for us to buy their stuff.

    You made a tough but wise choice when you decided to cancel your wine club membership. I applaud you.



  4. Thanks for posting your follow-up.

    A few things…

    First, I had no idea that Bella had 18 bottlings. Back when I was in the club, it was more like 6 to 8. Whoa!

    Second, I can’t imagine they would force more bottles upon current members if they really had a waiting list to distribute additional product to. I would imagine a winery would want to include as many possible people in their club, considering churn rates.

    Finally, if they really do have a waiting list, why not move to an allocation system for their members rather than the club system they currently employ? That’s what the most highly sought after wineries in the US seem to do in order to manage supply and demand effectively…this just isn’t adding up.

    All around, a bummer for you and now for the winery, which will not benefit from this kind of publicity.

  5. Thanks all. I struggled with whether to name names or not, but ultimately when they could offer me no acceptable solution (which to me, would have been leaving me at the 6 bottles) I just thought everyone should know.

    Randy, as Jill pointed out…maybe they really don’t have a waiting list…why would they need to up the club shipments if they have a list of folks waiting to buy and everything is selling out in the tasting room like they told me?

    I think what struck me most was that they tried to pitch this to me as if they were doing me a favor by forcing me to buy 6 more bottles a year.

  6. I really wonder what lead Bella to make this decision. Did they spend the time to survey their club members? Or did they decide they needed to find a way to sell more wine and they thought their club members, being their loyal followers, would accept the extra charge with no questions asked?

    Was this club on an automatic charge (you give a credit card and they automatically charge it each month)? Are they hoping people do not actually read their letters or e-mails?

    A lot of this confuses me. I would be interested to see if this happens over other wine clubs or even if Bella changes back.

  7. Hey Rob-

    If they did a survey, they didn’t survey me.

    It’s a twice a year club, so they automatically charge you in April and November and ship you what used to be 6 bottles each time.

    I haven’t seen it with any of my other clubs, and I’m in 7 others, so….

    I gave feedback when I called them, but I’m done.

  8. But, but, … they MAKE all those wines, therefore you must BUY all those wines. Isn’t that how wine clubs work? You join for their benefit, to guarantee that you will purchase every blottle they come up with. What, you thought you joined it as a CUSTOMER?! Silly you.

  9. Wineries or wine clubs who up your allocation and give you no choice to accept the extra wine are very un-cool. Just because the economy is all in disarray doesn’t mean they can force more wine on you. This is an easy way to thin out your mailing list and lose valuable customers. With the economy the way it is, businesses should put more care and value to their loyal supporters. Cheers!

  10. Bad Business gets worse. interesting time to choose that business strategy as well …

  11. […] a but about a wine club fail the last few days.  You can read all the sordid details here and here.  This time, I’m flipping the coin and telling you about a club that couldn’t be […]

  12. […] Wine Club Fail: Resolution Posted on March 19, 2009 by Sonadora I love happy endings, don’t you?  I’ve now written a few posts about an issue I had with one of my wine clubs.  I wrote them, one, to show an example of what not to do, and two, to then share the unhappy resolution that I thought was the end of the topic.  You can read those installments here and here. […]

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