Happy returns ….. or not
M3K3A46RVFP9 With the much welcomed popularity of the screw cap, there is less and less need to return faulty wines to the retailer. In saying that, I have had to return two bottles of sparkling over the past 6 months with interesting results and I am wondering who else has also experienced confusion and frustration at this process…And who out there may have just given up in that said frustration, not knowing what to do next.
Having actually developed a returned wine policy for a major wine corporation, I like think that basic customer service rules apply at the very least. After all, a brand’s reputation is dependant on an agricultural product’s condition as it arrives in the glass. As a reseller, the retailer has the burden of responsibility to protect this reputation and obviously this goes as far as making sure that when a wine is faulty it should be a painless exercise.
While most retailers will happily exchange the wine if it has a fault, there are obviously some time limits on this. For example, if a wine suffers from poor storage in your house and you try to return it a few months later you may not be very successful. But if it is a cork problem, or you have a foreign object in your wine then you are more likely to be successful if it has been a little while since the purchase.
However, it soon becomes apparent that the policy is not always known at the store level, which is where the problem lies. Perhaps the biggest issue is that there seem to be too few written policy notices near the cash register or anywhere to be seen. Forget trying to find anything on their web sites, this can be as futile as trying to find something written. It is not, after all, an unrealistic concept that customers may want to know what to do if they have problems.
Did you know that some of the large chains have satisfaction guarantee policies where if you do not like the wine, you still might be able to get a refund or exchange? This is at manager’s discretion and some stores will only accept unopened wine so don’t go taking your nearly empty Hill of Grace in to get a new one!! I discovered this when frustratingly attempting to return a bottle of fizz that I had bought to review from my local Liquorland (Note: It has all been sorted to my satisfaction – 3 visits to the store and 3 phone calls later including one to head office).
Here are a few quick tips to consider when you too have been frustrated in your attempts.
Tip 1. If you cannot get satisfaction from a genuine complaint at your store, insist on speaking to the store manager.
Tip 2. If no luck with the store manager, contact the head office and be very clear about what you want to happen by way of refund or exchange.
Tip 3. If you still have no satisfaction or simply feel that the situation is too complicated (eg. You might have been given it as a gift and there is no receipt) contact the producer of the wine by phone in the first instance and have the lot number that is usually on the label and the batch number that is etched into the glass at hand. You need some proof that you have the bottle and if it is a foreign object you must keep it also so the winery can test where the object is from and how it got into the bottle.
So, how important is great customer service? 5 years ago, I found a proverbial fly in the last bottle of my favourite carefully cellared1992 Marsanne from a prominent winery. Certainly not an expensive wine, but a favourite none the less. Due to changes in ownership I was unable to get even an acknowledgement from the winery. It was only after I started to write this article that I realised that I have not tasted a wine from this winery since…..