Issues with Benchmark Wine Group (WOT)

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Bill Lewis
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Issues with Benchmark Wine Group (WOT)

#1 Post by Bill Lewis » March 1st, 2015, 8:37 am

I'm looking for some thoughtful (and polite) feedback to make sure I'm not in the wrong here.

I bought 4 bottles of 2009 Hundred Acre, using a 10% first time buyer's discount, at Benchmark Wine Group (www.benchmarkwine.com). They asked if I wanted anything else at the time I ordered, because the 10% was a 1st time purchase deal only. I said no. I asked them to hold the wine due to weather for ~10 days, and then e-mailed them the morning they were supposed to ship before they opened, asking if I could add to my order and use the 10% discount. They said no problem, just call them to finalize.

I called and explained that I wanted to purchase more wine and add it to the existing order to the first woman who answered the phone. When I mentioned the discount, she said the discount was only available for my first order, and I told her that this was my first order. She asked me to hold, and I waited for about 3 minutes, when someone else answered the phone.

The second woman with whom I spoke called me "Richard" (as opposed to my name). She told me that she took my original order, and that she couldn't apply the coupon because it would be a whole new sales number, and the system wouldn't accept it. I told her I had received the e-mail that said I could use the 10% discount, and read it to her. She then asked me to hold, and put a third person on the phone.

Unlike the first two, the third person had a tone of attitude in her voice, and said that she could not apply the 10%. I mentioned that this was my first order, and that the wine was still at Benchmark. I also mentioned the 10% confirming e-mail. The woman essentially said the person who e-mailed me didn't know what she was talking about (i.e. that this order was from a while back), which I found unlikely given I sent it before they opened for business that day, but possible. She then reiterated the concept of the new sales number, and I said, "Look, this is purely a customer service issue. This is my first time buying from you, and we are only talking about a ~$50 discount. You haven't shipped the wine, and it's still sitting there. I'm not sure why the 10% couldn't be applied as this is all a first-time order." She argumentatively stated that I would already have the wine if I hadn't asked Benchmark to hold it, and again stated she was unable to apply the 10%. Because of her attitude more than the lack of discount, I then mentioned that I would simply like to cancel my order.

The customer service person next informed me that Benchmark would charge me 5% for the cancellation. Incredulous, I asked why, given Benchmark still had the wine, and had been holding my money for almost 2 weeks. She told me the credit card company would charge Benchmark this amount for reversing the charge. I knew this to be a false statement, and said "I've never heard of that." She then backtracked and said Benchmark now needed to put the wine back in its inventory and remove it from the packaging. At least at that time (they may have changed their site, I don't know), there was nothing about either the 10% or the 5% policy mentioned anywhere on the website.

I then took the time to explain the situation in a fairly lengthy, non-personal or argumentative e-mail to the Vice President of Operations. Apparently she was traveling out of the country when I sent it (but did not have an out of office reply on). Around 9 or so days later, when I did not hear back, I e-mailed her again. She apologized for the delay and said she'd get back to me by close of business the next day. That was January 28, and I've still received no response from her or the owner, who I also e-mailed directly.

While a $50 savings would have been nice, it became a matter of principle once I got the person with the attitude on the phone. Benchmark didn't owe me anything, but I felt the whole way this was handled showed a complete lack of customer service (I actually felt like their enemy and not their customer) from the "lowest" employee to the "highest." Any thoughts?

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#2 Post by Mel Hill » March 1st, 2015, 8:45 am

seems like you have invested more than $50 of time so far?

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#3 Post by John O' » March 1st, 2015, 10:02 am

Jeez. You got the 10% when you placed the first order and were asked if you wanted more that day to get more of the 10%. You asked person 1, person 2 and person 3 if they could bend the rules a bit and they all said no. They even gave you a practical reason why. Not feeling like you were wronged, but if you apologized to the sales reps, I'd think more of you.
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#4 Post by Bill Lewis » March 1st, 2015, 10:10 am

Apologize for what? The first person (email) said yes. And the third was outright rude. My point we I wasn't bending the rules as this could all have been my first order.

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#5 Post by Peter Hirsch » March 1st, 2015, 10:24 am

Yep. I think you're wrong here (you asked for feedback!). 10% coupon good for first order. Yeah, it could have been first order placed in it's entirety at the same time, but for 99.5% of the business this is the same thing. You caught the 200 to 1 exception. You wanted more than what they intended. You didn't get it. Then you decided it's personal.

Anyway, I think you're wrong. Stores have to have policies and practices and not all of them can be bent/broken while praying at the alter of Customer Service

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#6 Post by PeterJ » March 1st, 2015, 10:58 am

The only thing I see that you have on your side is the early morning email exchange telling you it was OK. Without the exact text it's really not possible to conclude whether they had any culpability at all. All that said, this IS (as has been said) ultimately a customer service issue in which none of the three people you spoke with felt it was right or had the authority to help. They SHOULD have gotten back to you by now with some kind of management response but, without knowing their normal MO, I can't tell if that's in or out of character.

Just last night I was reading the Yelp reviews of a local retailer with whom I've shopped a few times and had no problems but have heard, from reps, that the owner can be very difficult. From the Yelp reviews, what you went through would seem minor. It takes all kinds I guess.
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Eric LeVine
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#7 Post by Eric LeVine » March 1st, 2015, 11:06 am

Life is short. Open a nice bottle. Move on. That is my two cents. It is worth a lot less than that!!!!

(The Benchmark folks are great folks. People are human. We are all flawed.)
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#8 Post by Bill Lewis » March 1st, 2015, 11:22 am

Fair response and good advice, Eric, thanks.

FWIW, here's the text from the e-mail copied word-for-word:

Hi Bill,

Thank you for you for your email. I will hold shipment until you add more bottles. Please call the sales department and let them know about your 10% discount, they are happy to help you place another order.





Best Regards,

Rayna Halsell
Client Relations Representative
Cellar Shipping Coordinator
rhalsell@benchmarkwine.com

Benchmark Wine Group
445 Devlin Rd.
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone 707-255-3500
Fax 707-255-3503

From: ____________@yahoo.com [mailto:___________@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2015 5:04 AM
To: Rayna Halsell
Subject: Re: BWG Shipment

Hi-

I'd like to add to this order before it ships and use the 10% discount. I will call later to discuss, or call me at ________________ Thanks.

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#9 Post by Eric LeVine » March 1st, 2015, 11:59 am

Bill, that email seems pretty clear. They screwed up. I think you are correct.

In the grand scheme though, hey, life goes on. The Benchmark folks really are good folks. (More than pricing, they are diligent about sourcing, good, real, serious stuff.)
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#10 Post by PeterJ » March 1st, 2015, 12:19 pm

OK. This is purely a service attitude issue. If you sent that email to someone in management and did not get at least an apology plus discount on a new order then this place has seriously f#%*!ed up. Write them off and enjoy that wine. Life IS too short.
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#11 Post by Mark Y » March 1st, 2015, 3:57 pm

curious. how do u get a first time buyer discount? ;)
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#12 Post by Bill Lewis » March 1st, 2015, 4:08 pm

There's a code. I did a Google search for coupons for their site.

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#13 Post by Michael Martin » March 1st, 2015, 4:09 pm

Love Benchmark. No problems so far.

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#14 Post by Robert.Fleming » March 1st, 2015, 4:30 pm

John O' wrote:Jeez. You got the 10% when you placed the first order and were asked if you wanted more that day to get more of the 10%. You asked person 1, person 2 and person 3 if they could bend the rules a bit and they all said no. They even gave you a practical reason why. Not feeling like you were wronged, but if you apologized to the sales reps, I'd think more of you.
^This.

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#15 Post by Peter Hirsch » March 2nd, 2015, 3:31 am

Yep. The email changes things for me. If I got that email and when trying to use it got rejected, and then got either attitude or no response from management, I'd also be pissed and is just write the store off forever.

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#16 Post by Brian Tuite » March 2nd, 2015, 7:02 am

Bill Lewis wrote:They asked if I wanted anything else at the time I ordered, because the 10% was a 1st time purchase deal only. I said no..... Any thoughts?
You said no. I know to a lot of guys no means yes but in this case it still means no.
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#17 Post by Mark Y » March 2nd, 2015, 8:46 am

anyone have a valid 1st time buyer 10% off code? Can't find it online, and asked the OP but no response yet.. would be a nice discount to have [cheers.gif]
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#18 Post by Brian Tuite » March 2nd, 2015, 8:57 am

image.jpg
image.jpg (21.81 KiB) Viewed 6219 times
I was going to LMGTFY but I'm trying to be less of an ass. Might be WINELOVER2015 by now though.
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#19 Post by Mark Y » March 2nd, 2015, 8:58 am

Brian Tuite wrote:
image.jpg
I was going to LMGTFY but I'm trying to be less of an ass.
Sorry i shoulda clarified.. but a WORKING code at the moment.. not from 2013 ;)

(i found/tried that code too but it didn't work) [head-bang.gif]
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#20 Post by M. Sai » March 2nd, 2015, 11:11 am

Hey Bill,

I’m glad you decided to post this on Berserkers, as I was unable to directly respond to your One-Star Yelp review because Yelp has some crazy rule that a company has to have a picture of the owner of the business posted before replying to a review.

Given that Benchmark specializes in back-vintage wines, I’m sure you can imagine that most wine collectors who have diligently stored their wines for years or decades do not generally let those prized possession go for a bargain. As a result, Benchmark operates on very thin margins, choosing to pay more for well stored wine while offering those wines to our clients at market leading prices. To give our clients further clarity, we choose to come to market with new wines at our best possible price, no need to wait for the next weekend sale or coupon. Aside from a Bin Sale two or three times a year, we have traditionally offered very few discounts, and recently we have moved to offering no discounts unless there are extraneous circumstances.

...To sum up my long explanation above, we rarely discount our wines, which is why we could not extend the First Time Buyer discount on your second order which we gave on your first.

Regarding our 5% cancellation fee, a store credit is always the preferable choice instead of charging fees; which was offered but declined. The fee is stated on our website here: http://www.benchmarkwine.com/pages/terms_conditions, the Credit Card processor absolutely does keep their cut if you choose to cancel your order after the credit card transaction has been finalized. They actually charge a percentage when the order is changed, and then they charge the same percentage again on the refund – which actually adds up to more than the 5% fee. The only caveat is a situation where you cancel your order the same day.

Our VP of Operations was disappointed to hear that you did not receive the emails she sent regarding the situation on 1/28/15 @ 9:19pm and 2/1/15 @ 7:13pm. Lindsay will be in the office the majority of this week if you would prefer to discuss on the phone – 707.255.3500

If we can help you further in any way, please let us know. As I’m sure you are aware, our Operations Manager did wave the 5% cancellation fee in an effort to bring this matter to an equitable resolution.

Best Regards,

Mike Sai
Director of Marketing
Benchmark Wine Group
Cheers!
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#21 Post by M. Sai » March 2nd, 2015, 11:18 am

Regarding the coupon on that Brian posted – we recently cleaned that up as well.

We are working on a new retail outlet store that will be selling more affordable, discounted and cosmetically challenged bottles to locals and visitors at our Napa location. Bin Sales will always give a chance to get some great deals – but there will likely be even better deals in the new retail shop, which is scheduled to open mid-to-late March.
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#22 Post by Brian Tuite » March 2nd, 2015, 2:57 pm

M. Sai wrote:Regarding the coupon on that Brian posted – we recently cleaned that up as well.

We are working on a new retail outlet store that will be selling more affordable, discounted and cosmetically challenged bottles to locals and visitors at our Napa location. Bin Sales will always give a chance to get some great deals – but there will likely be even better deals in the new retail shop, which is scheduled to open mid-to-late March.
Cool idea Mike, glad to hear it's about to happen. Now, about that order I placed this morning...
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#23 Post by Bill Lewis » March 2nd, 2015, 3:52 pm

Mark Y - sorry couldn't cut and past from my phone last night, but it seems it might not work anymore anyway.

Mike-

Thanks for the response. As I even mentioned in my Yelp review, your prices are fair. I also mentioned above, and in my e-mail to your VP of Operations that Benchmark did not owe me anything, but this was a customer service issue. Initially, I was told adding the wine for the 10% off was no problem (see e-mail above), but the tone of your customer service person's voice and her attitude was devoid of any "service" whatsoever. Candidly, that's what miffed me enough to write an email to your VP of Operations. When I didn't hear anything, I e-mailed her again and I received the 1/28 apologetic response with a promise to follow up. I checked my spam and e-mail again just now, and received no further responses, including the 2/1 email you say she sent.

Between the initial bad experience, and what appeared to be a complete blow-off by management, I went to Yelp. Benchmark has my e-mail and phone, and a phone call might have been the easiest and quickest way to resolve this, but it did nothing. So, I posted my grievance here, and, as you can see, there are some people who feel I'm wrong, while others feel I'm right.

The concept that a one-time offer be extended for a 1 shipment transaction is one that Benchmark could have accomplished. They chose not to, and that's their prerogative. As for a 5% charge, I will take what you say at face value, but I have never had any merchant, in any industry, make such a claim, nor did I find the 5% charge concept on your website at the time (something I also included in my email to your VP of Operations).

The bottom line is I was angry because of the rudeness of your employee. As Eric points out above, people are flawed, have bad days, etc.; and, in an attempt to resolve things, I wrote a non-personal, non-emotional email that went ignored until I followed up on 1/28. I did not receive any further response other than the 1/29 email, as stated above. I wrote an email to your owner which similarly went without response. All of this was indicative, to me, of a larger customer service issue, and not merely a bad day for a single employee.

I'm a big believer of telling people, discreetly, when I feel their service is lacking, if for no other reason than that's what I'd want if it was my business. At most, I expected the 10% discount for the 2 bottles; at the least, I expected nothing more than an e-mail response with an apology for any "misunderstanding" - something that didn't exactly throw the employee under the bus, but something that didn't write off what I felt was an inappropriate response by the employee. Instead I received neither, and your suggestion that I contact Benchmark (as opposed to the other way around) to discuss this further is, in my mind, not the way to handle it.

As I stated, there are people here who think I've been unreasonable/unfair/judgmental/in the wrong, etc. But I believe I was trying give your company some business, save some money, and start a long-term relationship. I had not heard of Benchmark before this, and thought I had stumbled onto a possible long-term supplier of many great wines. Instead, I received an attitude and no follow-up.

Perhaps the 2/1 email was mis-sent, but if Benchmark was truly concerned with my experience, I would have thought you would have reached out directly after the Yelp review. Only now, after I posted the issue publicly on this wine board did I get any response, and then only one of public defense (as opposed to a PM to me or a phone call). So, it just reads to me like an after-the-fact attempt at CYA to protect your company's image. I could be wrong, but if you look at it from my perspective, perhaps you'll see why I was, and remain, a tad bit angry.

Regardless, I truly hope Benchmark does see that they are at some fault here, and takes the opportunity to prevent it from happening again. What may have been a misunderstanding, one that could have been quickly corrected, turned into something bigger. As a result, Benchmark lost a sale, and I lost confidence in purchasing from them. Making excuses and making things right are 2 different things. I feel like I did my best to make things right, but in return I first received no response and then excuses. And, in my book, that's not customer service.

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#24 Post by PeterJ » March 2nd, 2015, 4:16 pm

Bill, this is your situation but, as someone who has spent 50 years in the retaIl and wholesale consumer product world, I agree with you 150%. I read Benchmark's reply here and, while I couldn't fault any of it, my thought went immediately to both the email you got AND to the tone you described receiving. I'm sure they're a good supplier, from some of the replies here, but this isn't their finest hour.
Last edited by PeterJ on March 3rd, 2015, 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#25 Post by Mark Y » March 2nd, 2015, 4:23 pm

PeterJ wrote:Mike, this is your situation but, as someone who has spent 50 years in the retaIl and wholesale consumer product world, I agree with you 150%. I read Benchmark's reply here and, while I couldn't fault any of it, my thought went immediately to both the email you got AND to the tone you described receiving. I'm sure they're a good supplier, from some of the replies here, but this isn't their finest hour.
I AGREE Peter.. champagne.gif
Put aside right/wrong, who's good/bad, etc... all i've heard is that Benchmark's a very good store. put that aside for a sec. Is the OP being unreasonable? put that aside too..

So the OP wanted 10% off on a few more bottles? what's that? $20? $30? On one hand u can say is it worth it to the OP? but really is it worth it to the store?!?!

This can't possibly be worth
- the 1* yelp review
- the lost of the sale
- loss of future sale from this customer
- the grief of having their VPs having to respond to emails etc etc etc?
VPs better have something better to do than this? driving the business for more impact than $20-30??

Give the sales manager some discount latitude to drop $20, and be done with it? I don't mean give it here there and everywhere to everyone.. but geez when the person SHOWS YOU an email FROM YOU saying you would, even if it's razor thin margins, it's $20! $30? $50?? there's gotta be some cost/benefit analysis at a certain point right?
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#26 Post by PeterJ » March 2nd, 2015, 4:39 pm

Are you agreeing with me or not?? You're responding directly to me as if you may not be, but I have no idea why.
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#27 Post by PeterJ » March 2nd, 2015, 4:39 pm

Duplicate
Last edited by PeterJ on March 2nd, 2015, 5:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#28 Post by Mark Y » March 2nd, 2015, 4:51 pm

PeterJ wrote:Are you agreeing with me or not?? You're responding directly to me as if you may not be, but I have no idea why.
I disagree... neener
actually no, i agree... fixed the post. [cheers.gif]
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#29 Post by M A T T H A R T L E Y » March 3rd, 2015, 6:22 am

Bill Lewis wrote:Fair response and good advice, Eric, thanks.

FWIW, here's the text from the e-mail copied word-for-word:

Hi Bill,

Thank you for you for your email. I will hold shipment until you add more bottles. Please call the sales department and let them know about YOUR 10% discount, they are happy to help you place another order.





Best Regards,

Rayna Halsell
Client Relations Representative
Cellar Shipping Coordinator
rhalsell@benchmarkwine.com

Benchmark Wine Group
445 Devlin Rd.
Napa, CA 94558
Telephone 707-255-3500
Fax 707-255-3503

From: ____________@yahoo.com [mailto:___________@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2015 5:04 AM
To: Rayna Halsell
Subject: Re: BWG Shipment

Hi-

I'd like to add to this order before it ships and use the 10% discount. I will call later to discuss, or call me at ________________ Thanks.
Here is the issue - the client rep told you to "let them know about YOUR 10% discount". Emphasis is mine. You did not reference in your e-mail that this was to re-use the first time purchase discount. For all she knew you had a 10% discount coupon...which you did not. Was there reference anywhere in your e-mail that this was regarding the 1st purchase 10% discount. Seems like that would be a pretty easy mistake to make.

What purpose does the 1 start yelp review serve? You even state:
Bill Lewis wrote:They asked if I wanted anything else at the time I ordered, because the 10% was a 1st time purchase deal only. I said no.
You made a purchase using a discount. They told you it was one time only. You said you were done with the transaction. You tried to go back to the well for whatever reason. A miscommunication occurred due to lack of understanding what discount was being referred to in the e-mail and you were again told the discount was a one time thing. You take it to the interwebs because justice has not been served.

You also state in your yelp review that there is absolutely no mention of the 5% cancellation fee on their website. Completely untrue:
Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.24.58 AM.png
Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.24.58 AM.png (59.08 KiB) Viewed 6020 times
What should the punishment be for posting a complete falsehood about a business online?

Sure they could have caved and given you the $20. But why? They already told you it was one time only and you confirmed you were done with the transaction? Why should they change their policy because you changed your mind?
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#30 Post by Bill Lewis » March 3rd, 2015, 6:44 am

Matt-

You are correct, I did not discuss the first time 10% discount in my e-mail.

As for the 5% cancellation fee, as I mentioned, I did not see it on the website at the time of cancellation, and I raised that with Benchmark directly in my e-mail to the VP of Operations. It is possible I missed the policy online, although I looked pretty carefully at their site before sending my e-mail. It's also possible the language was added after the fact, as this all occurred over a month ago.

I did not post any falsehood. In fact, I specifically stated that I placed the order and told them I didn't want any more when I called, because I didn't want to mislead anyone here. I then followed up with an e-mail requesting to add the 10% discount. While the rep. could have checked my order (assuming there was more than one 10% discount going around at the time - Mike from Benchmark's email above suggests there couldn't have been), it's possible she misunderstood.

However, I think you missed my bigger point. I went to Benchmark and tried to work this out privately. They first got very rude with me, and then when I brought it to management level, they ignored me. So, I posted a Yelp response - which is really the purpose of things like Yelp, and they ignored me then as well, even though they had my contact information. Only when I came to a wine board did they pay attention, and then only to defend themselves, but still not attempt to even so much as apologize for their employee's rude behavior or for ignoring me. Instead they claim they sent me an email which I never received.

Look, they can run their business any way they choose. A $50 discount would not have thrown their margins into any more of a disarray had I ordered the extra bottles when I first called, or after I called to add to the order. Similarly, the $50 to me is not the end of the world. What bothered me was behavior of the employee and the complete lack of concern by management to follow up until the issue was made public.

Just like any business, if someone has a complaint, you hope they take it to management first, so it can be resolved. Sometimes that resolution is a firm, but polite, "No," and other times it is acceding to the customer's request or meeting in the middle. But when a company ignores its customer's complaint, then I'm not sure it's the customer's fault for repeating the story.

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#31 Post by M A T T H A R T L E Y » March 3rd, 2015, 6:54 am

Bill Lewis wrote:
I did not post any falsehood.

From your yelp review:
Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.53.21 AM.png
Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.53.21 AM.png (133.76 KiB) Viewed 6011 times
Bill Lewis wrote: However, I think you missed my bigger point. I went to Benchmark and tried to work this out privately.

Work out what? That you were confused when they told you the 10% discount was a one time only deal, and when you tried and use it again (knowing you were not going to get the discount) and it did not work you got upset?
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#32 Post by Bill Lewis » March 3rd, 2015, 7:08 am

Work out the fact that I was treated rudely. Giving me "what I want," and treating me with courtesy are 2 different things. I was not treated with courtesy, and then was ignored, and you seem to act as if it's NBD.

As mentioned above, I wasn't confused, but there was clearly a misunderstanding which festered into anger when I wasn't even given the courtesy of a response.

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#33 Post by Brian Tuite » March 3rd, 2015, 7:11 am

So the purpose of places like Yelp is to out businesses as a revenge for not having your way with them? No wonder I never use it.

I am a business owner and I don't even know if there is a Yelp review of my business. I'd venture a guess that Benchmark does not pay attention to Yelp either which explains their lack of a photo or other pertinent information on their business. The fact that someone from Benchmark is an active participant here is not surprising though given the high number of collectors and the fact that Mike is a Wine Geek like us.

Only seeing their response and not your inquiry makes it tough to be fair in judging what happened from the outside. Not hearing the tone on both ends of the conversation...

When I have had any issues with a Benchmark purchase in the past, corked or otherwise bad wine, my dealings have been satisfactory. Their terms of service page is pretty long and I never read it until I had an issue but everything is spelled out pretty well. Claiming that they amended their sales agreement to cover up a $20 discount issue is a bit of a reach IMO.

Sometimes outing a business online can backfire depending on where you do it or where you share it, sometimes not. I bet both sides of this issue learned a little bit from it.
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#34 Post by M A T T H A R T L E Y » March 3rd, 2015, 7:37 am

Bill Lewis wrote:Work out the fact that I was treated rudely. Giving me "what I want," and treating me with courtesy are 2 different things. I was not treated with courtesy, and then was ignored, and you seem to act as if it's NBD.

As mentioned above, I wasn't confused, but there was clearly a misunderstanding which festered into anger when I wasn't even given the courtesy of a response.
I have no idea how you were treated - we're only getting one side of the story here - but you were clearly confused.
Bill Lewis wrote:
I called and explained that I wanted to purchase more wine and add it to the existing order to the first woman who answered the phone. When I mentioned the discount, she said the discount was only available for my first order, and I told her that this was my first order. She asked me to hold, and I waited for about 3 minutes, when someone else answered the phone.

The second woman with whom I spoke called me "Richard" (as opposed to my name). She told me that she took my original order, and that she couldn't apply the coupon because it would be a whole new sales number, and the system wouldn't accept it. I told her I had received the e-mail that said I could use the 10% discount, and read it to her. She then asked me to hold, and put a third person on the phone.
In no part of that e-mail did it state you could use the first time customer 10% discount. It merely told you to alert the salesperson to YOUR discount (of which you did not have one).
Bill Lewis wrote: Unlike the first two, the third person had a tone of attitude in her voice, and said that she could not apply the 10%. I mentioned that this was my first order, and that the wine was still at Benchmark. I also mentioned the 10% confirming e-mail.
Again, there was no confirming e-mail. They confirmed nothing in that e-mail.
Bill Lewis wrote: The woman essentially said the person who e-mailed me didn't know what she was talking about (i.e. that this order was from a while back), which I found unlikely given I sent it before they opened for business that day, but possible. She then reiterated the concept of the new sales number, and I said, "Look, this is purely a customer service issue. This is my first time buying from you, and we are only talking about a ~$50 discount. You haven't shipped the wine, and it's still sitting there. I'm not sure why the 10% couldn't be applied as this is all a first-time order." She argumentatively stated that I would already have the wine if I hadn't asked Benchmark to hold it, and again stated she was unable to apply the 10%. Because of her attitude more than the lack of discount, I then mentioned that I would simply like to cancel my order.
It was not a first time order. They told you that when you made your first order. They asked if you wanted to add anything and you said NO. So now you are telling them this is your first order. It was not. It was going to be your second order.
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#35 Post by M A T T H A R T L E Y » March 3rd, 2015, 7:40 am

Bill Lewis wrote:Work out the fact that I was treated rudely. Giving me "what I want," and treating me with courtesy are 2 different things. I was not treated with courtesy, and then was ignored, and you seem to act as if it's NBD.

As mentioned above, I wasn't confused, but there was clearly a misunderstanding which festered into anger when I wasn't even given the courtesy of a response.

Either way your yelp review is a clear misrepresentation of the facts regarding their website and the 5% cancellation fee.
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#36 Post by Bill Lewis » March 3rd, 2015, 7:42 am

Matt- I'm not sure why you are making this so personal, but clearly you're not reading my responses clearly, and, as a result, you are twisting my words. I'm done responding.

Brian - I use Yelp infrequently as well - only when I've either had an excellent experience, or when I've had a really poor one. Most of my reviews fall into the excellent category. As I said, I'm a believer in giving fair, discreet feedback when it's bad. When businesses don't follow up, then the point is to let others know of my experience.

You asked for a copy of my response to Benchmark, which is below. However, the consistent opinion on here is that I should, "let it go." People make mistakes, have a bad day, etc. I was angered by the treatment I received and the lack of follow up. However, at this point, I'm sure Benchmark doesn't want to do business with me any more than I want to do it with them. So, I'm ending my responses here as it's gone on a bit too long. To be clear, Benchmark did credit my credit card the same day, as requested, for the full amount.

Fw: BWG Shipment

From: me

Jan 28

To: _______@benchmarkwine.com

_____________-

In the off chance you did not get this, I am sending it again. If you've chosen to ignore my e-mail, then there's no need to respond.

-Bill

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: ___________@yahoo.com>
To: __________@benchmarkwine.com
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2015 2:57 PM
Subject: Fw: BWG Shipment

__________-
We have not met, but I just canceled my first, and last, order with your company.

You see, I originally ordered 4 bottles, and used the first time purchaser/10% discount, 10 days ago. I asked for the wine to be held and shipped today due to cold temps here.

Yesterday, I was searching your inventory, as I knew the wine would ship today, and sent the e-mail far below this AM, with the intention of adding 2 more bottles to the order, assuming the 10% discount would apply. Ms. Halsell responded it would, as you can see below, and I called about 60 minutes ago to add to my order.

I explained that I wanted to purchase more wine and add it to the existing order to the first woman who answered the phone. When I mentioned the discount, she said the discount was only available for my first order, and I told her that this was my first order. She asked me to hold, and I waited for about 3 minutes, when someone else answered the phone.

The second woman with whom I spoke called me "Richard" (as opposed to my name, which is Bill). She told me that she took my original order, and that she couldn't apply the coupon because it would be a whole new sales number, and the system wouldn't accept it. I told her I had received the below e-mail from Ms. Halsell, and read it to her. She then asked me to hold, and put "________" on the phone.

Unlike the first two, ________had a tone of attitude in her voice, and said that she could not apply the 10%. I mentioned that this was my first order, and that the wine was still at Benchmark. I also mentioned the below e-mail. _________essentially said Ms. Halsell didn't understand what she was talking about (i.e. that this order was from a while back), which I found unlikely, but possible. ______ then reiterated the concept of the new sales number, and I said, "Look, this is purely a customer service issue. This is my first time buying from you, and we are only talking about a ~$50 discount. You haven't shipped the wine, and it's still sitting there. I'm not sure why the 10% couldn't be applied as this is all a first-time order." She argumentatively stated that I would already have the wine if I hadn't asked Benchmark to hold it, and again stated she was unable to apply the 10%. While I find the word "can't" to be misplaced in the realm of customer service, especially among smaller business, I then mentioned that I would simply like to cancel my order.

_________next informed me that Benchmark would charge me 5% for the cancellation. Incredulous, I asked why, given Benchmark still had the wine, and had been holding my money for almost 2 weeks. _______told me the credit card company would charge Benchmark this amount for reversing the charge. I knew this to be a false statement, and said "I've never heard of that." She then backtracked and said Benchmark now needed to put the wine back in its inventory and remove it from the packaging. For what it's worth, I see nothing about either the 10% or the 5% policy mentioned anywhere on your website.

Benchmark is free to set the policies it wants, and, I would argue, is free to modify (or not modify) them as they choose to benefit (or not benefit) customers. I am a new customer, and Benchmark did not "owe" me anything, including adding the 2 bottles to the order at the 10% discount. While I find it would have taken a small, but simple, act of customer service to make a "1-time exception," Benchmark did not need to do that either. What bothers me, though, was the attitude and outright lie of your employee.

Regardless of how much I was planning on spending, or would spend in the future, with Benchmark, customer service should be a priority. Instead, I felt like I was being accused of doing something wrong, or trying to slip something by Benchmark. When I refused to accept "No," simply because that was the easy answer, I received an attitude that would have been more properly presented to a shoplifter, and not someone who wanted to spend an additional $500+ with your company.

Regardless, I would appreciate a full credit on my card by the close of business today. I realize it may take a few days to go back against my balance, but please send me proof of same via e-mail today.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss the matter further, please feel free to call me at _______________. Otherwise, I thank you in advance for your cooperation.

-Bill

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#37 Post by Ken V » March 3rd, 2015, 7:51 am

I have had nothing but good dealings with Benchmark for many years now. Whatever happened, I would just chalk it up to a one-time thing and let it go.
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#38 Post by Brian Tuite » March 3rd, 2015, 7:56 am

You insinuated they ignored your email and then accused them of trying to rip you off for 5% by modifying their policy.

I wouldn't have a tone in my voice either newhere
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#39 Post by M A T T H A R T L E Y » March 3rd, 2015, 9:27 am

Bill Lewis wrote:As I said, I'm a believer in giving fair, discreet feedback when it's bad. When businesses don't follow up, then the point is to let others know of my experience.
Yet there are parts of your review that are completely untrue...so what about that?
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#40 Post by PeterJ » March 3rd, 2015, 12:26 pm

As often happens, both sides of this seem to have made mistakes. The OCD part of me likes to start at the beginning with the email that Mike interpreted to allow him to get the discount on bottles added.

"Thank you for you for your email. I will hold shipment until you add more bottles. Please call the sales department and let them know about your 10% discount, they are happy to help you place another order."

The wording of that statement is self-contradictory. "Another order" implies a NEW, separate, order which would not be entitled to a discount, yet Mike is told to "let them know about the 10%". Why? ....... if there would be no discount on the addition.

This discussion could go on forever I suppose, and is now being colored by emotion on both sides. I still don't know why Benchmark hasn't dealt with that one email that I think started the whole issue, even to just say that employee was wrong or was misunderstood. Regardless, Benchmark's position is clear and so is Mike's. Time to walk away.

See...... this is why the lawyers make most of the money in lawsuits. It quickly loses track and gets down to a pissing contest.
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#41 Post by M. Sai » March 3rd, 2015, 1:15 pm

Apologies for my slow reply – I have been discussing with staff exactly what happened, as quite a bit happened over the phone and I wanted to get a full picture of the situation.

If we were bigger and had a full-time PR agency managing our online presence, I imagine that they would advise that we let this dog lie, however I’m really not happy with how Mr. Lewis has portrayed our staff throughout this entire ordeal. Our customer service team in particular is the best it has ever been in the 5+ years I have been affiliated with Benchmark. They do their best with every customer who is reasonable (99.99999%), but they are also very good at holding their ground when a customer tries to bend our policies, ‘just this one time’. They have a very tough job and I absolutely respect that they bear the brunt of any mistake that other team members make - doing so with a smile.

The following is a full recount of what happened, and why it happened. From my perspective, our team tried to go above and beyond for Mr. Lewis, however a first time buyer’s discount and detail oriented customer service to make sure his order shipped at the requested ship date was not enough for him.

1) Mr. Lewis placed his first order with BWG on 1/9/15, using the First Time Buyer code, and requested a ship date of 1/19/15. While placing that order, Mr. Lewis was informed by our sales person that this promo code was only available to him once, and perhaps he would like to save it for a bigger order. He opted to use it for that order and we obliged.

To be clear, when an order is placed, it is finalized in our system – bottles cannot be ‘added to’ the order at a later date for inventory and accounting reasons. The order would have been shipped within 72 hours, but Mr. Lewis asked that we Hold for a specific date. We often provide the service of holding orders in our warehouse and shipping on a convenient date for the client, and Mr. Lewis took advantage of the service. In the event the customer would like to place additional orders, we are happy to consolidate those orders with the original and give the best possible per bottle shipping rate.

I believe this is the root cause of this entire issue – Mr. Lewis made the assumption that he would be able to ‘add bottles’ to an order after the fact, even though he was told directly that he would only be able to use the discount on one order.

2) On 1/16/15, Mr. Lewis’ Customer Service Rep sent him a courtesy shipping notice to remind him that we would be shipping his order on the requested shipping date – as we always do for our customers. This is to make sure the customer still wants to ship on that date and to make sure someone will be available to receive the shipment when it arrives.

3) Mr. Lewis replied to the shipment notification, saying that he wanted to add bottles to the shipment and receive the 10% discount again. If you read the email again that Mr. Lewis posted, you will see that his customer service rep made no promises, she just asked him to call our sales department and let them know about the discount. Our customer service team does not keep track of discounts, that is the sales team’s job.

4) When Mr. Lewis called to place a second order to be combined with his first for shipment, he was kindly reminded by two members of our sales team that the First Time Buyer promo was only available to him once, and he opted to use it on his first order.

5) After expressing dissatisfaction with our response, he was transferred to our Operations Manager. By this time, Mr. Lewis was not in the greatest of moods and when she held her ground on the subject he immediately asked to have the order cancelled. She obliged and waived the 5% restocking fee.

Our Operations Manager is very good at what she does and any upset customer phone calls typically land in her lap – the phone call from Mr. Lewis was not her first rodeo. When she does receive these phone calls, she is very direct and matter-of-fact about the situation. Perhaps the tone might be misconstrued as rude when the caller is upset, but I am often in the room when they happen – at no time is she rude or patronizing.

6) Within a few hours of that phone call, I received notice from Yelp that a review had been posted on our profile – which was the One Star review that I referenced in my first post.

Perhaps there is a fundamental misunderstanding between Benchmark and Mr. Lewis on what customer service is. We do our best to go above and beyond by giving our clients on-demand access to rare wines that cannot often be found anywhere else, and detail oriented service after the sale to make sure your prized wines arrive safely at your doorstep. However, given the constrained supply of the wines we sell, we don’t discount – save a select few rare circumstances. A customer’s mistaken assumption is not a good reason to extend a discount on wines that will easily sell otherwise at the original, market leading price. If this was an auction and Mr. Lewis had been outbid, would we still be having the same conversation? Our team did their best to kindly inform Mr. Lewis that his assumption was incorrect, however that was not enough.

Throughout this ordeal, many adjectives have been used to describe our team – which I completely disagree with. The team made an honest effort to satisfy Mr. Lewis using the tools that they had available – tools that seem to be very agreeable to our many happy customers. This same misunderstanding has happened in the past (one of the reasons this discount is no longer available), however we have managed to (almost) always resolve the situation equitably. At the end of the day, you can’t make everyone happy…and we’re okay with that.
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#42 Post by Mark Y » March 3rd, 2015, 2:05 pm

Mike, i think i'm on your side with this whole ordeal in how your team handled it.. Certainly great reputation with the store from many folks here.

Just curious, as i wrote before.. isn't it easier just to give the 10% on the two (or whatever) additional bottles and avoid this entire ordeal?

your time spent on this, the Ops Manager's time, all the emails back and forth.. all that time has got to be worth more than whatever that discount was gonna be? (not to mention the negativity, the yelp review, the upset/lost customer, etc etc).. maybe it isn't.. but sure seems like it?

what was the cost/benefit analysis in letting this clusterf* get to this stage vs granting a $20 discount?
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#43 Post by M. Sai » March 3rd, 2015, 2:23 pm

Mark - the intention is never to create a situation like this. Our team members are given their 'tool box' of remedies to handle customer service situations based on company policy. If there is a situation where some asks for the next manager, etc., we will not reverse our front line employee’s actions if they have followed the policy – because that creates employee morale problems. Frankly, discouraging a valuable employee is much more damaging than the potential upsetting of one customer who is asking for a ‘favor’. Obviously there are extreme cases where that paradigm is over-ridden, but using the First Time Buyer discount a second time is not one of those situations.

We can’t anticipate that someone is going to go to Yelp and then post it WB almost a month later – after working with thousands of customers over a decade; this is the first time something like this has been taken to such extremes.
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#44 Post by Mark Y » March 3rd, 2015, 2:28 pm

M. Sai wrote:Mark - the intention is never to create a situation like this. Our team members are given their 'tool box' of remedies to handle customer service situations based on company policy. If there is a situation where some asks for the next manager, etc., we will not reverse our front line employee’s actions if they have followed the policy – because that creates employee morale problems. Frankly, discouraging a valuable employee is much more damaging than the potential upsetting of one customer who is asking for a ‘favor’. Obviously there are extreme cases where that paradigm is over-ridden, but using the First Time Buyer discount a second time is not one of those situations.

We can’t anticipate that someone is going to go to Yelp and then post it WB almost a month later – after working with thousands of customers over a decade; this is the first time something like this has been taken to such extremes.
Makes sense Mike... keep up the good work! [cheers.gif]
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#45 Post by RS Beck » March 3rd, 2015, 3:34 pm

I don't know how anyone could profitably run a business honoring imaginary discounts based on a fear that if they don't, they'll get a bad Yelp review. I doubt I am the only one who sifts through Yelp reviews with a heavy duty sifter. The best businesses I've patronized very often have four stars on Yelp because of the crank reviews that drag scores down.

IMO, it's impossible to accommodate everyone's personal reality and make everyone happy.

In life or in business.
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#46 Post by RS Beck » March 3rd, 2015, 4:07 pm

" yet Mike is told to "let them know about the 10%". Why? ....... if there would be no discount on the addition."

IMO, she was accepting his assertion and passing him off to someone who would be in a position to verify.

IMO, the OP was fraudulent from the start. What he wanted was an exception to the policy that had been explicitly stated to him. Benchmark even produced and put the original person on the line who had stated that policy to him to remind him of what he already knew, but wasn't willing to accept.

An honest approach from the OP, in my opinion, would have been to admit from the start that he was aware that he had no more discount coming but was hoping for an exception to the policy. Then, he could have been passed to a person who could explain to him that they would not make an exception - which is what seems to have happened eventually anyway.

It seems to me the OP first decided his position was reasonable, then took it further and assumed this actually conjured the further unapproved discount into existence.

Magical thinking.

He was simply passed along people who were more and more equipped to handle this type of situation.
Last edited by RS Beck on March 3rd, 2015, 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#47 Post by John O' » March 3rd, 2015, 4:16 pm

Bill Lewis wrote:Matt- I'm not sure why you are making this so personal, but clearly you're not reading my responses clearly, and, as a result, you are twisting my words. I'm done responding.
-Bill
Good, he's gone. Don't much cotton to people who want what they want when they want it and if they don't get it they're going to make life miserable for the offender.
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#48 Post by Bill Lewis » March 3rd, 2015, 4:26 pm

Mike-

I said I was not going to respond, but I agree we need to keep the facts and the emotions separate, which is what I will try to do.

1. Fact: I placed an order with a valid discount good for 10% off my first purchase. I was told at the time the discount was only good for my first order. I asked for delayed shipping, which was agreed to.

2. Fact: I got a shipping notification and requested that I be able to add to the order (my first order) and include the 10% to the added amounts. I received an e-mail saying that would be "no problem," with the response (copied far above) making it clear Benchmark would be applying the 10% I received on my existing order to the bottles which I was now adding.

3. Fact: Based on my opinion that the 10% add was acceptable and that because Benchmark still had my "first order" to which I was adding, I called and spoke with a polite employee who, when I explained the fact it was my first order put me on hold. There was no disagreement, no "talk back" from her or me, just a request to hold.

4. Fact: After holding for quite a while, I spoke with employee #2, and explained the situation. She said they could not apply the 10%, and then I mentioned the e-mail. She asked me to read it, which I did. Again, no disagreement, no "talk back," just another request to hold. At no time did I ask for anyone "higher up," I merely explained the situation and the fact my first order was still at Benchmark.

5. Fact: Employee # 3 got on the phone and said that they could not apply the 10%.

6. Opinion: I believed Employee # 3 was rude and argumentative, and suggested I was trying to "get away" with something. At that point, between her tone and what I believed was a lack of customer service, I got angry. Look, I may have been a sensitive Sam that day, or the employee might have been having a bad day, but I, as the customer, rightly or wrongly perceived a slight that was not called for under the circumstances.

7. Fact: In anger, I then asked to cancel my order, and was told I would either get a store credit (with a store that had just angered me quite a bit), or I could pay ~$50 for the privilege of getting my money back. I was also told that this was company policy.

8. Opinion: I checked the website carefully, and did not see anything about the 10% or 5% policies mentioned by employee #3. It's possible I missed it, as I make mistakes. However...

9. Fact: although the 5% policy is now on the website, Benchmark has never said it was there on the date I went to cancel. I would not have said it was not there in my e-mail to the Director of Operations if I had noticed it (if for no other reason than the statement could be easily refuted with a link).

10. Fact: Because I was angry, I wrote an e-mail to the Director of Operations (see above), and tried to be as dispassionate as I could. Again, I felt like my integrity had been impugned, and I was upset.

11. Fact: My email was not responded to for more than a week, so I followed up. I received a response that I would get an answer the next day.

12. Fact: I never did receive an answer to my e-mail. Despite the claim one was sent by Mike above, I do not have it, and a copy of it has not been posted here, so I will have to take the statement at face value.

13. Fact: Between the initial response I believed to be rude, and the failure to respond, twice, to my e-mail, I went to Yelp.

14. Fact: Despite getting notification of the Yelp complaint, Benchmark chose not to respond to that either. More than 1 month goes by.

15. Fact: Still upset at how I felt treated, compounded by the non-response, I posted here.

16. Fact: Based upon my post, Benchmark decided to respond here. It never made attempts to discuss the matter with me personally whether via e-mail, telephone, etc.

17. Opinion: I got treated poorly, and I did what I thought was the right thing - bring it to management and give them a chance to avoid losing a customer. They chose not to do anything despite having multiple chances. So, I took my grievance to a larger audience, and despite expecting to receive at least an "I'm sorry if you misunderstood our employee, but we stand behind her actions" I received a response intended to win over the larger audience. Fair enough, that's what the VP of Marketing is supposed to do.

18. Fact: No one here has explained why, whether or not I was in the right about the 10% (let's assume I was wrong for the sake of argument), that it was proper "customer service" to ignore, repeatedly, my attempt to discuss the matter, even if the answer was to politely tell me "no." Again, as stated in one of my earlier posts, I partially expected an "I'm sorry there was a misunderstanding, but we stick by our employee" type of e-mail. At least that would have said to me that they heard my story, but disagreed. The non-response is what really caused me to escalate the matter.

19. Fact: Regardless of claims, margins would not have been materially less had I ordered all 6 bottles on my initial call, or ordered them 4 and 2, with a 10% discount at each call. The sole cost would have been opening up a sealed box, resealing, and paying someone to do it.

20. Fact: The 10% has been discontinued. Maybe Google found me an old code, and, unbeknown to me, Benchmark stood behind it anyway. I have no idea, but clearly that has been discontinued since my purchase and this issue. That leads me to believe that other policies were changed in response as well (5% policy), but I cannot prove that one way or the other at this point.

21: Opinion: As stated, I felt like I was rudely treated and then ignored. Maybe I'm just super sensitive, but I doubt that anyone here, in their honest opinion, would be accepting of this type of treatment. Maybe they would have let it go, but to me it was the principle of the matter.

22. Opinion: If you read the Yelp post and my e-mail above, you'll see I did what I could to be fair in my assessment of the situation, as I saw it. I did not name call, make demands, threaten, etc. I was professional and polite. Had I been an as***le, I would have expected to be ignored. However, I tried, in good faith to resolve the issue.

That's it.

Thomas Puricelli
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Issues with Benchmark Wine Group (WOT)

#49 Post by Thomas Puricelli » March 3rd, 2015, 5:06 pm

Fact: If I ever consider getting involved with a retail business I will (1) re-read this thread, (2) decide against pursuing whatever retail business I was considering and (3) say a quiet "thank you" to Bill and the folks at Benchmark for the priceless and timeless education.

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PeterJ
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Issues with Benchmark Wine Group (WOT)

#50 Post by PeterJ » March 3rd, 2015, 8:01 pm

Thomas Puricelli wrote:Fact: If I ever consider getting involved with a retail business I will (1) re-read this thread, (2) decide against pursuing whatever retail business I was considering and (3) say a quiet "thank you" to Bill and the folks at Benchmark for the priceless and timeless education.
1. A very good friend of ours went into a retail business about 20 years ago having had no experience in it other than as a customer. After just a few months, every time I'd see her, she'd ask me how in the world I could have done it for so long and stayed sane. As I said up thread, this whole thing hinges mostly on the wording of an email that is ambiguous, at least if you're the customer. Emotion took it well beyond that, as is so often the case in these things.
Peter J@ckel

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