B21 Wine in FL - Major Disappointment, Ending my 25+ Year Relationship with Them

I was initially quite loathe to saying anything on a public website. Not my style to criticize like that, especially at these times when we have bigger issues to worry about. But then my problem with this retailer morphed into a bigger problem, compounded by a snarky and contemptuous response by them, over this weekend. Now I’m just pissed.

So let me set this up. I’ve been buying from B21 the entire period of my wine sojourn. No telling how many thousands of dollars I have spent there Since 1992/93, this being one of my prime retailers. Plus I have turned many friends, family members and colleagues onto this wine store. What I like about this retailer, in particular, is that they make special van deliveries to key markets in FL, so I can build an order over time, and once I hit the purchase threshold, they deliver it by van. With the heat in FL, this is a big plus.

I had just hit a threshold and lined up some wine, like 2+ cases, for delivery. That day, only about 1/3-1/2 of the order shows up. While there was one wine I was waiting for, it was really no big deal, people make mistakes (so I thought). I send them an email just to let them know, assuming they would remedy things immediately. No response. Sent another email. No response. I think it was the 3rd or 4th email I sent near the end of that week, where they finally respond. It was clear that they did not know what transpired, so supposedly would look into it. Come next week, I hear nothing, so reach out again. After some more delays and emails, I am advised they located my order. So I ask them to put it on the next van delivery. I am advised that the remainder of the order does not meet the delivery threshold. And asked if I wanted to add more to cross the threshold. Of course I’m a bit peeved, and point out, that they messed this one up and should deliver it as I am only below the threshold because they didn’t deliver the whole order.

Over the next week or so, I am advised again that they are looking for my order (huh?), then they put it on for the next delivery. I’m like, cool, they realized belatedly that they messed up and are fixing things. The day before the delivery, the van is cancelled. No word as to why, nothing. I finally just ask them to cancel the order, and nicely ask for the contact information to the owner (Bob Sprentall), whom I know from the past. They would not give it to me. I asked twice. Then I called, and the call-in system is 100% computerized, no live voice, and no directory. I think that I asked again, but still nobody would give me his contact.

At that point, I’m like, f@ck them, I get Am Ex involved. I dispute the payments on wine that was never delivered, which to this day I do not know if they even located it. I emailed B21 to tell them that and specifically advised them to cancel all my orders, including some pre-arrivals (those are pay on delivery). I hear nothing.

About 6 weeks go by, I call Am Ex, and they say they’ve received no response from B21, but I have a temporary credit on my account, and they normally give the retailer 6-8 weeks to respond. If they do not respond, I get the permanent credit.

And within the hour, I get an email from B21, like nothing is wrong, saying that one of my pre-arrival wines was in and they charged my card. Again, this is after I told them to cancel. I has previously directed them to delete my credit card information. I call up Amex Ex to dispute it, and put B21 on total block. I email B21 to tell them this was an unauthorized charge and to refund it. To their credit, they did. Weren’t very nice about it, and even though I had yet again asked for the owner’s contact information, they would not respond to that specific question. I emailed them again to confirm that ALL orders are cancelled, then I get a snarky email from the customer service manager, saying they are doing that, and I will be charged a 10% restocking fee. Yes, I sent them I terse response, told them they have no authority to charge my card that 10% (called Amex Ex again to ensure a block was on), and asked for the owner’s contact yet again. No response whatsoever. This is from Friday.

Consider me very surprised by this. I am a businessman. I had a business fail during Covid, too. Times are tough for some folks. Wine retailers are NOT struggling, they are killing it right now. Everything I have been taught about customer service is that you bend over backwards to keep a good customer happy. I’ve been a loyal, 25-year customer of B21. I would love to have 25+ year clients. They treated me like I was dirt. Ironically, I am on a cycling/wine getaway with some buddies, all of them buy from b21. I laid out the whole story, showed them the emails - they were here when I got the snarky one - and they all said totally out of line. And they are pulling their business as well.

I remain most disappointed because the relationship was so good for so long. Does anyone know if the business has been sold, whether Bob Sprentall remains the owner? Every time I spoke with him, he was a class act. This just does not seem like his business anymore. I cannot do business with them.

His email starts with a b and ends with @b-21.com. If you know the structure of their employee emails, you might be able to guess his email.
Or install something on this website and they will give you the email.
https://www.zoominfo.com/p/Robert-Sprentall/14266511

He is on Linked IN as well if you want to connect there, and it might show his number if you make a connection.

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interesting. i had a very similar situation - though much simpler; ship a case of wine from their store to my hotel in south beach. it turned into a truly massive logistics project which eventually resulted in the wine being delivered a few days after we returned to NYC (i got a nice call from the front desk that my wine was here and would i like them to put in my room fridge). i’d say i called the store and spoke with 5 different people.

Just checked all emails. I did in fact tell them to delete my credit card information and cancel all orders. So they did move forward a month or so later using my credit card without my permission and over my specific directive.

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Damn sucks to hear. I’ve bought sporadically from them this past year after reading some of your posts complimenting them. Nothing crazy just a half case here and there. Hopefully Bob can advise and mend the relationship.

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Seems like a crazy way to treat a long term client

Just remove the words long term and you hit nail on the head.

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Thats a hard no for me. I’ve looked at purchasing from them several times, but ill pay a higher price for decent customer service.

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Moments like this make me glad for being a European citizen - you can quite quickly play the GDPR card. Oh, you didnt delete all of my personal data within 48 hours of being requested? That’s a breach. Oh, you didnt report the breach to the ICO within 48 hours of being told of the breach? That’s another breach.

Damn Robert, I know this was one of your go-to shops. I even bought a few things there on your recommendation. Well, all things come to an end I suppose

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This is an assumption, but having paid attention to the company over the many years, I think they have really moved more toward a national, Internet wine retailer business. I’m sure they currently have a huge volume of wine orders. What they have lost is the personal touch. They used to have very sophisticated sine industry personnel (Rhett Beilette, Steve Rayman etc) that many of us customers had relationships with, that would email you from time to time about certain wines they thought we should try. That was before state laws started to loosen up on out-of-state white shipments to private citizens. So while I was disappointed to have seen that personalized part of the business change, at least for many years they continued to execute the actual orders well. It just was no longer personalized, I place my orders, they sell it, and they deliver it when I hit a threshold. For all I know the complete ownership of the company has changed. It seems like a Walmart now.

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Bummer man, sorry to hear. I happened to be in Tarpon Springs a few weeks back and dropped in the store and purchased a few things. It has been a while, at least a year, since I have done the van delivery.

Sorry to hear all this. I’ve bought from them for years with no problems.
Please let us know should you get a satisfactory ending to this story.
Until that occurs, I’ll not buy!

Incompetent bumbling employees. It’s no wonder that they don’t want the owner hearing about this, regardless of if it’s still Bob or not.

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Robert- Bob is still the owner but they have made it difficult to get folks on the phone. Not sure why other than some changes due to covid and I think their volume is up quite a bit. I’ll send you Bob’s email. He is usually very responsive and I think he would hate to lose you as a customer.

Robert, sorry about your experiences.

Thanks, Fred. Much appreciated.

I just drove back from the beach and was reflecting on this whole thing. I’ve had my cathartic, I think I will pass on reaching out to the owner. I’ve spent enough time on this mess, including another call to Am Ex to make sure this retailer is blocked. Am Ex said them not deleting my credit card information on my request is a problem, and they are looking into that business practice. I’m very disappointed, and actually upset, that a retailer I used to love is basically gone for me. I am assuming that the owner decided to embark on an internet, transaction-based model over a customer-service model. There are no names and emails on the website, as far as I can tell. You cannot reach a live person. The call-in system is fully automated. That was not the case before. I assume this was a business decision, and I assume perhaps it means there is more volume now with the internet and the ease of interstate shipments. It’s really no longer a family business in the old sense of the word. If it remained customer-oriented, I do not think I would have experienced what I experienced. While I know in life there is some gray and “he said, she said” stuff in most disputes, but what cannot be disputed, or explained, is why they would respond to some of my emails but they never ever once would give me the contact information to the owner. I asked five separate times in five separate emails. These emails went to the sales department and the shipping department. No less than two people responded to me, including the rude person on Friday. So two “live” people acknowledged receipt of my emails, responded to part of them, but deliberately chose not to give me contact information. That’s pretty basic customer service, and for a family business, totally surprises me that the contact with the owners has basically been blocked. These employees failed, but customer service starts at the top. Seems like the owner checked out and nobody is properly training or monitoring these people.

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sorry that happened Robert. i don’t purchase much from them, but i’ll steer clear too.

Sorry to hear of such poor customer service toward you, Robert. Thank you for sharing however as I was planning a case purchase from them and will now look elsewhere

Businessman? I thought you were a country lawyer (which are run like charities, right?).
Sounds like a bad experience, but booze shops have been awfully busy during this pandemic, as they are an essential business supplying the troops. Response times have been slower. Also, many shops have some type of “restocking” (or whatever “sock-it-to-you” fee they call it) charge if you cancel. At any rate, sometimes we know when a relationship has ended and its time to move on.

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