Benchmark Wine Group: Caution!

First I’d like to say I’ve been VERY pleased with my experiences using Benchmark Wine Group (as they are often my go to guys) and have even visited them personally at their office S. of Napa. However, here are words of advice from recent activity. In the past purchases were limited to a few times per month and I delt by phone to sales personnel there. As they have expanded their company their acquisitions have increased and so has my purchases (often 3x per week) so now I do my shopping online using their computer system. NOW: I’M NOW GOING BACK TO CALLING THEM BY PHONE, AS TWICE THIS MONTH I’VE PURCHASED WINE ONLINE & PAID THRU CREDIT CARD ONLY TO GET AN E-MAIL NOTICE TO N/C AS THE WINE WAS ‘BOUGHT OUT FROM UNDER YOU’. I WOULD EXPECT THIS TO HAPPEN AT AN AUCTION AS PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO PAY MORE THAN YOUR BID AND GET THE BOTTLE(S), BUT NOT TRU ONLINE SALES. My last lost was a bottle of Chateau Montelena Estate that I paid $105 from them before, and I recently bought the same bottle from them online for $85; or so I thought I did. Recent calls from both their sales manager and shipping coodinator expressed concern, understanding and a clarification that a upgrade to their online computer sales system is underway and should be completed within a year. HOWEVER, I MYSELF AM DONE AND WILL GO BACK TO A MORE EFFICIENT WAY OF CALLING IN MY WINE ORDERS. [soap.gif]
Lastly, I really like these guys and have made extremely satisfying purchases in the past and hope they solve this glitch soon.

There are no good old wines, just good bottles of old wines. said before

FWIW I bought a crazy quantity of Burgundy from these guys in the spring, online, with no glitches whatsoever…

Love Benchmark. Wonderful to deal with.

Love Benchmark …
ALWAYS call in my orders - when those emails hit the screaming deals go fast …

not sure why you are having problems but I am pretty sure their website is real time

Sorry about your experience, but I’ve had nothing but great service from them.

Count me in as another happy customer of Benchmark.

I am not sure what the purpose of your original post is.

I will say that glitches do occur. Guess what? I bought that same bottle of Montelena as you did and got a an email from them saying they apologized. I was refunded my money and all was good.

I buy a ton of wine every year. Benchmark gets the most $$ out of any retailer I deal with to the tune of many 1000’s of dollars.

I have to say that I probably do 50 transactions or more a year with them and they have ALWAYS been great to deal with, I usually do not respond to these types of threads, but the folks at Benchmark have been just wonderful to deal with.

As for the phone ? I get their emails, when i see something I want, or something on their site, I email Nick or Mike and usually they reply within minutes. At times, I get beat out (like yesterday on the 66 LMHB). It happens. It is the nature of the business and you cannot get upset for missing out on one bottle of wine. For pete’s sake, its ONLY ONE BOTTLE OF WINE.

I think this thread created was irresponsible of you to vent to the rest of us. You thread indicates negative , but you say in your post that you like Benchmark. So again, what is the point of this thread.

If you want the best way to deal with them, its emailing Nick or Mike directly. I am sure Whitney would make herself available as well. Danielle in shipping is a doll and goes way above and beyond the call of duty to get shipments out almost immediately.

Ask them how many times a year I speak to them on the phone? Maybe 6 times? Email with those guys works best and they are very responsive.

And finally, the provenance of their wines for the most part is impeccable. All of the old wines I have bought from them and consumed have been perfectly stored bottles and delivered great enjoyment for the most part. On a scale of 1 to 10, Benchmark get a 10 from me. For all the wine I have purchased ONLY ONE BOTTLE had to be refunded because either someone else bought it first or they could not find the bottle , or it was mislabeled in the system, only ONE out of the 100’s I buy from them yearly, I will take that any day of the week.

I bit on some great deals last week. Very professional interactions and cheap shipping, at least in CA.

[quote=“Alan Zee”]I am not sure what the purpose of your original post is.

<It sure seems pretty straight forward to me. Great place to buy, but use caution if ordering online. A confirmed order online may not be truely confirmed. Someone on the phone may palce an order after you and receive the wine while your order gets reversed. CALL IN YOUR ORDER!

Makes sense to me and the title is right on. [cheers.gif]

sorry disagree, I have worked most exclusively via email direct to Nick and Mike and works very well.

My point in asking the reason for this post , is I think it is somewhat ridiculous to post something of this nature. I still see no reason why he had to post this to “caution” us about benchmark’s system, when it seems he is the only one that has issue with it. I see no value in this topic and I think most will agree as well.

And I might add, Benchmark themselves say that online orders take top priority over telephone or email. I am constantly told by them that if I want to insure I get the wine, order it off the site. I have done at times and works for me when I really need to have that one bottle (which is not very often).

Thank you to everyone for the kind words.

Kevin – I feel your pain, it can be very frustrating when you are trying to buy a rare bottle and someone beats you to the punch. Given the nature of how we procure wines, there are rarely more than a few bottles of any single wine in a new collection. Coupled with the fact that the market continues to slide for many wines (especially California Cabernet), we have been able to offer some awesome deals lately. As a result, competition has been fierce – with the best deals going within minutes of our New Collection e-mails going out. Competing for those bottles is a game where the difference between orders can be just seconds, and the only fair way to deal with the situation is to work on a first-come, first-served basis.

Regarding our website, it does show or inventory in real-time. In fact, the background infrastructure of our website controls our entire inventory management system – so if someone from our sales team places an order for you, they are just doing so on the back-side of the website. However, the system we use was never designed to handle competing orders for the same product – hence the glitch were you receive an order confirmation with a zero quantity for that wine. Keep in mind that your card is never charged immediately when you place a web order, our customer service team reviews each order placed on our website before authorizing the final charge on your card. This glitch is something that is inherent with our current system, and will only be fixed when we have a new system in place.

In the mean time, I can offer some strategies to beat the competition:

E-mail Address – no e-mail campaign system can send an e-mail to thousands of addresses all at the same time. The e-mail server works in alphabetical order and starts from the top, sending e-mails as fast as it can, but still one at a time. Our customer list is 50k+, so it can take up to 45 minutes for a new e-mail to go out to all customers. If your e-mail address starts with the letter A, you will receive an e-mail soon after we say ‘go’, but those that have an e-mail that starts with Z could get it up to an hour later. Some of our customers have created a new e-mail address to receive our new collections that start with an ‘aaa’. In addition, some e-mail servers are faster than others – will have the e-mail in your inbox immediately, while I’ve seen Yahoo take hours to cough-up an e-mail.

Placing your order via Phone/e-mail/website – there is no fool-proof way of placing an order if you are going after a hotly contested bottle. To be honest, if you are proficient at navigating our website, placing the order yourself on the website is the fastest way of securing that bottle. Just remember, that the system does not reserve that bottle until you have hit the ‘Place Order’ button to finalize your order – placing it in your shopping cart does not reserve the bottle. When calling, the sales person that helps you will just be placing the order on the back side of the system and they are in the same competition – if web order comes in for that bottle, or if another sales person places an order for the same bottle, the same glitch will result.

Hopefully that helps, a big part of my job going forward will be to help improve our system – however it will take a while given the complexities of the situation. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask – either on this thread, via PM or via e-mail:

[swearing.gif] No wonder!

Count me as another satisfied Benchmark customer, despite their blatant anti-Zach policies.

Guys, to clarify:

1st, and formost this thread was intended to give SUGGESTION and warning to Call in orders rather than use Benchmarks online services at this time. (I believe I stated my case that I had NO problems with them until I began using their online services more vigoursly, somewhere reaching 8K just last year. The term I was given was ’ Bought out from under you ’ in an e-mail from their shipping coodinator.

2nd, I’ll further explain. The problem seems to be in their computer system as I entered online and thru a search webpage confirmed (the 1 bottle available), this item was then put into my shopping cart. After additional shopping I continued with checkout and payment and and e-mail receipt was sent to me with Order # and billing charge confirming transaction.

And lastly, I do understand it was just 2 bottles of the many I’ve procured successfully thru Benchmark. AND this is why it may seem questionable when I in my original thread praise them at the start and end. As such I will praise them AGAIN by saying: they have been the most fair for pricing, have been the most personable (I too know these guys by first name). My hope was that the computers be truly be made real-time (However as well explained by M. Sai this cannot be done perfectly all the time). I too will continue to use Benchmark as they often are the lowest prices out there, with the best personalized service; as credited here on this thread by many of you, but will just return to phone orders as it seems the safest way to ensure procurement of bottles at this time.

There are no good old wines, just good bottles of old wines. said before

Kevin, I have no horse in this race. Never done any business with these guys, but I think the title of the thread is pretty alarming, and before I read the thread, my inclination would have been to stay away from these guys. Seems pretty clear that there is no major issue here and perhaps a different title would be appropriate…"Benchmark: Sometimes calling is better than emailing’. I guess that’s not very exciting though, is it.

On the flip side, if EVERYONE picks up the phone to place an order everytime they get a retailer’s email, I can’t imagine everyone will get through when a good offer goes out via email.

But there certainly are times when I prefer to place an order over the phone, especially if I suspect that the website isn’t effective or up-to-date.



All else being equal, I suspect that your final outcome wouldn’t have been any different if you had called in, except that you would have heard in person that someone “bought it out from under you” instead of getting an e-mail later on.

With the current description of the system from Mike, it seems most effective to use the website, and to be quick about it when it’s a killer price that was announced to the mailing list. Instant inventory feedback at checkout would be handy, but the current system does seem fair, especially since they don’t charge your card until they verify inventory first.

(FWIW, I’ve ordered through Benchmark once, and had a good experience…)


Plus, ALL THE CAPITALIZATION in the post would suggest that the OP was pretty ticked off. My guess is that it is faster to order via the internet than to call, get put on hold (if an offer has gone out, the lines will probably be busy), and then have the agent look up and order the wine on the computer system. In fact, I would hope that Benchmark does not give favoritism to phone orders, as this defeats the purpose of online ordering in some respects. Mike, can you comment?

signed, Mo AAAAAK a n g

That doesnt make the pain of my “missing” 72 Swan any easier to bear.

He already addressed this: