Disappointing customer service at Christie's Signature Cellar auction

I’m always on the lookout for inexpensive Sauternes coming up at auction, and when I saw a couple of cases of 97 Bastor Lamontagne for $ 150 each, I thought that it was right in my wheelhouse and I bid on them.

I ended up with one of the cases and felt pretty good about about it. When it came time to check out, the shipping charges were extremely high and when I called them, they explained that it was because the ONLY shipping option was Fedex overnight unless I wanted to organize third party shipping by myself. After a couple more exchanges where I pleaded for a ground shipping option for all buyers as it would mean nothing more to them than printing a different label, their final response was to tell me that they were very sorry and would think about it in the future but for now overnight shipping was the only available option.

On top of that, I’ve now paid for overnight shipping over a week ago and I’m still waiting for my wine to show up.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.


So you think “overnight shipping” means they should actually ship it to you overnight? [snort.gif]


Had the same issue a while ago with them. Although it more pertained to them having to charge me sales tax for some reason even though they were shipping out of state.

Silly me. It must just be my ongoing stuggle with the English language. It’d be a lot simpler if everybody spoke French


Yes, they bounce you around a few times and eventually let you know that it’s their way or the highway.

I had purchased a case and a half of wine via auction and requested a shipping quote to Westport CT. Christies stores wine at and utilizes The Wine Cellarage in the Bronx for shipping. The distance between the warehouse and delivery point is approximately 45 miles. First I asked if I could piggyback on a local delivery truck if/when it would be in the area as there is a five case minimum for this service. A few emails/phone calls later I was told Westport was not in the Tri-State area. After explaining that it in fact was, I was told it was not an option. Ok fine. Then I was then offered FedEx Overnight at $73.81 as “the only shipping option.” After explaining that all deliveries from the NYC area would be overnight, I asked if regular ground would be available as paying to receive by 10am was unnecessary. I was told that ground was not an option as the wines could be harmed by the additional time on the truck. After offering that I would assume the risk, I was told they would check. The next day I was informed that, as an exception, I could ship via FedEx Ground at $61.07, including $4.24 for insurance. I quote “please be assured that this is the most competitive rate Christie’s Art Transport is able to get for shipping this property.” Well Christies, I think you should try harder. For the record, when I purchase at Zachys auction, they deliver for $18 per case. I realize Christies and Zachys are organized differently, but I/we are paying through the nose at Christies.

Note to self - “avoid Christies”

My understanding is that they have to charge sales tax in any state they conduct business in, which because of their real estate division is nearly all of them.

Of course, resellers should not be charged sales tax, but they claim to have no way to take it off the bill, nor do they have any way to send a proper invoice. This exchange with their customer service department was especially irritating:

Me: Please reinvoice me without sales tax, you have our resale certificate on file.

Christie’s Rep: It’s too late, you should have registered as a company bidder.

Me: I did that!

Different Christie’s Rep: Oh, sorry, we just like to know that, it doesn’t actually affect anything.

I pulled a bottle of the 97 Bastor Lamontagne that OP referred to last night.

It was drinking very well, quite mature, and to my tastes better than the 2001, which I think we’ve all finished off now.

It’s a crowd pleasing Sauternes, and pairs well with apple crumbly tart.

That’s also an unbelievable price the OP got – I’m thinking the one from our cellar must have been $25-$30 on release all those years ago.

In Sauternes/Barsac, 1997 was probably the best year in between 1990 and 2001, but doesn’t get much regard or bid, because of the general low status the red Bdx have today. Well maybe Y’quem gets the markets love, but that’s always on its own special planet.

Most likely that was the last of my 97 Sauternes. It seems like the remarkable naughts are more interesting hunting grounds now.

Just throwing this out there and kind of talking out of my ass, but the onus on managing shipping risks and state licensing and the like is somewhat of a big deal and a really big pain in the ass. FedEx and FedEx ground are organized a tad differently and it’s feasibly that part of the quiet “look the other way” relationships some shippers have with intrastate shipping may…just may…have something to do with this.

I’ve had the same problem. They also don’t ship to Nevada. (I guess they don’t have an agreement with the state.) Since they charge NY state sales tax even when shipping out of state, I just went there and collected my 6 bottles in person. Spent a few days as a tourist in NY.

Christies is pretty awful, but Sotheby’s is infinitely worse. Not the wine staff, who are professional, and are responsible for some really good product. But once you either get the wine, or try and bid, the rest of the company seems incapable of normal or in fact any customer service.

It took eight phone calls and about three hours to get an order picked up.

But my favorite was when I tried bidding at a recent auction.

I have been buying and selling both for myself and various clients since they did their first auction in 1994. I hate to think how much wine I have bought and sold through them, but let’s say a lot.

On this occasion, I put an absentee bid on something I really wanted just in case something went wrong, and figured I was registered, so I could bid on the rest of the sale on the net. No way. I tried logging in, and as they seem to have changed platforms or something, I was reduced to the status of a new user. And here is the kicker. They require 24 hours to process new users, so for this auction although I was able to buy a couple of lots by telephone, it was a tiny fraction of what I would have purchased on the net. This really screws the seller as well as the buyer.

Just so you know, there is a new clause in the selling agreements of both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. It is an incentive: in addition to their normal commissions, they are asking for an additional percentage if a lot goes over high estimate, which they attribute to their brilliant marketing. They will not however refund commission if it fails to hit low estimate and sells at the reserve. I sold some furniture at Christie’s recently, and they dropped this little bombshell on me at the last minute just before the sale. I had to threaten to pull everything in order to get it waived, but it really leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

It hasn’t reached the wine sales yet (too much competition) but I am sure they are waiting on just one of them to try it, and they will instigate these charges.

So when you file your sales tax return with the State you list the purchases that you already paid sales tax on and deduct that from your payment.