Esther Mobley on Shipping Costs, Supporting Small Wineries

All of that is just to say: Support the little guys. Buy good wine.

Bonus: Wine of the week is a 2019 Walter Scott Chardonnay.


A good article - and spot on indeed. The ‘amazon effect’ is real - or on this site, let’s call it the ‘denegoce effect’ [snort.gif]

It is costly to ship wine, and wineries that offer fairly ‘value priced’ wines don’t have a ton of margin to play with - and no, shipping is NOT a profit center for most wineries (though I have seen some OUTRAGEOUS shipping costs for some wineries in the past few years).

Interested to hear what others have to say on the issue . . .

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Shipping costs are as real as fruit, labor, equipment, etc.

In a world where shipping for almost every other consumer good is subsidized or included, wineries can either fight against the trend and lose or figure out how to incorporate subsidized or included ($1) shipping in their business.

I think most times I’ve seen crazy shipping charges is when someone has a shipping table wrong in their software.

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Don’t even need to read it. Shipping is HARD. We have a full time person that just does that. He started as a tasting room person with shipping responsibilities and now all he does is shipping. That’s it you say? That’s also managing and bringing in inventory (most wineries don’t have the capacity to carry tons of stock at the winery and while we’re better off than many it’s still inventory in and out all the time). It’s managing and purchasing shipping material (it takes up space, BTW). It’s working with the 2 main common carriers and if you think that’s fun…no. It’s getting everything right 100% of the time and even when the customer screws up (“Oops, I meant to have you ship it to my home/office/other home/wine storage/family member, etc. can you deal with that?”) you deal with it. It’s making sure the software is up to date. It’s tracking weather across the country. It’s managing time (how many packages and how long will it take to pack them?) It’s literally managing the dudes that pick up and dispatch on heavy days and weeks. It’s dealing with returns for any number of reasons. I could go on but you get the picture.

As you whittle it down to smaller operations the ability to hire someone to do this evaporates and someone that has production responsibilities ends up with this job and it overwhelms them.

On top of that you have the psychology that everyone (including me) has that all shipping for everything, anytime, anywhere should be free. The cost of shipping, salary/benefits, materials, warehouse charges and so on is well into the 6 figures for us. I’m not complaining. We’re fortunate and I know it. I’m just stating what we as a winery go through and the costs incurred.


My favorite story is Carlisle, Mike charges cost for shipping.

And people complain he’s charging too much. LOL

BTW - I spend a huge $$$ on UPS/Fedx and it’s a monthly battle. UPS is pure evil, Fedex is at least nice about it.

Really well said!

In addition Wine (and other beverage alcohol) is unique in each State having it’s own regulations, compliance and filing mandates and tax hurdles that add complexity and cost.

It’s certainly good to call attention to the challenge but hopefully it’s not news to anyone on this board that wineries struggle to deal with shipping - both the cost and logistical nightmare. It’s not easy and I really appreciate all those who choose to deal with it.

I have no illusions you guys are getting rich off the shipping. But I also get that we on this board probably in the minority of those customers who understand these realities.

I see Hardy’s point about figuring out how to ‘include shipping’, given that other sectors have figured out how to do so. But I think one challnege to that is it’s a bit like tipping in the restaurant industry, no? One restaurant can suggest eliminating tipping (for all the right reasons) but if they’re the only ones in the area doing so, they look artificially expensive. If most other wineries don’t go along, do you suffer?

I didn’t even go down that road! We pay a compliance service company to manage all the regulations, applications, reporting (most of it Bizantine and unnecessary except as a barrier to entry), tax payment filings and so on. That service is not free.

For instance beginning 1/1/21 we will fall into a category of wineries shipping into Illinois (based on dollars and shipments) that will not only have to collect, report and pay Illinois state tax but all local municipalities’ taxes.

^^^ and then you get to look forward to the state sending out their guy to audit your books.

That’s always fun and productive. Not.

I’m sure shipping costs are expensive, but as the consumer, that’s not my problem. I’m certainly very price sensitive for shipping costs than the cost of the wine and will often close out of orders because of it. I doubt others are any different. I hardly bought anything from that Zachy’s sale because after shipping and NY sales tax the deals weren’t really that attractive.

I am looking to focus my wine budget on the most vulnerable of my wine favorites this next year. It is hard to know exactly who that is but the smaller producers are my goal. The shipping issue is one that has been part of the “everything is always on sale” attitude that pervades retail. No one wants to pay the listed price and we all expect the deep discount. In a normal year that is the way but this years so many of the businesses I love are on the precipice be them wineries, restaurants, small gift stores, bars and music venues. These folks need help and cant afford to discount. In San Jose, restaurants get clipped 30-40% of a bill to foods delivery apps which is why I pick up my own take out food. Sometimes the best price is full price. A bargain is no good if it is from a going out of business sale.

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That’s a shortsighted view. A cost is a cost.

Whether it puts a purchase beyond your comfort level is certainly an understandable issue, but your statement implies a blindness to the reality of businesses trying to manage financial realities.

That’s just madness!!! if the states want to collect the taxes, they need to make is SIMPLE.

I feel like I should video tape a day in the life of warehouse worker in the wine industry, and push it to go viral. The amount of work that goes in to shipping the volume out the door is insane. It also used to be a lot easier when you could use styro, and with the corrugated, it’s just adds so much time every day.

Mostly the laws are about keeping wineries out than collecting revenue. Sure, if a winery jumps through all the hoops they’re happy to have the cash but for the most part the difficult nature of the laws and bureaucracy is intentional so as to make it not seem worthwhile to even bother getting into the market.

I doubt it’s a rare sentiment. With a few rare exceptions I won’t buy from any vendor that doesn’t subsidize shipping to a significant degree. That may be indeed be an Amazon-related effect, but it just is what it is.

And small businesses die from sentiments like yours.

But at least you go to the gym.

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I’ve run into a number of places charging $20/btl to ship ground. Do you think that’s reasonable?

In the toy industry, many manufacturers have joined together to form a group; so they can obtain better rates. I hear they’re shaving a few points off the charges. Someone in Oregon, Napa, Sonoma, Central Valley, and other regions should research this.

I think it’s heavily subsidized, and either the costs are buried elsewhere, or it’s not sustainable for the long term.

Did you even read the article?

Apples and oranges. Every winery has to sign individual contracts with the common carriers. We have to, in some cases, report the tracking numbers of shipments to individual states. Toys are legal to ship everywhere. Alcohol is not. Wineries use 3rd party shippers to ship club shipments (or even regular stuff) so there’s that kind of aspect but that’s different than what you’re talking about. I think.