Flawed bottles - send back to the distributor???

I bought Jen 2 bottles of 2010 Silver Oak Napa Cabernet for Christmas - her favorite wine - and we opened the first bottle a week ago, and it was flawed. Very disappointing, as it’s not cheap ($100) and we only have 2 of them. She had her heart set on that wine so she grabbed the other bottle to be sure, and it was great, thus ‘proving’ the other bottle was flawed.

I don’t normally go back to a retailer with a flaw, unless it was a fairly recent purchase, and/or it was a significant one. In this case, the retailer honored the replacement, but called asking if I had the bottle, because the freakin’ distributor requires it back! WHAT? They have to obtain physical PROOF of the flawed bottle? I’ve never had that happen before - but imagine some of you might, which is why I posted here for discussion - and thus I used it for cooking wine in the interim, and have only 1/8 of a bottle left. The retailer said to forget about it, but that makes me figure that the retailer is going to eat the value/cost and that pisses me off.

How frequent is this scenario, where a distributor requires the flawed bottle back? It’s a flawed - no pun intended - exercise anyway, because by the time it gets back to the distributor, no matter how fast you send it, it’s oxidized anyway. What a joke.

Todd… your last paragraph says it all. Sending it back after the fact seems to me to be a useless exercise.

While not common, it did happen to me before (twice, at least). I’m not sure they needed it for themselves, as much as they wanted to prove a point to the winery/vendor. In both cases, I insisted and they’ve sent a pre-paid slip for the return.
(after the fact, not- but if you tasted, and its flawed I guess they wanted a prove that indeed the bottle was not fully consumed… go figure)

If I am ever in a position to return a flawed bottle for credit/replacement I always ask if they want the old one back. Being in retail myself I always want to verify defects in product before giving away inventory, plus most all of my vendors will not issue credit without first receiving the defective item.

I know, that’s my point. What does the distributor have to prove by requiring it? Really holds the retailer’s hand to the fire, and that sucks for the retailer, as it likely is required for compensation on the flawed bottle. 99.9% of the people who buy wine from any given retailer likely won’t even notice a flaw, much less request a refund, so for the wine geek crowd who does, that’s a TINY percentage of total sales, so why be a bully like that?

When working with a small mom/pop operation, I, too, have offered that, and it’s almost always declined, unless it’s super easy to get back, and quickly (for reasons mentioned above). This scenario above makes NO sense.

Maybe the winery will not issue credit to the distributor without the defective bottle. Could be as simple as that.

Silver Oak? So it would go from NJ to CA, then (opened, exposed to air) back to NJ, then back to CA (Silver Oak)? Yeah, should be able to tell a LOT from that bottle!

What exactly was the flaw?

[quote=“Bud Carey”]
Todd… your last paragraph says it all. Sending it back after the fact seems to me to be a useless exercise.
[/quote]

[quote=“Todd F r e n c h”]
I know, that’s my point. What does the distributor have to prove by requiring it? Really holds the retailer’s hand to the fire, and that sucks for the retailer, as it likely is required for compensation on the flawed bottle. 99.9% of the people who buy wine from any given retailer likely won’t even notice a flaw, much less request a refund, so for the wine geek crowd who does, that’s a TINY percentage of total sales, so why be a bully like that?
[/quote]

[quote=“Brian Tuite”]
Maybe the winery will not issue credit to the distributor without the defective bottle. Could be as simple as that.
[/quote]

[quote=“Todd F r e n c h”]
Silver Oak? So it would go from NJ to CA, then (opened, exposed to air) back to NJ, then back to CA (Silver Oak)? Yeah, should be able to tell a LOT from that bottle!
[/quote]

I’m not saying they need to analyze it or that it has to make sense. Some companies have procedures set in place when it comes to returns and credits. The nature of the product is irrelevant. Depends on who the bean counter is on the other end.

Really thin, alcoholic, not sure what the flaw was - not corked, I guess, or perhaps in the early stages of bloom where the telltale mustiness hasn’t come out yet. Didn’t taste like cab, even.

This is actually a very tough situation all around. Unfortunately, lots of bottles are returned because they are ‘off’ - at least to the person purchasing the wine.

If I were a distributor I would want to know what the flaw was - whether it be cooked or corked or ?!?!? That would help me go back to the winery with the issue but also help try to figure out how it may have happened (in the case of it being cooked/bacterial issues).

We do not speak a common language in our industry, and that is one of the biggest challenges we all face.

Cheers

This was the policy of the large distributors I worked with in Texas and usually they’d refuse to refund if the bottle was empty (which is why we wouldn’t offer refunds on people bringing back empties).

If we were trying to get credit for a broken bottle we had to return the neck showing the cork had not been removed, and as much as the front and back labels as we could.

I gladly would have kept the wine in the bottle if they wanted it back, but it still makes no sense, as it would be so heavily oxidized anyway. Such a scenario hasn’t happened, though, so I used much of it for cooking. I’m not sure what you could tell from such a heavily oxidized bottle, that, at the time you got it back, would have been open at least a week, if not more, in all kinds of weather changes.

In my experience it’s normal to ask for the bottle back. I can’t remember a retailer ever asking for credit without a bottle to show. We often taste the wine to see what’s going on, so it’s not pointless.

That you didn’t enjoy the whole thing and then say it was flawed and want a replacement. People do stuff like that when they think they can get over.

I have a customer who bought a pair of work boots from me. The boots came with a 1yr mfr defect warranty. About 11 months in he said the insoles were falling and causing pain in his feet. I replaced the boots with a new pair. He bought a pair for his Son and another of his employees. 11 months later I get the same story. My feet are hurting, can you replace them? I tell him the warranty is on the original purchase and not extended for a year on the replacement. He then says, these are my Sons boots. You see where this is going. He is treating the boots like a tool with a lifetime warranty and when I refuse continuous replacement complains that I sell products and don’t honor the warranty.

People do this kind of stuff more often than you think. In my case I don’t cave because I know that without an original invoice dated within a year the manufacturer will not replace the boots. Most retail margins are not set up for retailers to eat mfr warranty. The distributor is just covering his ass.

What a tool.

Asking for the bottle back shows that you didnt drink the bottle and then ask for a freebie. Returning the unused portion gives some credibility to the story that it was flawed and not consumed. Keeps everyone honest up and down the chain.

This is pretty standard.

Your retailer is going to require a credit from the distributor, who is going to try and get one from the winery, and the distributor picking up the corked bottle from the retailer is standard operating procedure most places.

Southern Wines & Spirits is the distributor in California Todd - if you know any retailers locally, maybe they can exchange the bottles for you. You might have to grease a palm or two.

If not, I would contact the winery, or find out who the state rep is, and contact him. Too much running around to have to send it back East etc -