I think most bottles worth returning are corked, and in those cases, you can still clearly tell the wine was corked even days and weeks after it was opened. In fact, I think it gets increasingly obvious the wine was corked as the wine otherwise fades away.
The other answers to Todd’s question are (1) that it just acts as one partial, though imperfect and surmountable, check on people scamming the store; and (2) the difficulty of it probably greatly reduces the number of people who will follow through and do it, thus fewer refunds/credits to issue.
I think many retailers will honor a return of a corked bottle, but I also think they want to make it difficult enough that it will only happen rarely. You need a receipt, you need to bring the bottle back mostly full, you have to travel over there and wait around while they find someone to come look at it and then look you up on their computers, you feel rather awkward about it and unsure whether they’re going to be cool about it, or maybe you have to mail the partial bottle somewhere.
All of that is usually enough to keep most people from bothering. I know I’ve only returned corked bottles twice now in my life (excluding restaurants), though I’ve probably had more than a hundred. One of those times being the time Todd repeatedly called me unethical for doing so because I had bought the bottle many years earlier: http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=113169
I did a poll on here once about what percentage of the time people return corked bottles excluding at restaurants, and though I haven’t looked it up here, I remember the percentage was very low. Which makes sense, though - and this is a point Larry often makes, and the point is well made - this only perpetuates the problem by insulating winemakers and cork producers from the consequences of their failures.
I’m assuming you bought this down in SoCal? We’re direct in CA, so there is no distributor. I don’t deal with this every day (and don’t mean to contradict the retailer), but we definitely don’t have a stated policy that requires the bottle be returned. We do like to see the cork because we have codes on them that helps us track supplier and lot. That’s not always possible, either, though.
The policy is to replace the bottle and always has been. I’m happy to facilitate that directly from here and cut out the middle man.
No, as I wrote above, NJ, so it would take a LOT of shipping back and forth to get the wine back to you. Odd that this retailer wouldn’t know the real story, or at least the employees at the retailer, on what is needed, painting a different tale altogether for me. Sorry I threw out the cork, and used a stopper.
Received a bottle of Foley wine a few years ago from their wine club with a secondary fermentation. Called the winery and they wanted the bottle, but we had thrown it out. They said no problem and replaced it with 2 bottles of the same. It was one of their single vineyard wines($50-$60). I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since.
The distributor probably requires return of the bottle to issue a credit. It’s not uncommon for us. Usually they don’t even care if there’s wine in it; they just want the glass. The store probably decided to eat the cost themselves when they said not to bother sending the bottle back. Our store policy is that we need the bottle back with a reasonable amount of wine in it, and that is simply to make sure people aren’t trying to get reimbursed for wine that they drank, which happens. I can understand the whole thing being a bit frustrating, and sometimes good customer service involves making exceptions, but there are reasons for all of it.
I had a flawed bottle a while back and texted the store owne. He responded telling me to bring it by and he would take care of it. When I dropped it off we chatted about it and he said his distributor requires the bottle and whatever is left for an exchange, it doesn’t matter if it is a month later when he picks it up.
But an example of the kind crap people pull in general all the time. I’ve reported problems with bottles to both retailers and directly to producers (very rarely, but have done it). Sometimes they have wanted the bottle, sometimes not. My guess is that they’re hedging against the possibility that someone just drank the bottle and then wants to pull a stunt to get another one free. Given the stories we hear everyday about all sorts of stuff, this must happen often enough.
Indeed, return of a supposedly defective bottle is pretty standard. In the last few months, I had two very corked bottles of wine. I contacted the two wineries involved and offered to send back the bottle for analysis. Both wineries wanted the bottles back, and I was happy to oblige. Luckily, both agreed that their respective bottles were quite corked.
Most times they do not want it back, but sometimes they do. I save them for just that purpose until I know they don’t. In your case, the retailer should have asked for it but probably had no idea of the distributors policies. I would think the wineries want it for analysis. The distributors, maybe for inventory but more likely to prevent abuse.
“Hi, I bought this TV last week. When I turned it on, the picture was flawed. Since I couldn’t watch a show, I used some of the parts for an electronics project of mine. I’d like full credit.”
Most of the time, asking for the bottle is to assure the wine wasn’t consumed or utilized for another normal wine use: cooking (expensive cooking wine is still cooking wine if that’s how you used it). Thankfully, almost 100% of returned wine is credited back to the retailer. However, this is one of the flaws of internet shopping: sending back defective products is a major pain.
I had a very corked bottle of Aubert chard a few years back. A 2006 Lauren IIRC. This was in 2011. Being on the list, I emailed Theresa and she had no difficulties issuing me a credit beings she couldn’t replace the bottle with another of the same. I gather they don’t library their wines. She did ask for the cork in a sealed plastic bag before issuing the credit. I mailed her the cork and did her one better. I drew up a sample into a blood collection tube and sent that along with the cork. She eventually credited the bottle. Her prerogative.
I had a corked bottle of a 2010 Bedrock single vineyard syrah last year, emailed Morgan, he offered to send me another bottle on the spot. He libraries some of his wines I assume. I opted to receive the bottle on the next order as to not burden him with shipping costs. He did not want the cork, bottle, or wine returned.
I get that someone wants the suspected bad bottle in return. I equate that to returning goods to a store when you have a defective product. Or returning defective clothing. The seller wants the defective product in return. Clothes, wine food, tools, I guess they are all simply retail products in the end. Doesn’t help that you’d have to arrange shipping. It’s a PIA for sure.
When I reach out to Amazon for a defective product, they too ask that I return the defective item within 30 days or they will reclaim the credit. Policies are subjective beasts.
Speaking from personal experience, if a retail store asks us for a credit, we do not require the bottle, nor do we ask for it, however, most every retail store offers us the bottle. I wonder why silently and deal with the loss.
However, I imagine my experience is probably similar to other distributors. Year in and year out, we have had one very fine dining establishment who requested more than 95% of our annual total of requests for credit, every single year.
Given the fact that they ordered less than half of one percent of our annual sales, and year and year out they would request credit for usually 99% of our total, it can some times be a way the distributor is dealing with the merchant.
To answer questions that you may have, we clamped down in every way possible and when we learned the lead Somm of the restaurant was disappointed in the quality of our Pinot Noir when he would serve on the 2nd and 3rd day after opening (without any of those excellent wine savor devices employed) we had to finally walk away from this prestigious placement/relationship of 10+ years.
Some restaurants and stores abuse the return privilege of “its a bad bottle”. I am not stating your retailer is one of those who abuse, simply that there can be more than meets the eye.
Robuchon restaurants of Asia orders many thousands of bottles every year from us and has never returned one bottle because of quality. If they asked, we would never question them and that is true for most of our customers.
Distributors know who are the problem partners they have.