How do you deal with "Well, Total Wine/Costco has it for..."

Perhaps their supplier cost is different from my small store’s cost, but it seems like they’re willing to make $1 on some of their sales and basically selling their wine/beer at cost.

Total Wine has even undercut a deal for some very very high end wine we had a potential customer for. We were willing to take $4k off the price, but they basically said they were willing to discount it $5k.

How to compete for cherry pickers? You win the sale with zero margin, then watch them go elsewhere for their next purchase.

You want to identify what sort of customers you can appeal to. Some are incidental, by your location. Others are going there as a destination. Better curation; building relationships; turning customers on to new, exciting experiences; finding them wines they will actually like. Some people just can’t be talked out of going for a lower price, even if their satisfaction with the product/service is often poor. Others appreciate not having to roll the dice picking something random off the shelf or trusting guidance from someone who doesn’t know much about wine who’s just trying to make a sale.

Same way I deal with customers who say they can buy it for 30% less on Amazon. I tell them go ahead and buy it from Amazon.

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What the guys above said. And if it’s multiple customers complaining about it and you have a TW or Costco near, then try focusing on selling items that aren’t in those stores.

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This. You have to offer something that other nearby stores don’t have, whether that’s product, pricing, or service, and if it’s “service,” then it has to be “worth it” to compensate for any deficiencies in the other two.


You need to sell them on the service your store offers. I am not ITB, but have to deal with customer service at my company all the time. As long as the wine you’re offering is reasonably priced when compared to a major whole seller, high end repeat clients are willing to pay a little more for service than penny pinch.

I think of it like buying a watch. Many authorized dealers offer watches at similar prices, but you keep going to the same AD because he takes care of you.

I think you should focus on building relationships with the customers who value your opinion and are willing to buy cases from you and are interested in building up their wine cellars, than the customer looking to buy 1 bottle for a BBQ. Besides, the latter is probably only into cali merlot… so there’s that.

Tough one, but you are probably not the only one they are fishing with this bait. It will never end with these people, even if you give them the discount (once) they may even take your offer to use for the next call.

I used to deal with this a lot as a wine manager. What you can do depends on the type of business. Your signature says it’s a boutique wine store. That being the case, I would not carry items that TW sells at cost. There really aren’t that many of them, and most do not belong in a boutique store anyway. If there are some items they have at a markup that’s only slightly lower than yours, and you really don’t want to discontinue those items, I would probably match their pricing on those items.

Where I was we did not have this luxury. It was a large store and we had to carry all of the big brands. If there are items TW has for cost that you really can’t do without (considering lost customers, business image, etc. as factors beyond just having the wine someone asks for), then I can outline what I did. I would explain that they’re a huge national retailer with “loss leaders”, explaining that they have net negative profit on those items and independent stores can’t afford to do that. I would point out that they only do that on the best known wines to make small businesses look bad, and then I would point out a similarly styled wine in the same price range that I thought offered better value anyway. That was usually possible, with only a few exceptions (how are those damned Bogle wines so good for the price???). I would also make a point to say we actually had a far better selection of artisanal wines that I’d be happy to show them, if they were looking for something $9.99 or above. The person buying Bogle for $7.49 or whatever doesn’t care anyway. Neither does the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay customer. You’ll lose those people no matter what you do. It isn’t worth trying to keep them when they just want to always buy that same brand at cost. I wouldn’t be able to communicate all of these points to everyone who asked, but I would say as much as I thought was relevant to them and try not to make them feel like I was wasting their time. Sometimes, for good, regular customers, offering a price close to Total’s could also work. “I’m really sorry that I can’t quite match that price because we can’t afford to lose money, but I can sell it to you for x if it saves you an extra trip.” Something along those lines. I don’t know if that’s something you can do, but it does help with the personal relationship. Even if they turned it down, they were often appreciative. Be clear with them that you can’t do it every time, and expect them to still try to get that deal every time. It’s really only worth doing for very regular customers.

In my experience, saying you offer better service is pointless. You can show people that you do that, and they might notice, but saying it does nothing. I found people were a lot more receptive to a very honest, brief explanation, and a genuine drive to show them a wine they might prefer in the price range they are comfortable with. There’s really no loyalty anymore in alcohol retail, except in rare circumstances where people buy tightly allocated wines from you at reasonable prices, but even those people probably go to Total if their spouse/friend/whoever drinks one of those mass market brands.


Speaking as a consumer here.

  1. I don’t go to smaller shops hoping to find ‘Costco wines.’

  2. I don’t tell store personnel about wine prices at other stores.

So, this is a tough question to relate to for me, but…

  1. I have seen it happen, and the best answer I ever saw was a knockout! I was in a small shop with my sister-in-law’s sister, who did the ‘well, pinot noir at Costco only costs $XX.XX’ thing. (She was also the kind of drinker who picked a single favorite that was "the best,"for her and everybody, and pretty much drank and served the same wine over and over and over. The salesperson asked her what she liked about the Coscto wines and and did she have any distinctive characteristic that she most appreciated in those wines. Then, the salesperson spoke to her about some of their wines and singled one out for her and asked her to try one of theirs at the same price and compare to her favorite Costco wine. A simple request to buy and compare. Not even an upsale! We went back to her place and did exactly that! My sister-in-law’s sister is now on the first name basis with that staff and is open to suggestions for new experiences! She even likes to spring new stuff on us! It took only a kind few minutes from a knowledgeable and intuitive salesperson to change her world. That salesperson altered someone’s entire wine journey. Overtime, the comparison test has evolved into being her own idea, which is perfect, too.

And, if it hadn’t worked, nothing lost but a little time.


Like Brian T. said above, just tell them to go to x place instead! Customers like these are not worth dealing with…

The tough part that I have is when there’s two stores who buy from the same distributor (literally the same guy comes to both their shops) and one has the same wine priced 20% higher. I don’t say anything personally, but it’s not unfair to question what the deal is. But you don’t really have to question, it’s clear the one store is taking the opportunity to price a hot wine at a higher margin and the other store is sticking true to their standard X% markup. At the end of the day, I stop shopping at stores that do that kind of gouging, but it’s something that consumers deal with, so as a store owner I’m not sure you should be insulted if a savvy customer questions it when you know you’ve overpriced your margin.

I don’t know how it works in GA, but in many states, distributors offer various quantity discounts. There could easily be a 20-30% difference in price with the same % markup. Even where this isn’t technically allowed, it is often still done. It could also be that one store has decided to use a significantly lower markup and the other has stuck to their standard, rather than the one with the higher price making more than usual.

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Tell assholes looking for bottom dollar pricing to F right Off. They are never going to be anything but margin erosion parasites.

Maybe OP can stick up a big sign which says “Don’t Pay Mo at BevMo” and offer to price match…

The three times I (attempted) to take up TW on their ‘price match guarantee’ they declined for sundry reasons, so I’m assuming that promise is just vaporware. Now I can just check TW price on their app, which is actually more accurate than their shelf prices/talkers in any case. So no need to go into their stores and waste time on the 2/3 of inventory which seems to be made up buyers own brands.

Double your efforts on the people who appreciate what you do and find more of them. As a producer selling to independent wines shops, I’ve found that every single shop that has told me they can’t sell wine over “x” price point - has gone out of business. I think the moral is that price competition with the big boys is real hard to build a business on. Focus on services and wines that the box stores don’t provide and the customers that want them.