Monday, November 20

How NOT to Handle Customer Complaints: ABC Fine Wine and Spirits

This is a fairly simple customer service story. Just in case any of you are business owners in the Jacksonville area, I wanted to share it with you so that you could see how badly you can look when you decide to worry more about who might be trying to take advantage of you rather than how your customer feels about the experience at your store, as in you taking advantage of him.

I bought a four-pack of beer from Belgium I'd never seen before - Duchesse De Bourgogne, a Flemish red ale. I'm not a huge Belgian beer fan, but I wanted to give this one a try. Granted, I did not realize the store seems to sell single bottles, so I figured I was getting lucky choosing the last four-pack. I went home and drank a couple of the beers. They were not my favorite, but I ended up eventually drinking all four. At some point, I checked a bottle, and I saw that the beer had expired. Over a year ago! I held on to the receipt and took a picture of the bottle, but the receipt went missing before I ventured back to the same store maybe a month or so later.

I wasn't even going to say anything about my beer. I figured if four bottles didn't kill me, it's not a huge deal. But when I passed the same area of the store, there it was: another solitary 4-pack. I had to check it out. This replacement once again had the same year-old expiration! I decided it was time to complain, since it appeared to me that the store had these in storage and then was setting out one new pack out each time some sucker bought the previous one.

I took the beer up to the counter and explained what had happened. The cashier went and told a manager, who seemed to be sitting in some kind of Wizard of Oz box off to the side behind the registers. The cashier came back out and blamed the distributor. Then she told me I could probably get a refund with a receipt. I showed her a photo of my beer with the exact same date, but she didn't really seem interested. Sure, maybe I'll find the receipt and maybe I'll bother to drive down there again in order to try to prove my story, but I'm sure it had to be very obvious I wasn't making the story up.

No, I did not specifically ask for a refund. I did not bring the items back immediately or save pertinent information. However, I am a customer who felt that the store not only took advantage of me but was planning on continuing the same ruse with others. Perhaps the problem IS with the importer D&V International in Jupiter, Florida. Or maybe Brewery Verhaeghe from Belgium is sending out old bottles. It just seems odd that the policy is to ship, import, distribute, or sell beer that's been around so long.

Anyhow, what all this really means is that I'm probably not making this my liquor store of choice. Being a Wisconsinite, that is a thing. Go ahead and send me an email if you have a recommendation for a good local liquor store. There's always a chance ABC Fine Wine and Spirits or D&V International will contact me with more information about the situation. That would be an appropriate way to handle such a complaint once it has made its way into an online review.

One of the reasons I don't really love Google Maps reviews is because a business owner addressing the complaint does not change the star rating one way or another. As a flawed human, I still use these reviews to make most of my choices as a new resident. When it came to ABC, I based going there on a recommendation, but looking at Google Maps shows me that the location I chose does have the lowest star ranking of any ABC liquor stores in the area, so maybe that was my mistake. I'm not going to travel to each and every location to find out whether it's a store problem or a distributor problem, however, and that's my choice as a consumer, as well as one problem with operating as a chain.

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