Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Do You Carry Cristal?

“Do you carry Cristal?”

“Not anymore”

“Why not”

“It is no longer worth it”

Now upon hearing this from a retailer one might assume that we are referring to the quality of the wine, in this case…well, that is simply not the case. Let me first say that in my many years as the Champagne buyer for The Wine Country I have only bought, for my personal consumption, Louis Roederer’s top of the line, (or tete de cuvee) Cristal, once. It was Valentine’s Day about 6 years ago, when the wine was icy cold I found it delicate and lovely, but as it began to warm in the glass it got just too damn sweet…for my palate. Is that a flaw, nah, just not my thing so it was a wine that I would never buy….for my home, again but from a sales standpoint, I kept bringing it in and it was flying off the shelf, at almost $300 a bottle that is pretty good right? Yeah…..

A couple of years ago I pulled up to The Wine Country, I was the first one there because I was opening, something felt funky….don’t know how to explain it but something was just wrong. That was when I noticed the broken window and one of the bakery employees from next door standing next to it. She had noticed the broken window on her way in and called the police, her words were still hanging in a bubble above her head when Randy and the police pulled into the parking lot. Guns drawn, the police enter the store, give it an “all clear” and ask Randy and I to come in and see if anything was missing. Randy and I somberly walked the store, “registers are fine” and “the change bank is still here” we yelled back and forth…computers, CD player it was all still there. After a good long look we told the police it looked like they must have been startled off by the alarm and they began writing up their report, I walked past my champagne department and there I noticed a blank row….where 3 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal had been the night before. They had smashed in the window, ran in, grabbed the 3 bottles of high end Champagne and ran out, leaving cash, electronics and many other high end wines and spirits. I even had another 6 pack of the Cristal in the back that went untouched. The police told us it was probably a couple kids wanting to look like rap stars, they took finger and palm prints that were left on the inside of the window pane and that was the last we really heard about it.

Shortly after we installed a fancy camera system, yeah…a little barn door after the horse but we had noticed after a few inventories that we had a theft problem….isn’t that awful?! Makes me literally sick to my stomach to think about people that have been coming to the store for years stealing from us, but it happens so the cameras went up. While still trying to figure out how to use the system we saw, on film, a young man shove a bottle of….yup, Cristal in his waist band and walk calmly out of the store….(we have since learned how to record everything and we review it on a regular basis)…got me thinking, “Is that wine flying off the shelves or is it walking out the door?!” I was growing more and more disgusted with each missing bottle.

We got a display bottle of Cristal, put it on the shelf and had to put up a sign, “Please ask for assistance” I also told the staff to never hand over a bottle, take it right to the register and have it waiting for the customer that wanted it, I was secretly hoping that some asshole would snatch the empty display bottle, a vision that cracked me up I must admit, but it seemed to do the trick….for a bit.

For the holidays we brought in another 6 pack of Cristal, we had been passing on bringing it in figuring the economy didn’t warrant it and no one had been asking but for the holiday we thought we had better get some in, I mean you don’t really want to pass on a $300 single bottle sale right?! Well, that was when the next level of thievery started….Internet sales. The holidays are harried, we are running around like crazy, the Internet sales were on fire and I noticed a few sales, (over the month of December) of the now infamous Cristal, many of which were never filled due to non matching addresses for credit card billing. In one case the Internet team noticed that 3 attempts at orders for Cristal that were declined, were being shipped to the same person….from other people of course. They brought it to my attention and I made an executive decision, “Do NOT ship anything to that name….something is funky” they thought so too and the name was placed on the no ship to list. The one thing we didn’t think of? There were 4 bottles that were already shipped to him because the billing addresses matched…dammit!!!!

Because we had followed the rules regarding matching up the addresses we were in fact able to get our money back….we were victims of fraud too but the fact remained that 4 out of the 6 bottles we got were basically stolen and we ALL end up paying for these slimy people! The new one is they are using assisted phone services like TTY, you know the service for the deaf or otherwise impaired to make phone calls…so they are using a good service for evil….sickening.

So there you have it, what else could we do but discontinue the wine? Sure we could keep selling it and getting our money back because it was a fraudulent sale but that is utterly irresponsible, it just aint right and It is no longer worth it…… We are with P Diddy & Jay Z on this one....

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