Customer Service, Please

Here's a tale of two approaches to customer service, shipping, short-sightedness, and why it matters when it comes to wine.  There's an interesting study in contrasts here - and some great business lessons, too...

Bedford Winery, a small winery in northern Santa Barbara county, makes some great wines.  One of them is their 2001 Cab Franc - a Must Try Wine from 2009.  I got an email saying they're blowing out their stock of 2000 and 2001 with deep discounts to wine club members (of which I am one).  Case orders get the normally $24 bottle for $14.40.  Heck yeah - sizzling deal!  Long story short, I call Helen (whom I've spoken with many times in the past) and order a case and ask to have it shipped the following Monday so it wouldn't cook in a UPS truck over the weekend. 

A week later I get an email saying that the order is shipping that Wednesday (so much for Monday) - and that my total bill is $257.92WTF, I ask, is the extra $85 for?  The winery explains that it's shipping, handling, boxes, taxes, and other stuff.  They're just passing their costs along.  I regretted canceling the order, but an extra $8 per bottle for extras is too bitter a pill to swallow.  But here's where it gets interesting.  Of all the things they could have come back with, I get this:

"Because our wine is so moderately priced to begin with, after discounts we can’t afford offer under cost shipping (and the state board of equalization is very firm on the sales tax issue). I will restock the wine, cancel the shipping, and run a credit on your card (may take a couple of days to show on your statement)...If you would like to be removed from the wine club let me know."

I respect their need to turn a profit on all transactions, but was I just offered to leave their wine club?  Wow.

Okay, now let's look at a completely different situation.  Same week, different company.  I had already placed an order for a bunch of wine with Cameron Hughes.  At the time I was hoping to get some of the awesome Lot 168.  The guy taking my order says, "Sorry.  Sold out."  A few days later I get an email from the company promoting the same wine - Lot 168.  Come on!  So I call and the conversation goes something like this:

Thanks for calling Cameron Hughes Wine, this is Jessica.
Me: Hi Jessica, this is Steve McIntosh calling.
Jessica: Hi Steve, how are you? (I've never spoken to this person before, but she sounds like she knows who I am)
Good, thanks.  Listen, I'm calling about Lot 168.  Now you see it, now you don't.  What's the story?
Oh, can you see it as available online?
Yes, I can now, but I couldn't when I ordered all that wine last week and Jake told me that it was out.  Like OUT OUT.
Hmmm...let me take a look at what's going on.  Can you hold on for a sec?
(30 seconds later she's back.) Okay, so here's what happened: Looks like we pulled a distributor's allocation, so now we have about 1308 bottles.
Wow.  Wish I had known that last week.
Well, let me take a look and see if your order shipped already...Yeah, it did.  But I'll tell you what...How much of this did you want?
A case.
Okay.  Well, I'm really sorry about the mixup.  How about we get this case out to you and we'll pick up the shipping?
Deal.  How hard would it be to hold the shipment until Monday?
No probelm at all, I'll just make a note of it here for the warehouse.  Anything else you need?
Nope.  That's it.  Have a good one.

Forgetting about the dollar delta (which definitely counts), the whole approach was night and day.  I loved this experience.  And you know what?  It's going to keep me coming back for more, dammit.