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The Beer Circle » Beverages 4 Less, Bine and Vine, Bruisin Ales, Kahn's Fine Wines, Online Stores, Opinion » Online Beer Sales – Customer Service Comparison

Online Beer Sales – Customer Service Comparison

courtesy of Bruisin’ Ales website

I have reviewed a number of stores that do online sales: Beverages 4 Less, Bine & Vine, Bruisin’ Ales, Kahn’s Fine Wines, and Luekens Liquors. I will only be talking about stores that I have directly ordered from. What I’ve realized is that the different retailers all treat their online customers differently. Some of the retailers treat all of their customers the same while others will only make certain rare releases available to their in-store customers. The in-store business is still the bread-and-butter for most, if not all, stores, but online is a segment that can’t be ignored.

Equal to better treatment of online customers

From my experience, I could only determine that two retailers treat their online customers equal to or better than in-store customers. Bruisin’ Ales in Asheville, NC, definitely treats all of their customers the same. All new arrivals are listed in the beer blog link on their website. An online person sends an email to Jason at the store and he will pull the bottles off the shelf. I know this to be true because I noticed that their website still reported that Bruery’s Coton was available. When I called Jason to provide my credit card information he said that I had gotten the last bottle that he had on the shelf.

The second retailer that I put in this category is Beverages 4 Less in Santee, CA. I am on their email list and receive information about all new arrivals in the store. Every once in a while one of the new beers is listed as “online customers only.” I have yet to see a beer listed as “in-store customers only.” Fred, at Beverages 4 Less, will respond with 15-30 minutes when he receives email asking for pricing.

Unknown

A couple of the retailers that I have purchased from fall into the unknown category because I am unable to determine how they treat their online customers in relation to their in-store customers. These stores include Bine & Wine and Leuken’s Liquors. Everything that they have on their website is available to be sold to online customers. I don’t know if they have additional releases that aren’t listed on their website. I am fine with that. I know where I stand and what I can order from.
Website listings can be hard to keep up to date as purchases are made throughout a day. A store would need their website to be heavily integrated into their inventory system; a concept that could be too expensive for individual bottle shops. I want to commend Bine & Vine for correcting a discrepancy between what their website showed and what was currently available. One release that I ordered was not available. I received a call from Geoi apologizing that they were out of stock and let me pick any other bottle at any other price in its place. He would not change the price if I happened to pick a more expensive bottle.

Poor online treatment

Sadly one store falls into the category where they treat online customers as worse than in-store customers but you don’t know that until you happen to order a limited release bottle. I placed an order with Kahn’s Liquors last week. I had placed an order previously with them and was satisfied, so I felt safe ordering again. They still hadn’t fixed their website inventory where a user could simply list the available inventory. The only option was to use the search box. I selected the beers that I wanted and submitted the order. A day or two later I received an email telling me that they weren’t going to sell me half of the beers that I selected because they only received a small shipment and many of their local customers weren’t able to get those beers even at the brewery. I told them to cancel my order because I didn’t like feeling that they couldn’t care less about my order. If a store lists a beer as being available then they should sell those beers to online customers. If they want to reserve releases for in-store customers only, then don’t list them on the website. I’ve talked to a few other people that have ordered from Kahn’s and they have noticed that the available number of each of the releases doesn’t get updated on their website. This is just another example that Kahn’s doesn’t care about their online customers: they put no time into improving the experience for online customers when using their website. I will not be ordering from Kahn’s again.

Overall

I do realize that many people will have different experiences that I have had. A store’s response when things don’t go quite right is often the most telling aspect of what they think about their customers and how they run their business. Kahn’s still hasn’t replied confirming that my order has been cancelled. Not a word, nothing.

There are many stores that I haven’t purchased from (Archer’s Liquors, Quality Liquors) and others that I purchased from before writing for The Beer Circle (Bottle Trek, Brewforia, France 44, Halftime BeveragesSpecs Online). I have an order being processed by West Lakeview Liquors, and will provide a full review once the shipment has arrived. We would like to hear from our readers about good and bad experiences that they have had with these and other online retailers. I am intrigued by Archer’s method of only offering predetermined beer sets available to online shoppers. It makes things easier for them and the online shopper knows exactly where they stand and what is available to them.

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Written by Bob Pack

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

Filed under: Beverages 4 Less, Bine and Vine, Bruisin Ales, Kahn's Fine Wines, Online Stores, Opinion · Tags: , ,