- posted 10 years ago
Since moving to the Midwest 19 years ago, I have become a fairly regular customer of Sam's Wine Warehouse in Chicago. Over those years, I would estimate that I have purchased several tens of thousands of dollars of wines from Sam's, especially during those years when Indiana was a "felony state" and shipping into IN was difficult at best. Looking at my cellar today, many of the Ridge Zins, Bordeaux and Chateauneuf were purchased at Sam's (their selection of wines from the Loire, Germany and Austria was never good).
In 2006, I decided to purchase some '05 Bdx futures through Sam's as they were offering good prices on the first tranche and I would only purchase futures through an established bricks and mortar operation. This was our first purchase of futures and I ended up buying two cases of fairly inexpensive satellite appellation and Bdx Superieur. In October of last year, I received an email informing me that one case of our futures had arrived. The fate of the remaining case of wine is a story of pain, frustration and anger.
In April of this year, I contacted Chris Durbin, Sam's internet sales representative, asking about the whereabouts of my remaining case of wine. I was already aware that there had been grumblings on Internet wine fora about problems with Sam's '05 Bdx futures fulfillment. I recieved a prompt response from Mr. Durbin that my wines had arrived and were awaiting pickup at Sam's Lincoln Park store (my usual stop). When I had occasion to go up to Chicago in June, I found that there was no trace of any wine waiting for me in Will Call. Numerous phone calls and email messages to Mr. Dubin went unanswered. Finally, last week, I received a phone call from Sam's informing me that my missing case of '05 futures had arrived and I arranged to have it delivered to my place of work where an adult would sign for it. I also explained that, should the temperatures be too high, I would rather that we not ship it ground.
Yesterday, UPS attempted to deliver those wines TO MY HOUSE despite my stated instructions to ship to my work address. Moreover, with temperatures here in the mid-80s, Sam's website states that they won't shop ground unless a waiver is signed by the recipient waiving all claims of heat damage. Needless to say, I signed no such waiver and was shocked to see the delivery notice stuck to our door. Today, I took receipt of the wines, thankfully showing no evidence of any heat damage.
The back story is that Sam's got caught by a "perfect storm." First, a dock strike in France in '08 delayed shipment of the '05 Bdx. Secondly, the financial crisis hit in Summer '08, resulting in a numher of lost futures contracts for Sam's. As a result, the Rosen family -- longtime owners of Sam's -- were forced to sell the business and the new owners were met with numerous unmet obligations for '05 Bdx futures fulfillment. I was lucky, in a sense, in that I wasn't waiting for classed growth '05 futures. Those who are are still in some cases trying to get their futures contracts fulfilled. In Sam's case, it comes down to money, since they are buying the wines at present-day prices to fulfill futures contracts.
Nonetheless, this marks the last time that I will do business with Sam's. Their customer service and record-keeping are far below what I expect out of a business of their stature. I would much prefer to give my money to a company that diplays more concern about their customers' welfare than Sam's has recently.