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January 07, 2008


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I'm with you. Ordered once, and will never agan. Used to be a good way to give coporate gifts, but now I have better ways to do it. Here's to all the new small retailers daring to enter the online market!

I think wine.com's methods are unfortunate, but I'm sympathetic to their plight in one sense. Namely, how is it fair that they have to set up multiple distribution centers while other, smaller retailers with targeted offerings continue to break the law and profit?

Yes, wine.com crossed the line and they should suffer a great deal of negative fallout from this, yet I can't help but think that his was an unavoidable issue in many respects. Frankly, the laws stink and state-wide monopolies harken back to a time when wine was treated as some sort of elite drug that would be peddled by organzied crime. States seems to be convinced that the days of Prohibition are still with us.

No, the Kennedy family is no longer getting wealthy illegally importing liquor and gangsters aren't pushing the stuff in the streets.

I am cynical about government motives and bureaucracies because once they gain a particular power they are rarely inclined to give it up. 75 years after the fact, states simply can't come to grips with the fact that wine and liquor markets can stustain themselves responsibly and that contrl of such substances belongs at the street enforcement level (not that teenagers like to pound down $100 bottles of Burgundy).

If we had a free and open market, wine.com would have no temptation to act like a spoiled playground brat and smaller retailers wouldn't find their competitive niche by flouting shipping laws. Because of government's interference, companies cannot be completely ethical.

In such a fickle market, this could very much destroy the portion of wine.com's profit margin that keep their massive operation feasible. Shame on them for being so stupid, but greater shame on our dinosauar-like government bureaucracies!

I read Alder's post and the Wine Market Report, and based on that I think you're being too hard on wine.com.

They're playing by the rules and getting hurt by illegal competition in an industry where the gov turns a blind eye. What do you expect them to do?

And maybe they did ship illegally to PA back in '98, but perhaps got religion in '99. Who knows... But I see nothing wrong with an industry that self-polices.

Not that I'm condoning their methods. Perhaps a friendly warning letter to suspected violators would have been a better approach. But let's get real, what kind of results could they expect from that?

I think Jason's assertation that government interference (i.e. laws) force companies to operate unethically (i.e. illegally) is way off base. Before you start a business, especially one dealing with alcohol, you should be well aware of the regulations you are expected to abide. If you are unwilling, then choose a different business. But don't sneak around in the dark and then cry foul when you get caught.

The bottom line is, wine.com has an obligation to their investors to grow the business. If that means stepping on the little guys, so be it.

You want to boycott them, fine, but buy some stock in the company too.

I think you missed the subtlety inherent in the argument, as "forced" is too strong a verb for what is occurring here.

I didn't assert that government interference justifies operating unethically, but that government interference compels or tempts a company to consider doing so. The wine market is a not a free one, and therefore human temptation overrides propriety. A free market, regulated by reasonable and realistic laws, would leave less room for all of this illegal shipping insanity.

No wine dealer should get in the business without considering its current limitations, so I also have little sympathy for anyone who is trying to make money in the wine market. Independent of that judgment the laws are still impractical.

Both the small companies and wine.com have something to be ashamed of, with wine.com's recent actions simply being more egregious.

I'm sorry, Jason. When you said that "companies cannot be completely ethical" I figured that's exactly what you meant. I should have known better from the context of your post. I understand your position.

No problem at all--I just didn't want you to misunderstand the point I was trying to make. I'm hoping for a day when state governments think through their distribution laws more clearly so shipping becomes a non-issue (or at least a more fair one)!

While I, too, have sympathy for Wine.com's position, there are a few reasons that I support the boycott. Most important is that, as Jason stated, they simply crossed the line. Yes, everyday there are slimy things going on in the business world, but when they come to light, the consumers should take action against these behaviors. If they don't, it encourages others to do the same.

Then, of course, there is the heartstrings argument about Mom and Pop Small Vineyard Owner in Springfield, Any State. A visitor from the great wine state of Washington takes a liking to their creation, but upon returning home, can no longer get wine from Mon and Pop. The issue to me is that the state rules should be about interstate commerce, NOT about alcohol. And I feel that the states are using alcohol as a shield to get away with, well, practically theft. To make matters worse, it doesn't really benefit the state in the end - especially if Mom and Pop go out of business.

And don't get me started about the teetotaling, misguided, puritanical venom that conservative politicians will spew when it suits their interest. Never mind the flask of whiskey in their back pocket, but I digress...

Finally, for me, there is another entirely different reason to avoid Wine.com - I *WANT* to support their competition! I buy 75% of my wines for personal consumption and 95% of my wines for professional use over the Internet. Wine.com's service, while streamlined and running smoothly like a large company should, is completely impersonal. I don't buy online because I want to avoid seeing the merchants. On the contrary, I wish I *COULD* buy more wine in person. But since I often want "this" bottle and "that" bottle, I can't find it in one place. And I can't afford to go to a dozen different merchants to assemble a single case of what I want or need.

So what do I look for in an online merchant? The personality of a wine store. I love the Internet and I want every wine merchant accessible via my keyboard. But I also want each and every one of them to have a store that the locals can visit. And to have a human, with a real name, answer my calls when I have questions - or even my emails. I'm not sure if Wine.com has call centers based in India, but there is nothing that bugs me more that calling an online merchant to have the call answered with a deep foreign accent by a guy named "David" who, clearly, is not named David. Outsourcing and oversees call centers have their place, and maybe I'm being old fashioned, but in the world of wine, local personalities rule the day.

Wine.com is anything but local.

You're not the only one, just saw ClassicWines.com dropped them as an advertiser - http://www.classicwines.com/articles/Classicwines-Com-Removes-Wine-Com-From-Site-Due-To-Aggressive-Behavior

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