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Mar 2, 2009 03:37 PM

Returning opened alcohol

I was talking to a manager of a Trader Joe's about Finlaggan and he was telling me that several times a week people who purchase this will return it opened because they don't like the peaty taste. As consumers don't we bear a responsibility of knowing what we are buying?

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  1. If we had to "know" what we are buying, we'd never get to try anything new. However, I don't think you can return an opened bottle just because you didn't like it. If it's really gone bad, that's something else.
    When I first lived alone I had a policy that each time I went to the supermarket I tried something I'd never tried before. Little jars lived in the back of my refrigerator for a long time from that....

    1. Trader Joe's is a little bit different, in this case. They have a fairly generous return policy: "We tried it, we liked it! If you don't like it, bring it back!" Normally that's something to chalk up to a learning experience, but in the case of TJ's it's just fine to bring it back.

      5 Replies
      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

        i guess the tj's people can't swig down those returned bottles?! what *do* they do with returned, mostly-full booze bottles? any inside info? (here in va. tj's, we can only get beer & wine.... ;-(........).

        1. re: alkapal

          Whenever we get back a bottle of "corked" wine, I ALWAYS try it after the customer has left. At least half the time, if not 75% of the time, people have psyched themselves out and it's not corked at all (and that's not a dig or anything - it's super common and it's happened to me and probably you). That means it's up for grabs! And the times when it is corked, well, I get a mouthful of bad, basmenty, needing-to-clean-my-tongue wine that I chalk up to karma.

        2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

          Even if a place allows that, but doubly so for places that officially won't but in practice do, I really hate it when people return things for the reason of, "I didn't do my homework, and realized that I don't like XYZ" (where XYZ can be spirits, clothes, etc). It always amazes me the petty reasons that people will generate to return something.

          If a place explicitly states that you can return things you don't like (taking your word for it that TJs does), it's okay, but I still feel like the responsibility is mine.

          1. re: jgg13

            Sounds like you've never made an impulse purchase before.

            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              Oh I have, far too often. I just chalk it up as a life lesson if I hate it, I don't expect the company that I purchased it from to have to fund my irresponsible behavior

        3. California law has, since 1995, allowed the return of alcoholic beverages by a DISSATISFIED customer to the retailer. The law does not REQUIRE the retailer to take it back. At least in the wine business, wholesalers (at least in my experience) will always exchange a 'bad' bottle returned by a customer, and they don't usually check to make sure it's really bad. I suppose it eventually gets looked at on a percentage basis for abuse, but the idea is to keep the customer happy. Wine CAN be bad, as well as not to someone's taste.

          I used to sell a wonderful unfiltered California Chardonnay from Sonoma County and once took back a couple of bottles from a customer who insisted it should be crystal clear or there was something wrong with it. The wholesaler took back the open bottle and I re-sold the unopened one. The customer admitted not even tasting it.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Midlife

            You violated another California liquor law when you sold that unopened bottle. It us unlawful to resell ANY alcoholic beverage that has been returned by a retail customer.

            I have never found any great logic to that part of the code, but it is in the ABC statutes.

            1. re: Brandon Nelson

              I'm sure you're right but could you cite the code section? It sounds familiar. One of the more inscrutable parts of the law. I can find the part about a licensee returning wine to a wholesaler and the advisories that say a licensee can take back a bad bottle, but the re-sale issue is one I would believe but can't find. Is there a statute of limitations on that violation? ;o)

              1. re: Midlife

                I'm not sure of the numerical section in the code, but its there. A lot of folks in the industry aren't even aware of this situation. Liquor laws are frequently arcane, senseless and just plain odd.

                The best dodge for that situation is simply have your distributor swap out the return for a like bottle. That complies with the letter of that silly rule.

                BTW, my original response might come off as finger wagging. That wasn't the intent at all.

                1. re: Brandon Nelson

                  No worries. The ABC seems to spend 98% of it's enforcement time and staff on catching underage buy/sell and 'no license for that' violations anyway.

                  I was once warned that a 6-month-old baby had to be physically outside the segregated tasting area while her mom & dad tasted. I know that's the law (lowest common denominator factor at work), but comeon!!!!!

          2. As someone who works at a liquor store, it'd be hard to convince me to take back of bottle of booze because you "didn't like it," especially if you just wanted your money back. It's also very rare that someone would have the grapes to do that.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mrgrotto

              Runs along the same lines as those who try to return wine at a restaurant because they "don't like it". How unbelievably nervy.