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Buying members

Not sure what you mean by “true membership”? Is your share different to mine?

My share is in an organisation that embraces all wine drinkers. :wink:

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A true member, I believe it states in the Wine Society Manifesto, needs to have a daughter named Chardonnay and a tattoo of Bacchus on their shin.

I think that’s right? There may be other prerequisites but I can’t remember them offhand.

Hope this helps :vulcan_salute:

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Can’t really say this idea pleases me, and does seem to follow a pattern of the society becoming more of a shop than a cooperative. It does have a bit of a Friday afternoon in the outreach department feel to it and if the 500000th share is to be celebrated (which I’m happy to accept), why not have a prize to be issued to any of the other 499999 who have supported the society over the years?
Perhaps I’m just grumpy that my share number is less than half of 500000 and that makes feel like a right old git!

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I meant there are 499,999,000 share certificates. But how many of those are actually buying wine? indeed how many are still alive? I know your executors can cash in the share when you die. Its in the nature of humans that their will be some executors that will not know that the deceased was a member of the wine.
The annual review shows how many active members there are. The 500,000 is just the number of share certificates issued not the number of active or even alive members.

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Can I just focus this thread by asking why does this matter? I’m not being tongue in cheek here, I just don’t get it.

Ultimately the management of the company have decided to offer a relatively meaningless incentive. £500 is a nominal amount of cash for the society and if it does bring in some additional members then that’s great. As you say - many members will have passed away and neither they or their heirs will be active. As such if it does make the society more viable I’m all for it.

The reality is that this is unlikely to get more members to join as the odds are unknown. If that’s the case then the Society management have instead opted to mark the occasion with an arbitrary gift for a somewhat random individual. I say good luck to them and enjoy it. It could prompt a wide ranging tasting and could therefore add more members by the winners recommendation.

Edited to say, even if it doesn’t I hope they enjoy it. Well done to the Wine Society for their continuation over the years.

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I agree with @Jonathon - There will be a 500,000th member (based on share number) anyway, so why not make a small splash and a bit of noise about this - perhaps in the trade press and probably online - with that person being rather lucky and enjoying a small windfall. The value is meaningless divided between the rest of the membership and it might just have added a few new users, most probably as gifts from existing members who thought their niece, nephew, friend etc might be in with a chance. It might even have paid for itself!

Good luck to that 500,000th person! Hope they enjoy their good luck, join the community and share their wine choices.

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Have to confess it doesn’t bother me.

But if you take the latest results.

Money available to shareholders - £41.38m
Number of active Shareholders - 171k

So each share has got ~£242.01 invested.

Give one person £500, and each person now has ~£242.00. So it’s cost me 1p (well, quite a bit less than). I can cope

Each year they [normally] run an ‘Money can’t buy’ trip to a vineyard for introducing new members. Is there the same outcry over that? I don’t remember one. I’m assuming those cost slightly more then £480 (bearing in mind the Society does get £20 from the new member joining. Nominally £40)

In my opinion, it’s not worth getting worried about

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I don’t have a problem with a prize being given, although a good bottle might have been more suitable than cash.

My question is: why does the Society need to grow so quickly? I can’t believe that it can increase its purchasing power much more. There are already plenty of complaints, both on the Community Forum and on the main website, that wines sell out too quickly; and there is only so much ‘Society’s White Burgundy’ that can be produced without some effect on quality.

The £20 joining fee will bring in some revenue, although some of that will be taken up by administrative costs.

If, instead of increasing the volume of individual wines, the plan is to have a wider selection, then presumably we will see an ever expanding list, and an increasing number of buyers scouring the world.

I joined the Society in the early 1990’s, and my membership number is 15xxxx, which demonstrates how quickly the Society has grown - more than twice as many new members in thirty years than in the previous 120. I’m not against growth if existing and future members can be supplied with wine of sufficient quality and quantity (and so far I personally have not had cause to complain), but I do find myself asking who benefits.

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More members should result in more buying power, leading to better value and more choice. But only if growth doesn’t reduce customer service levels.

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Does that really apply given TWS is not in the market for mass produced swill? I’m not so sure.

At an extreme end, I very much Chateau Petrus would give you any sort of discount if you bought their entire stock. In fact they’d probably ask for a premium. At the very least, I think it will lead to poor availability for lower production wines. Take Burgundy for example. It may even mean that some doesn’t even officially appear on this list and is offered to a slice of the membership who’ve previously bought high quality Burgundy. Maybe better that, than appear on the website for a few hours. If more members equals higher volumes, then I think it more likely they will have to stock more lines, rather than merely increase the quantity bought from a given source which may not be possible.

In contrast I can’t for now think why customer service should suffer. TWS is not for profit so presumably they can scale up to whatever the need is. In theory they might even be able to increase the customer care count per member, given there are some fixed costs built in that can be absorbed across bigger staff numbers. Where I imagine we agree is the hope that TWS does not become another Oddbins or Majestic. I used to really like both but then they lost their way.

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I joined in about 1993, so in 16xxxx range.

Up until about 2020 I never expected to be subject to a reduced EP allocation. It did happen occasionally but it was rare, the exception rather than the rule. Ergo there was generally enough wine to go around the membership, even of the seriously good stuff.

Now, in 2021 (and going forward), not only do I expect a reduced allocation to be the rule rather than the exception, I also am faced with the realistic possibility of a zero allocation. Ergo there is now not enough wine to go around the membership, particularly but not always limited to the seriously good stuff, eg basic Chablis.

This could be explained by a reduction in quantity available to TWS of certain wines. It could also be explained by the internet making research ever easier, and a static/core membership group increasingly targeting the same creme de la creme. I prefer the simplest explanation though: the tripling of the membership with considerable weighting attributable to the last few years, with pandemic-increased disposable income no doubt helping.

I have not benefited from this increase in membership, or at least not in a way that I can see. In fact it appears to be the opposite. Where I still do see a tangible benefit is in pricing, with TWS still frequently (but not exclusively by any means) offering the same wine cheaper than elsewhere. My understanding however was that this is more to do with the cooperative model rather than the number of members in that model. No doubt it is significantly more complicated than this, but from a personal perspective my experience is less good than it once was.

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Its interesting that your saying that their are only 171,000 active members. Which makes me think a bit differently about the issue. Clearly the societies managment would want to have more than 171,000 members buying wine regularly. So the attempt to increase the membership with a draw might not be such a bad idea. But that means their are over 300,000 inactive members and the 500,000 figure a bit meaningless.

Playing Devils Advocate here: The majority of members, probably do not buy E.P. and they will (I guess) benefit through TWS having greater purchasing power, therefore able to wield a bigger stick (carrot?) in the markets & command a better price reduction across the board? The benefit of the many, not the few… that’s the Cooperative ticket.

You however are probably correct in that there is a finite amount of Ch. X. produced, and therefore with more TWS E.P. buyers clamouring for it, your chance of securing a case is reduced. C’est la vie.

There is the other benefit, where with a bigger E.P. budget TWS buyers can source a greater variety of wines. So you benefit from having: 17 x Chablis 2019 vs 7 x Chablis 2014, 8 x Chablis 2012, zero in 2010. So nowadays there are more Chateau to go at ! ((Billaud especially)). I appreciate there are other factors, but you get my drift ?

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@mrptaylor and @Wansteadbirder make valid points about the implications of a larger membership base for allocations of very low volume wines. If I was fishing in those premium pools I might not be so positive about it myself.

But @lapin_rouge hits the nail on the head for me. Like (I suspect) the majority of members I’m benefitting from the wider range of modestly-priced wines (EP and list) that a larger organisation can offer. I also regularly benefit from the supplier-supported case discounts that are surely a direct result of TWS’ buying muscle (although I’m sure the relationships that Marcel and others have established also help here).

On customer service levels, there was a feeling that rapid expansion over the pandemic led to many more stock and billing mistakes: I’m not sure if that’s fair or not but it felt like it on here. But I agree that expansion does not automatically need to result in reduced customer service.

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I can’t say I fish in those premium pools all that much myself!

But I’ll give you a more modest example. 5 days ago I had an email about Chateau Pitray 2018 at £9.99 a bottle. Went to place an order and it had all gone.

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Like mrptaylor above I sometimes feel like wines in the £9-15 range sell out much more quickly than they used to aswell, and have wondered if this is a result of the society wanting to grow rapidly. Is there a risk we just end up with a list of wine produced at huge scale / volume rather than smaller more interesting wines? Or that the latter always sell out in 24 hours? It would be a shame if that becomes the normal.

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Of 92 wines on the ‘New Wines’ page, 2, including Chateau Pitray, are out of stock, with a further 16 ‘low stock’. By no means are these all expensive, low production wines.

TWS is not alone in this, of course, but it does seem to happen much more often than it used to that wines disappear from view so quickly.

I think the way people’s buying habits during COVID does have at least something to do with this. People are buying online more and socialising/going out less. This is translating to people buying more wine online. While it did still happen, it happened a lot less pre-pandemic.

These days it’s become a bit self fulfilling too, as people know wines are going to sell out, so people are buying them quickly to avoid that great sin of our age, missing out. I wonder how many of these are going to people buying a case, who’d previously have bought a bottle or two, to ensure they get it without having to put together the rest of an order, thus making it sell out even quicker.

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That’s a good point, exacerbated by so many wines now being sold EP, where a case is the only option.

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Gone are the days where I slowly build up a shopping cart over a number of months and then buy it while it’s all in stock (and for context I am a new enough member that my share begins with a 4!).

Another thought on the new, reasonably large production wines going out of stock. How much of this is a supply chain issue? It is more difficult to get things over from France at the moment, which could have an impact on stock levels, particularly if some of this was done in a just-in-time way. They can no longer just call the chateau/distributer and ask for another lorry load to be sent over.

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