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Refunds on non faulty wines




What do other members think of the liberal way that refunds are given out for any complaint regarding a wine on the list?

I understand that it’s not only good practice to refund faulty bottles but a legal requirement. Unfortunately, I’ve become a little uneasy about the policy to refund a bottle where there was no fault and it just wasn’t to the drinkers taste. Surely that’s always going to happen with anybody, regardless of experience and at any price-point.

I got to thinking about this the other day when I drank a bottle of Rose that I wasn’t keen on. There was nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t like the style.

I often like to leave reviews of the wines I’ve drank but noticed I’ve stopped doing it with anything I don’t like, because I always get a message within 24 hours apologising and informing me my account has been credited with the amount of the bottle.

On the surface this seems like stellar customer service but with two problems. One is that people like me will stop leaving unbiased reviews, which isn’t a big deal at all, but the other is that although most people are honest, in any walk of life there’s always that 5% who aren’t and there will definitely be people out there who are just after free wine but, of course, there’s no such thing as a “free” anything, somebody pays somewhere along the line and in this case the cost will be shared out amongst all the members.

I don’t want to appear to be moaning, I like the way that TWS works and customer services are very good when needed but if just 5% of the regular buying members complained about a £20 bottle that wasn’t to their liking the amount of refunds would rack up in no time. I personally can’t remember a mixed case of wines which were new to me, that didn’t contain at least 1 bottle I wasn’t keen on, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?


Great question and an interesting issue.

I don’t work in Member Services so can’t speak in an official capacity or know the stats, but it certainly is not anything like 5% of members complaining - though I take your point.

We are a cooperative, so we are all, as you say, paying for this ‘insurance’ and it is part of the commitment that is made to all members when they sign up. I am quite sure that if the volume became excessive, action would be taken. If it was by a few individuals, this would be pretty obvious and we could contact them to help them buy better. If it was something across the board, then it would indicate other systematic issues we might need to look into - such as storage or delivery, or issues with producers.

There will always be wines that we do not love, but that is also part of our own learning experience. I think that this insurance is a great way to encourage more members to be willing to experiment more and try new wines with confidence - and I’d guess that the cost of the refunds would be off-set by the number of new sales.

Would you buy the same, or less, (or more??) if you didn’t know you COULD get your money back (even if you’ve never claimed)?


Amusingly, I posted the above and went to my FB feed (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) and the second item on there was a post shared by a friend in the USA that was very relevant:


We got a refund on a wine recently when I didn’t actually apply for a refund. I left a negative review because the wine was just a massive oak vanilla bomb (and I appreciate the good use of oak). Someone in TWS saw the review and automatically gave me a £10 credit for the wine. I thought it was very nice of them however I do agree that i felt a bit uneasy about it and don’t want to be contributing towards TWS not being able to balance the books so to speak (I’m sure it’s far from the case however the money behind all these wine refunds could go towards other investments within the society).


You make a very interesting point. I must admit I hadn’t thought that the cost of the returned bottles could be outweighed by people being more experimental and buying more, without risk, and then finding they love it and would possibly make repeat purchases as well.

In answer to the question," Would you buy the same, or less, (or more??) if you didn’t know you COULD get your money back (even if you’ve never claimed)?". As far as I can remember I’ve only ever had to claim back for 3 purchases in all the time I’ve been in TWS. One was a cheap SA Shiraz that had somehow gone through a second fermentation, one a cellar plan wine were several bottles were faulty and the other a twenty year old Claret that was as dead as dead could be. I consider this a brilliant hit rate considering how much I’ve bought over the years so I don’t think personally I’d change my buying habits at all, but as I buy new (to me) wines all the time, if I was to claim a credit for every wine I didn’t like but was technically fine, I’d feel guilty very quickly.


This thread is reminding me of the good samaritan scene at the end of Life of Brian…I think TWS are spot on in offering credit where credit is due…long may it continue


Seconded. Having been the “beneficiary” of this policy once it gave me the confidence that if a wine I ordered was really poor then I’d be refunded. [Really poor to me is something that you aren’t prepared to finish the first glass poured of a non-faulty wine].

I’m sure The Society will have in place some simple safeguards. Basic data analysis will highlight any unusual return patterns and the Member could be contacted and gently quizzed as to why they are a statistical outlier?


Interesting to chat about this policy but I think it’s one of the great things about the society. It encourages experimentations and exploration. It says to the member we stand by our wines they aren’t any old tosh.

Obviously if the returns were excessive either by the individual or collectively than action would be needed. From the posts above they are not.

I must admit I do return bottles when they are defective. Never simply because it’s not liked but still I do use this facility. Those who say they’ve never had a corked bottle aren’t concentrating. In fact I think far more defective bottles are drunk than returned.

How annoying to have to explain the reasons for returning. I’ve had this else where “ can you bring the bottle in to taste”. Not a lot of use a week after opening.

A truely great thing to be celebrated


I’ve never returned, or claimed for a bottle as far as I can remember but I’m aware of the facility which I think is important and beneficial. I don’t love every bottle I’ve ever had. However I don’t think writing a poor review should be assumed to mean asking for a refund. If you want a refund for whatever reason you should have to request it. I think you should be able to record a negative review without having to have a refund. Otherwise there is a risk of distorting the honesty of member’s reviews, one way or the other.


I have received refunds from simple a poor review. Quite a surprise. However the next time I had a corked bottle I just wrote a review but got no refund, so it’s not monitored thoroughly.


The credits are applied as part of the Society’s Promise :slight_smile:

When that was decided to be the way I’m not too sure but it has been for quite some time! Personally I think if you didn’t enjoy a wine then it’s nice to have the money you spent back as it was invested in your enjoyment and then you can use it against something else. We do moniter the credits applied so they’re not just given out all over the shop and if you are reporting the bottles on-line and have done a few in succesion or it’s over a certain value it is flagged up so we can investigate any issues. If you really would prefer not to have the credit on any occasion do let us know because we can always reverse it!


All fair enough but perhaps to be absolutely clear what I’m suggesting is that the process of reviewing should be completely separate from the process of claiming a refund.
After all, when the Society refunds the cost of a wine it really means that all the members are paying for the bottle you didn’t like/want. Sometimes you’ve just made a poor choice and it isn’t anybody’s fault. You don’t want a refund, you just learn something and move on.


I have only had one refund so far and it was for a minor disappointment, rather than a faulty wine. I hadn’t expected it, but it does help with my confidence to spend money with the WS. I normally would only expect or ask for a refund on a faulty wine, and do see the potential danger of serial complainers abusing the system.


This is relevant to me as I am working through a large number of the TWS everyday wines many that are new to me and outside my usual buying pattern.
It is what I like about wine the tasting of new areas and grapes and with that will inevitably come disappointments, but it is my choice and unless the wine was actually really of the scale as being poor or was faulty I would not expect to be reimbursed.
I have just put in a review that would fall into the “don’t like” category but I should not credited for simply experimenting.
And it will not stop me, never has, from digging out wines new to me, the old adage, if you don’t try you don’t know, comes to mind.


TWS are not the only wine seller to offer your money back if you don’t like the wine.

I have only benefited once from this offer, a long time ago when I bought a case of TWS own label Zinfandel (a variety I like) solely on TWS’s enthusiastic review.

I didn’t think the first bottle matched the description, but thought that was either an odd bottle or I was having an off day. But the second bottle was the same, so I phoned and asked if I could return the remaining 10 bottles for a refund.

After asking my reason I was refunded not the 10 unopened bottles I had requested, but unexpectedly for all 12.

Two outcomes:

  1. I am more willing to try new wines based on TWS blurbs.
  2. I tell this story to everyone who asks about TWS. Maybe co-incidence, but when we started a tasting group a couple of years ago only 2 out of 10 of us were in TWS, now all 10 have joined. :slight_smile:


This is a very interesting - and worthwhile - debate.
It appears that most members (or the ones that have contributed, to be more exact) have a conscientious approach to refunding and recognise the ultimate cost to all. It would be interesting to know the percentage of bottles returned as against bottles purchased. I assume someone has those figures somewhere. That might help some members’ consciences, at least!
I think a bigger issue is the over-promotion of some wines by TWS. I realise that selling is the ‘life-blood’ , not to mention caveat emptor, but place more value members’ reviews than the marketeers’.
Another tip is not to buy anything when you’ve just enjoyed a relaxing few gulps and aren’t as, shall we say, focussed as you might be:slight_smile:!


I remember when I first joined TWS about 8 or so years ago, one of the first wines I ever bought was an own label Zin. It was and still remains the only bottle I’ve had that wouldn’t have made it’s way onto a supermarket shelf. Really sweet, overly ripe and very poor.

I didn’t ask for a refund, just poured it down the sink and forgot all about it.

A couple of years ago I noticed all the reviews for the same wine were very different to the experience I had, so ordered another bottle out of curiosity. I found it was a totally changed wine and much improved. I don’t think I’d buy again as it’s only a few pence cheaper than the excellent Ravenswood Zin, which for me is one of the best wines on the list when available, but good all the same.


“TWS are not the only wine seller to offer your money back if you don’t like the wine.”

That is true, but the difference is the onus is on the purchaser to complain and get a refund not to have a review read and then TWS telling you that you have been credited and would you like to return the rest of the order.

One of the problems with wine in general is that despite the fact it is a food it is treated differently to a mouldy loaf or a rancid piece of fish, if the wine is faulty it shouldn’t be poured down the sink , the buyer should return it for exchange or refund, in the days when many wines were corked I would regulary return corked wines and be met with a strange look that implied “you can’t do that” or “seems all right to me do you know anything about wine”, people confronted like that backed away from returning bottles and they went down the sink regardless of cost.
That has quite rightly changed, but buying a different wine that is perfectly OK but not liking it is no different to buying Brussel sprouts for the first time not liking them and trying to return them, you wouldn’t.


TWS’s responsiveness is what marks them out as different, and why we love them. And isn’t a bad review a complaint?

It’s different because TWS offer the refund to encourage us to buy the unfamiliar. Many members buy by the case to get free shipping. All they know about a wine is TWSs catalogue and mailings.

And since they are not the only wine merchant to do so, there must make proven commercial sense.

Me, I love brussels spouts with my Sunday roast, but even with a plateful the cost of minimal against the cost of a case of wine - even from TWS :smile:

BTW some food retailers offer a no-quibbles money-back offer if you don’t like their own label items.

I should imagine that should a member be abusing the ‘don’t like = money-back’ system they’d be shown a red card.


You are not really disagreeing with what I say, it is obviously a commercial decision by TWS to go this route and must be a viable one or they would not do it, but I think you take it a bit to far…

“It’s different because TWS offer the refund to encourage us to buy the unfamiliar”

do they actually say that anywhere , and yes any obvious liberty takers would be weeded out.

This no quibble guarantee regards goods has to be taken in the context of a throw away society and companies know it, not including TWS here, that generous guarantees can be given in the knowledge that few will take them up even when entitled to, on a blog I contribute to there was a recent item on the ridiculous guarantes given with lightbulbs that no one would ever be able to tell how many hours they had managed before they blew, and of course the comments centered on the fact no one knew anybody who had ever sent them back !

That is an easy example, but on a personal level if I am trying a wine that I have no prior knowledge of unless as I said before it was faulty or actually sub standard then I would put it down to experience, there are many areas in retailing where a lot more money than a case of wine would be spent and unless the item again was faulty it would be a case of caveat emptor if you had made a wrong choice.
It is a complex area both in the way a retailer sets out its trading values and the balance with its buyers, a good example of a different atitude would be a builder working to your plans and then you decide you don’t like the end result, I don’t think you would get a refund for the completed work there and it is a valid comparison as the client supplier options are the same, the Brussell sprouts were an example, not a cost equivalent that I could have used.