Mystery Shopper: Brookline Liquor Mart E-mail Offer

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


  • Great deals on some great wines
  • Allows you to mix varieties, limited volume required for discount
  • Shop at home, pick-up in store
  • Some ambiguity on the terms of the deal
  • Flaky online reporting of wine availability
I subscribe to a lot of wine shop E-mail lists in the metro Boston area. And why not? If I don't like what they have to say, I just ignore it and move on with my day. The thing I like to hear about most in a wine shop E-mailer is an offer for deep discounts on wine the shop is looking to push out the door for one reason or another. Either they've bought the wine in quantity and they've been able to secure a great price, or they're just looking to liquidate a certain wine for whatever reason.

I've been receiving Brookline Liquor Mart's E-mailer for about a year and for the most part I've not been tempted to bite on their offers. Mostly because the offers were for high quantities of a single wine, or the terms and conditions of procurement were too ambiguous for me to navigate. As a consumer, there is nothing I hate more the ambiguity- clarity is key.

Their latest offer was unique in tone. It responded to customer feedback that aligned with my preferences- that consumers need not buy too much of a single wine to quality for a great deal:

In short- mix and match a total of 6 of any of the following wines to qualify for the deal:

2003 J Nicole's Vineyard Pinot Noir (WS Not Rated, Cellar Tracker 91)
-$24.97 (regularly $54.99)
-Release Price: $55 (est)*

2004 JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Auslese (WS 94)
-$24.97 (regularly $49.99)
-Release Price: $38

1998 Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (WS 90)
-$39.97 (regularly $84.99)
-Release Price: $110

1999 King Estate Pfeiffer Pinot Noir (WS 92)
-$29.97 (regularly $57.99)
-Release Price: $40

*-I couldn't find a release price for the J Vineyards Pinot. I'd estimate it at $55 given that the 2001 was $50 and the 2006 was $65.

One thing I'm always mildly suspicious of is when a retailers compare their sale price to their own "retail", "list" or "regular" price. This tactic gives them the ability to show a seemingly deep discount by jacking up the every day price. To assess whether each of these were truly good deals, I consulted my Wine Spectator Online subscription and queried what the release price was. Not that the price of wine can't change over time, but I feel the release price is a more valid comparison point than the "regular" price.

I waited a couple of days after I received the mailer to respond. After doing a little research, it seemed that these were genuinely great deals. Not only that, they were appropriately timed to the season (Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Riesling and Pinot Noir are perfect wines for this time of year.) Further, the Brunello included in the offer was a 90 pointer and deeply discounted from release price -and- already aged the 10-years that Brunellos are recommended to be cellared. What a deal!

When I clicked on the link for the Riesling, I got a message saying "Unable to locate this item". Okay, I'm not sure what that means- when I searched for the Riesling by name it didn't turn up. When I clicked on the link in the offer for the Brunello, I got a "SOLD OUT" indication:

I was unsure whether ordering a wine listed as "SOLD OUT" would qualify me for the deal, but I wanted to get the other wines at a good price without ordering too many wines, so I included the Brunello in my order in hopes that it would. The J Pinot and the King Estate Pinot showed as being in stock, so I ordered (2) of the J Pinot, (2) of the King Estate Pfeiffer Pinot, and (2) of the Brunello.

The next day I got a notification back that my order had been filled, and I would be receiving (2) of the J Pinot and (2) of the Brunello. Fine by me, but I thought it was strange that one of the wines listed that was in stock (the King Estate Pinot) was actually unavailable and one of the wines that was listed as Sold Out (the Brunello) was actually in stock. Further, although I selected Store Pick-up (free) for my shipping option:

...when the order was confirmed, it showed as being shipped FedEx Ground at a cost of $26.44:

I called up Eden Stone straight away and she said she'd refund the money for the shipping and I could come pick it up at the store. I haven't seen a credit back on my credit card, but I assume it'll just take a little time.

So today, I drove down to the Brookline Liquor Mart to pick up my 4 bottles. I gave my last name at the counter and while they were poking around trying to find my orded I had a look around the shop. I spotted the J Pinot on the floor for $24.97 (which contradicts the verbage in the offer saying that "these wines are not available in the store".) The reason I was looking for it was that I forgot which wines were shipped and thought that perhaps there might be some remnant bottles on the floor at the same price. I thought to mention this point here in the blog because the J Pinot was one of the best Pinots I have *ever* had at any price. Read my Corkd review here. I gave it 93 points and at $24.97 that makes for an awesome QPR (for a Pinot Noir which is perhaps the highest priced domestic varietal.) I'd highly encourage you to seek this wine out and the pricing at Brookline Liquor Mart surely can't be beat on this item.

In summary, I'd say it was an interesting interaction with Brookline Liquor Mart's Internet Sales/E-mail offer. I'm certainly pleased with the first wine I cracked open and I hope the Brunello is just as good. In the end, it's the enjoyment you get out of the wine in exchanged for your hard earned dollar that determines value. And overall this transaction is looking like a good value.

Update: Eden Stone has changed employers. She now works for Blanchard's in West Roxbury, MA. Read more...

Question of the Day: Do you do a lot of these "order online, pick-up locally" deals? Or more straight Internet and ship wine transactions?


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