Should the liquor store care that I grabbed a rotten bottle?
January 3, 2009 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I bought a bottle of red wine at my local liquor store, opened it once I got home, and it was bad. Can I return it to the liquor store and get a credit?

I can count myself, lucky, I guess, that for all the times that I've done the "sample the wine before pouring it" routine at a restaurant, I've never had anything come up bad. But the signs were there as I opened this bottle (an unremarkable $10.99 bottle of Oro Spanish wine, for the curious): funky, mouldy-looking cork-top once I took the foil off, junk all around the mouth of the bottle once I got the cork out.

When I poured it, it was cloudy, and then it smelled like vinegar and tasted bad. I poured it down the drain, and there were chunks of dark red stuff that came out. Bad bottle of wine, clearly.

So, being sorta new to wine-etiquette, can I take it back to the liquor store and nicely ask for something else? There's still some of the chunky stuff at the bottom of the bottle, as proof. And I have the cork still. Or is it like buying fresh produce at the grocery store, where if those apples you chose are funky then too bad?
posted by dammitjim to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You may be SOL with the empty bottle - had you brought back the full one I'm sure they would have replaced it for you.
posted by tristeza at 8:44 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

What tristeza said. Bring the funk back, and you're in a much better position.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:48 PM on January 3, 2009

I'd try with the empty bottle. Hopefully it still reeks a little inside? Go when it's not to busy, find an employee who looks calm and un-stressed, and ask quietly and politely at a time when there are no other customers nearby. I've gotten a replacement on a full bottle with a leaky cork without fuss, so I know it happens. I assume an empty bottle would be okay too as long as you're soft-spoken and polite about it, and obviously a nice customer instead of a fussy scammer.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:51 PM on January 3, 2009


Just call them and ask.
posted by wfrgms at 8:57 PM on January 3, 2009 [13 favorites]

If you're a regular customer at your local wine shop they'll almost certainly replace your $11 bottle of wine just to keep a customer happy. I'd go back with the empty bottle, funky cork, and receipt, tell them your story and see what they say.
posted by foodgeek at 8:58 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've had no problem bringing back a full bottle of "off" wine and getting a full refund, so I'd certainly try bringing back the empty bottle with the funky cork and etc and asking for a refund/replacement -- but next time, don't pour it out.
posted by kate blank at 9:00 PM on January 3, 2009

Best answer: Absolutely take it back. They should be happy to replace it for you. Liquor stores have a number of ways to get money back from the distributor, and even if they can't get the money back, they should just eat the cost if you're regular customer or are going to be a regular customer. If they're not cooperative, tell them you won't shop there anymore.
posted by mollweide at 9:11 PM on January 3, 2009

When I worked in wine retail, we *always* took back a bad bottle on a customer's word, even, in fact, if there was no bottle. This is the reason you patronize good merchants, who understand the goal is to keep you as a customer, not argue over a bottle.

It happens. It's part of the accounting.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:13 PM on January 3, 2009

Is this really the kind of thing the internet can help you with? No matter what the hive says, the clerk is going to say one of two things. If you're looking for an opinion on what they should say, this is chatfilter. Get in your car and go back to the liquor store.
posted by Roman Graves at 9:29 PM on January 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

I've had no problems getting a new bottle the 2 times I've brought back bad wine (though I always have bought back the full bottle)

The first time the manager came over as I walked in with a bottle of wine(mine was only $7.99!) with the cork sticking out and said "bad bottle?" without me having to say anything.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:44 PM on January 3, 2009

Go ask them and find out.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:51 PM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Should the liquor store care that I grabbed a rotten bottle?

Yeah... They should.
posted by magikker at 10:12 PM on January 3, 2009

nthing what everyone else has said. This has happened to me before. A good bottle of wine in a tasting was obviously off when I got it home. I took an empty bottle (and busted cork) back to the store, asked for a new bottle, and got an exchange with no questions asked. Any wine seller worth their grapes will do the same.
posted by Gilbert at 10:50 PM on January 3, 2009

One thing that I'll note here: it depends on what state you're in. In Georgia, all alcohol sales are, by law, final. if you get a bad/corked bottle, you're SOL, and the store you bought it from couldn't help you even if they wanted to.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:05 PM on January 3, 2009

Even our evil empire state stores in PA will refund/replace you a corked bottle of wine.

If this ever happens again, it's better to take back the full bottle. But if they fuss that there's not enough wine to tell that it was corked, just explain that you poured it out unthinkingly and describe those chunks.
posted by desuetude at 11:07 PM on January 3, 2009

Or is it like buying fresh produce at the grocery store, where if those apples you chose are funky then too bad?

Also, you can usually take back bad produce, in my experience, provided that you have the receipt and you bought it recently.
posted by stray at 1:59 AM on January 4, 2009

For sure bring it back, even empty. As suggested above it's better to have the liquid, but the smell of a corked bottle of wine is very distinctive and even the bottle should still carry the smell. Any wine clerk should be able to recognize it on the spot. A corked bottle, for the record, does not smell like a bottle would if you left it out empty for a few weeks, so it's not like they're going to think you're trying to put one past them. Just show up with the corked bottle and a smile, they should take care of it.
posted by baphomet at 8:17 AM on January 4, 2009

FWIW, I have taken back a bad bottle of liquor before and had no problems. The liquor store was happy to let me exchange it for a replacement. This was in Pennsylvania.
posted by galimatias at 8:52 AM on January 4, 2009

If they don't take it back, they're totally screwing you. The liquor store will get reimbursed by the distributors. As much as 10-15% of bottles with natural corks become "corked." At my restaurant, we have several cases full of bottles that have been opened and discovered to be corked. Whenever the distributor comes by, we swap them out or get a refund.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:41 PM on January 4, 2009

Just wanting to add, if you happen to get a clerk at the store who doesn't have a clue and says he can't take it back... please don't be a dick. Just ask when the manager or owner will be back.

If the manager or owner says they can't/won't help you, don't be a dick. Just don't go back. But write them a letter expressing your disappointment.
posted by bilabial at 11:35 PM on January 4, 2009

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