Recently'in the midst of a NyQuil-infused haze (which I’ve learned from Private Eye columnist John Saltas is no excuse) brought on by a wicked sinus infection'I blasted the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for its no-return policy regarding wine and beer. Judging from the response, I clearly ruffled some feathers over at ChÃ¢teau Dorius.
The reason I bring up the topic again this week is that, simply put, I got it wrong. Maybe you could call it a case of faulty intelligence-gathering, but I am here to admit that I missed the boat, screwed the pooch and fumbled the ball. I remember Joe Garagiola telling Tony Kubek a story on NBC’s Game of the Week a few years back. It was about a shortstop Garagiola played baseball with who was so bad that he booted nearly every ball hit his way. They nicknamed the guy “Clang-Clang” for the sound the ball supposedly made bouncing off his metallic mitts. Well, that’s me: Clang-Clang. And because I spilt so much ink in getting the story wrong two weeks ago [“Wine, Whine, Wine,” Dec. 8, City Weekly] I thought it only fair to devote some serious space to getting it right.
In that rant, I chastised the DABC for not allowing consumers to return wine deemed “bad.” I wasn’t talking about wine that someone decided they simply didn’t like. I was talking about wine that was spoiled: corked, maderized, etc. I based my criticism of the DABC on my own observation of signs posted at wine and liquor stores that read, “No returns of wine, Champagne, or beer.” It’s also printed on DABC cash-register receipts. In the column, I mentioned I’d never actually tested the policy.
Well, I should have, because according to DABC’s Brett Clifford, “We have been giving customers returns and exchanges on spoiled wines with regularity for the 30 years I have worked for the DABC.” Brett also wrote to me personally saying, “I’ve got to think you’re the only wine drinker in Utah who doesn’t know a bad bottle can always be returned to our stores. The signage has been in place in the Metro Wine Store since I opened it in Trolley Square back in 1979 and always has said something to the effect that â€˜no wine or beer may be returned or refunded unless spoiled.’â€
Clifford adds that the Metro wine store gets anywhere from five to 20 returns each week. “It is true that we do not return wines that people simply don’t like, but then again, they’ll more often than not do so just to make the customer happy,” says Clifford. So, it turns out that the DABC isn’t the soulless operation I’d thought! Indeed, there was a lot of passion in Brett Clifford’s appeal.
He also explained why it is that the DABC stores can’t allow returns on unopened wine or beer, an issue he consistently faces when people or organizations overbuy for events like weddings, parties or conventions. Clifford’s reasoning for not allowing even those sealed bottles of beer or wine back into the system is “I feel very strongly that is unfair to the subsequent buyer of wine or beer whose storage and handling we cannot guarantee. Liquor, of course, is virtually impervious to this problem.” And I applaud Clifford and the DABC for protecting consumers against cases of wine that might have been sitting out in the hot sun for hours at someone’s wedding, unbeknownst to the subsequent buyer.
So let me state unequivocally and with enthusiasm: The DABC does allow returns on spoiled wine. Mea culpa, and pass the NyQuil.