Total Wine doesn't get it (yet another freshness rant)

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by tzieser, May 6, 2019.

  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,006) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania


    As I detailed in my post above:

    "Two things I can state as fact:
    • Just a year or two ago there was more brewing capacity then demand for beer
    • Over a thousand more breweries opened in 2018 and over a thousand more will open in 2019
    Folks who think the status quo will serve them are sadly mistaken."

    The distributing beer industry can either open their eyes and truly recognize the above facts (and react properly) or they can just plod along like today is like it was in the past and think they can have the same successful (i.e., profitable) business. Businesses who do not respond to changing market conditions more often than not do not do well and even go out of business. All you need to do it look and see how Sears is doing today vs. how how it was a decade ago for an example.

    Bitterbill and bubseymour like this.
  2. joerooster

    joerooster Initiate (31) May 15, 2018 Virginia

    They were called Total Beverage in Virginia (NoVa anyway) before changing the name to 'Total Wine and More' and have had a large selection of beer going back to the 90's and it seems like they are still stuck in the 90s with their approach to beer. If they are still learning, they need to find a new teacher because aside from adding a growler station, which I couldn't care less about, they've done nothing to improve the beer side of the business. Beer is still warm (a lot of it old) and the employees know nothing about the beer they sell.
  3. rgordon

    rgordon Savant (930) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Jack, a wholesaler has to be nimble and quick to respond to changing markets for sure. I used to make an effort to balance our portfolio, and specialize in certain categories. I turned down very good brands and took chances with unknown ones. It would behoove many wholesalers and retailers to trim their offerings to more easily managed inventories..
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  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,006) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Do you think that Total Wine & More will adopt this business strategy?

  5. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Poo-Bah (1,633) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Society Trader

    On a side note, my Sam's Club carries a handful of local craft beers and others like Stone. Usually when I check the dates all are fresh. The point is they are a large company, and seem to get the drift about keeping it fresh. I am usually in the store every two weeks and the beers are always within date.
    Maybe in time more large outfits will follow. I am honestly shocked still to see them keeping it fresh and its been like this for at least 2 years now.
    Bitterbill likes this.
  6. rgordon

    rgordon Savant (930) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

  7. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,006) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I agree with your prediction here.

  8. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,809) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    The real damage to the Brewery reputation you mentioned is very true imo and quite serious. This is where sales reps need to be vigilant too, they have skin in the game, but it could easily be stopped at the distribution level if they so chose, from there the retailer needs to be on top of things too. But the damage to reputation creates a circle of old beer, bad beer, pissed off customers who think your beer stinks, who then won’t buy even if it’s dated ok. It’s too late.
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  9. Donovanj

    Donovanj Initiate (60) Mar 21, 2018 Georgia

    What's wrong with being anti inbev? They are the scourge of the beeri industry!
  10. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,443) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    I personally know of at least 3 stores who closed due to close proximity to a TW in MN. Nice try, though. I don't frequent the muni stores, either, so, again, nice try.
    JMN44 likes this.
  11. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,851) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Since this same line of objection/argument often gets raised with lots of other large chain stores, exactly how did you establish causality? I.e., how do you know those stores were not on their way to closure anyway?
    DonicBoom likes this.
  12. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,443) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    I don't. I'm not an investigator for the FTC. I just note, TW moves in; nearby stores close within months. Same with Wal Mart. So, I guess it is a "good thing" that the TW brothers are the Sam Waltons of liquor retail?
    beertunes likes this.
  13. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,443) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    TW carries at least equal blame since they are demonstrating they care more about labor costs that quality product for sale,
    nc41 likes this.
  14. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,851) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    In other words you're inferring causality from correlation. Thanks.

    BTW, The nearest Total Wine to where I live is located in a shopping mall just over the Delaware border. On the other side of I 95 there is another beer store still in business years after TW Wine opened. Similarly, not far from Total Wine, along one of the highways back to where I live there are at least two different beerstores that are quite viable and doing well.
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  15. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,006) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Yup, Tri-State Liquors has been going strong since 1979. Total Wine & More had not put them out of business.

    drtth likes this.
  16. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,851) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    You don't have to be an investigator for the FTC. Over the years my wife and I have visited central Indiana quite a bit, including two different towns where WallMarts are on the edge of town. Both were heavily populated with mom and pop stores in the business district--e.g., hardware, furniture, etc. However those stores were already on the verge of going out of business because the 2nd generation had gone off to get a college degree and pursue a career that would keep them in or near the big city. In both cities stores began to close. In one the natives just threw up their hands and felt sorry for themselves. In the other the natives began to explore opportunities for using the downtown shops for other purposes, e.g.. an ice cream parlor where the drugstore used to be, the furniture store became an Antique shop, and so on. Last time my wife and I visited the latter town we left behind over $100 in the local antique shops.

    Correlation may represent a relationship but it does not entail causation.
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  17. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (262) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    As competition stiffens, I'm now even seeing local breweries with older product on the shelves at TW. Competition is affecting everyone.

    I think it's blame all around. I'm seeing them order new cases of product while they have old product just sitting. They must have great margins. Definitely the Walmart of the liquor game. They've raised their prices since pricing out the smaller players in my town. Then again, maybe they need to buy 25 cases in order to give them marginally better prices for consumers. Maybe it's okay to have some sold out products though. Something's gotta give. Shorter orders and quicker turnarounds. The big bulk model only works for 5-6 local products that can fill the order need. Yet sometimes, if a product doesn't sell once, maybe it just shouldn't be sold. TW doesn't understand that concept.

    You have to be luckier than anything to find out of state product that is fresh these days. May product may be still around in August. So it's a score to find it now.

    Even five years back when I was visiting AZ, Product freshness was a huge ordeal. They haven't quite learned. And consumers aren't exactly shopping elsewhere. I sense they could cut back inventory and skus in half and just sell stuff that actually sells. 80% of these breweries aren't truly pushing product efficiently. TW has the space to let stuff sit.

    And my biggest pet peeve. Their wages are minimum wage. Around my parts, they may have one beer person. Otherwise, it's just the distributors who are stocking the shelves who are giving really bad beer advice. Ie they push their own lineup.

    But again, they don't seem to care too too much about beer.

    I believe half the breweries in America are pushing mediocre product. Some stuff just shouldnt be as if it's sitting. Distributors are ordering random crap for the most part. No one likes admitting defeat (most stuff just shouldnt be on the shelves).

    But some of that isn't a TW problem. Even local grocery stores and beer stores, you'll find old product. They either think we're dumb enough to buy or don't know how to order products in demand efficiently
    #177 Oktoberfiesta, May 8, 2019
    Last edited: May 8, 2019
    JMN44 likes this.
  18. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (262) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    Last point.

    Beer needs to be seen as a expiring time sensitive commodity. You don't see local bread or even chain bread wittering away on the shelves. They are tossed and within weeks or months, that company may not even be selling bread. Maybe quantities are reduced or item location is shifted. Breweries need to shutter if they aren't producing.

    Imagine going to the grocery store and half the products are old. It's too bad we don't hold beer to that same standard of freshness. TW would be half the size they are if they sold fresh product.
  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,006) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I posted a similar sentiment in post #10. I will set my timer to see if you obtain the same replies to your post #178 as I did.

  20. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,809) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    Another thing with TW, we all know they sell a lot of beer, but the wine sales and Macro beer sales imo really drive the stores business. The craft beer section is quite small in comparison to total available shelf space. So two things, it’s lost in the shuffle of things that produce more revenue. And two, since it’s a relatively small section it shouldn’t be all that time consuming to spot check the product, but still they don’t. I worked retail and they watch payroll to the tenth column, and it’s why most employees are PT, no paid vacations, most times no insurance and fringes. Could be craft beers doesn’t pay the bills there, and because we’re into craft ,,,, well ya know we’re hawks. It looks like Total Wine values the Walmart philosophy on running a store, profits above all else. And from a money making standpoint that’s true, but I wonder how much money they’re leaving on the shelf with poor products, and poor customer service. Could it be there’s a flaw somewhere in the ratio of man hours to bottom line profit? Cleaner store, updated product, more staff to help customers, could be the average ticket would tick upwards.
    #180 nc41, May 8, 2019
    Last edited: May 8, 2019
  21. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,332) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    I think this is a lot of the problem, though perhaps not in the way you're suggesting.

    If bread goes bad, you really can't eat it. It becomes stale and/or moldy, and it could make someone sick if they were to consume it (which could lead to a potential law suit). So there's a pretty strong incentive to get it off the shelf.

    What about beer? Out of code beer may not taste optimal to certain customers, but consuming it won't make them sick and many customers won't even notice there's any sort of problem with the beer. It's intoxicating effect won't be lessened, which for some consumers, is one of the primary aspects of beer that they enjoy. My point being that a lot of distributors/retailers probably don't see this as a huge problem, and my guess is that a lot of them still don't really feel as if there's any such thing as beer going bad from excessive time on a warm shelf. The flavor of the beer may change, but they don't see it as ever going bad.

    Until they're convinced that consumers will no longer buy a particular beer because it's too old, I doubt this problem is going to go away. Just having an occassional uber sensitive BA consumer complaining and pointing out the "best by" date is unlikely to change their practices. I don't doubt for a moment that in many instances they listen to the customer gripe for a moment or two, nod sympathetically, and then put the beer right back on the shelf once the customer leaves (without giving it a second thought).
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  22. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,443) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Almost... these stores had been in business for years, in one case decades. Astonishing coincidence rather than correlation.
  23. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,443) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    So, you object to correlation, but not anecdotal. Got it. (Of course, mine was both, so I guess you're ok with that part....)
  24. gopens44

    gopens44 Poo-Bah (2,245) Aug 9, 2010 Virginia
    Society Trader

    It's the Kobayashi Maru of Total Wine.

    They've got to carry the flagships from every local, regional, national, micro, macro and mucho brewery as well as the industry stalwarts and probably get bamboozled by distro sales to buy "x" of this to get a case of a special release, but in reality most of the selection won't move due to overkill and the fact that the cool kids are only buying brewery releases anyway. Then they can't buy fresh flagships and stalwarts because they have old and dusty on the shelf that distros and breweries aren't going to be accountable for, so people only buy trendy new freshies, perpetuating the problem ad infinitum.

    I kind of feel bad for TW to be honest.
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  25. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,766) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Bread is not "tossed" by the retailer and the freshness "sell by" date coding is long before it becomes moldy and "could make someone sick". Bread at the retail level from large bakeries, in most cases, is managed like beer - the bakery (self-distribution) or distributing company is in charge of maintaining freshness and they pull old stock - just as beer wholesale distributors are supposed to do.

    Just Goggle around some baking company sites (particularly job descriptions):
    Lots of baking companies maintain their own "day old" Outlets where the pulled products are sold. Lots of it nowadays is also donated to food banks, etc. (Beer, on the other hand, being an alcoholic beverage is supposed to be "destroyed"but is sometimes distilled for the alcohol, etc.)

    As noted many times, the way the Beer Distribution Three Tier system is designed in most states, and by contract, is that it is the wholesale distributor which is charged with maintaining fresh beer on the shelves, not Total Wine, Costco or any other retailer.
  26. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,851) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I meet like with like. Show me data I'll be happy to do the same.

    Also my observation is not anecdotal it's a compare and contrast field study. It remains to be validated by further observation but it contains reasons to suggest that other factors are at work that just a big store moving in to new territory.
    #186 drtth, May 8, 2019
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
  27. Giantspace

    Giantspace Crusader (707) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Well the employees at the TW I stop at inDE think they know about beer and give really poor suggestion to customers and false information about what a beer taste like. I do find myself only going to TW 3-4 times a year anymore. The selection was better a few years back and the prices are no better than here on most except Sierra Nevada core and holiday 12 packs and a few others like arrogant bastard DFH core and a few others.

    Unless I Amin the area I no longer make the 30-40 minute ride.

  28. surfcaster

    surfcaster Champion (802) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    A couple of years ago, there would be several different anti-INBEV rants all going at the same time. There was a time when only 10 threads were displayed on the "main page" and 4/10 had some INBEV beef.

    My issue is that the dead horse beating is that it has become monotonous and stale.

    Time to move on.
  29. The-Adjunct-Hippie

    The-Adjunct-Hippie Poo-Bah (3,803) May 12, 2014 South Dakota


    wow that's bad.

    Worst store I ever saw was on the border of Illinois and Iowa, in West Dubuque. Van's Liquor. Went there last year. They had IPA from 2016, and tons of shelf beers that weren't made anymore, in fact I found a Dogfish Head WWS pre-aged for me, 2013. Haha.
    Harrison8 likes this.
  30. The-Adjunct-Hippie

    The-Adjunct-Hippie Poo-Bah (3,803) May 12, 2014 South Dakota

    For the record I don't mind shopping at Total Wine as I'm a serial date checker, but its their singles section rape that gets me. There's like 40-50% mark up on every single. $9.99 six pack normally? Pay $2.99 a single. Give me a break. Perhaps that's an effort to move their stock though, right in line with the topic of this thread.
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  31. KarlHungus

    KarlHungus Poo-Bah (3,075) Feb 19, 2005 Minnesota

    It's not just big beer that plays the limited release game. Pretty much every brewery I dealt with as a beer buyer did too.
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  32. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,809) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    If it moved, but the worst date offenders I see at TW are in the single section. I’ve seen on the shelves 5 pack, yes a 5 pack, because a guy wanted a better date and picked from a 6 on the shelf. So guys do check, but ya, it comes at a premium price, but going to singles only works for those who imo don’t know any better. If they don’t date the bottle don’t bother.
  33. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,550) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    Just before the Home Depot in Danbury opened, Carl Dill called me in to his office at his flagship store in Peekskill. He had a map on the wall of where Home Depot was opening stores in the area. He explained that he would not be needing any more floor maintenance and window cleaning as he was closing all his Dill's Best stores. He said he knew he would be unable to compete with Home Depot. He said Home Depot is in the position of telling lumber suppliers (he used that as an example) how much they will pay for the lumber and buying it buy the train load.

    Of course, one example of how big stores directly put smaller companies out of business doesn't negate your point that other stores who close likely were going to go out of business anyway. And certainly it cannot be used to bolster the argument that TW does the same as Home Depot did to Dill's Best, and other companies, who left the home improvement market here, but it certainly is a better example than any of the conjectures you make in your posts
    #193 cavedave, May 9, 2019
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
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  34. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,851) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I hear what you are saying, but I should say that the example described in my post is not a conjecture, it's a reality based on having been there multiple times and having learned a bit of the history of both towns, talking with locals, sharing a beer with locals, etc.

    As a long time suburan resident in the same community in SEPA, I'm familiar with other examples of local impact of big stores, e.g., Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, K-Mart, Shopping Malls, etc. on small local businesses. Those that have closed often were be small, local mom and pop stores. In addition, I'm also familiar with more than one small family owned hardware store that is still alive and well in their local communities. While one recently closed after about over 100 years years of being in operation that closure was not because of Home Dept, etc., it was a result of no one in the line of ownership/inheritance wanting to bag their current profession and take it over.

    In other words blaming evil intent by a single company or business for what is basically a refletion of a widespread societal change involving many factors is a misleading way to think about a widespread common phenomenon.
    BJC likes this.
  35. GuyFawkes

    GuyFawkes Poo-Bah (3,200) Apr 7, 2011 Illinois
    Society Trader


    Hi Jack! Not a big poster on the main forum here, but I always value your insight & opinions.

    I agree with your emphasis on buying local & fresh, but I wonder...this board is kind of a bubble. We're all huge beer nerds who think & talk about this stuff WAY more than 99% of the beer buying public.

    I think the vast majority of beer drinkers...including "craft" beer drinkers (whatever that means anymore) don't bother to check dates, ever.

    So, while I wish your prediction that breweries / distributers / retailers providing out-of-code or "old" beer would feel financial stress for doing so is true, I don't think that's the case. I hope I'm wrong and you're right, but I think marketing and name-brand recognition has way more to do with the financial success of all these entities than freshness...even actual quality takes a backseat, regardless of freshness.

  36. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (5,985) Sep 24, 2007 Montserrat

    I've thrown this out on "freshness" threads before, but, hang with me here.

    If you go to a mini mart, and buy an icecream cone out of the freezer, it has all the gov't writing and labels, and a bar code. You go to the grocery store, buy the same product, but all the info is on the box, and each individual package inside is labelled "not packaged for individual sale", or some such legalese.

    Could a similar tact be used in the beer industry? To stop retailers from breaking up old sixers/cases to dump old stock, the brewery could label it to be sold as a unit, or returned. Which would put more onus on wholesalers.

    Feasible or not? @jesskidden
    cavedave likes this.
  37. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,550) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    Well, AFAIK no one said anything about evil, or even bad, I sure didn't, and no one said that the benchmark is forcing every single similar business to close

    I shop happily at Walmart and Home Depot, even though losing my biggest customer due to Home Depot almost put me out of business. I am a capitalist, and I think the businesses that get put out of business by big corporations using their clout to control suppliers and undercut prices are examples of successful capitalism. Heck, in the cleaning and maintenance field I would gladly have put out of business all the big guys who hired illegals and charged prices I couldn't meet. Hence I feel no need to conjecture or form opinions based on kind, alternate interpretations of what could be going on. It does not make me happy nor sad to understand that the most likely scenarios of the motivations and realities for businesses closing in the wake of mega businesses moving in to areas are mirror images of what I related about the closure of the Dill's Best chain of home improvement stores.

    I am sure your intelligent eye puts an intelligent meaning to those things you witness as you travel, but let's be realistic. We aren't evil people to understand that business is about out-competing the competition. We aren't evil people to understand that Home Depot and WalMart (and maybe TW too, IDK) put competition out of business. When out-competing occurs the winner stays in business, and the loser(s) go out of business up to the point that the local economy can support the mega store and whatever competition can keep their niche(s).
    #197 cavedave, May 9, 2019
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
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  38. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,851) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    True, nobody used the word “evil.”

    Also you, and I, at the end of the day are after making the same or similar points. What I think is missing is some context created earlier in the thread by others.

    More to follow.
    cavedave likes this.
  39. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,809) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    I don’t think it’s a secret Walmart is in the same position that Home Depot is, they get to dictate price to their suppliers as well. Walmart is not known for outstanding customer service, quality is up to the individual entity I suppose, and I like most use Walmart quite a bit. I don’t suppose there’s enough TWs to have the same advantage, the pricing structure from the local mom and pop shops are close enough to not really be a consideration for the beer. Wine is noticeably less expensive though imo. Funny enough if I go into a TW here you cannot buy a simple 6 pk or Budweiser in any form. You can buy 12 pks and cases, but not a 6, I’d have to go to the local gas station for that. I do spend money at TW, but I closely watch canning dates, but I do this everywhere, the mom and pop stores aren’t much better than TW, for different reasons I think, but they have their problems as well.
  40. MistaRyte

    MistaRyte Devotee (477) Jan 14, 2008 Virginia

    This. TW is great for buying by the package... local bottle shops more so for "singles".
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