The Internet is becoming a great way to buy wine. Never before has the consumer had so many choices so easily available, all from the comfort of the home. But like any marketplace it helps to know how to navigate this new and constantly expanding world.
The most important rule to follow when buying wine online is to buy from a reputable merchant. These are vendors that likely already have a thriving brick and mortar operation and have placed their inventory online. Unfortunately the internet is a breeding ground for scam artists so know whom you are buying from. If a price seems to be too good to be true then it probably is. Of course this doesn’t apply to well-established stores that might be having a sale.
Another advantage of going through a well established merchant is that buying online requires a certain amount of trust. The buyer cannot visually inspect the goods and consider that wine is a fragile product to begin with. A dishonest merchant may seek to sell damaged wines by taking advantage of the anonymous nature of the Internet. A good merchant will always accept returns and will seek to provide satisfaction if the product cannot be replaced outright. Using a credit card to purchase the wine is recommended as most credit companies have some sort of insurance designed to protect the buyer.
No matter who you buy from back up the order by phone communication and talk to a real person to ensure your order can be met. Sites are often not up to date and especially when buying a sought after wine you might find yourself out of luck. Very few if any computerized inventory programs work flawlessly and all are subject to human as well as computer error.
Another issue when buying online is shipping. Shipping wine requires a certain amount of attention and care. Many who buy large quantities online will not ship in the hot months. A typical shipping truck can act like an oven and heat is the greatest enemy of wine. Buy only from a merchant who understands this. Many will agree to hold your purchase free of charge till the weather is suitable for shipping. The scariest scenario for a wine-lover is the thought of their shipment sitting on some pallet in the baking sun. If the wine is absolutely required no matter the weather one may choose overnight delivery but usually the cost of this makes the purchase unreasonable.
Many retailers insist that 2nd day air is the best way to go but this is always expensive and some retailers will make extra profit from the shipping. If the weather is suitable for shipping then there is nothing wrong with using ground delivery which is always the cheapest option. It’s always important to ship to an address where somebody will be present to accept the package. The wine may have been damaged enroute and by refusing the shipment the buyer can avoid having to go through the process of returning the wine.
Due to misguided laws many Americans cannot have wine shipped to them across state lines. These laws are in place to protect the wine distributors and go completely against any free market logic. Increasingly these laws are being overturned as consumers make their voices heard. Conceivably, in the near future these laws will cease to exist but for now always check to see whether it’s legal to have the wine shipped. Shipping agencies are required by law to seize the shipments if they determine they’re illegal resulting in a total loss to the buyer.
Besides merchants a number of wine auction operations have sprung up on the Internet. Like any auction the buyer must accept a certain risk when purchasing. These operations are still reasonably new and seem to hold many pitfalls for the buyer. One site winebid.com, one of the largest, is basically unregulated. The site provides a forum for buyers and sellers to meet, but when something goes wrong the site is largely not responsible. This state of affairs is not helped by the fact that most of the revenue is generated by seller’s fees so if a large seller acts dishonestly it’s not always in the best interest of the site to interfere. No doubt many of the problems will be solved as time goes on but presently when it comes to buying wine from online auctions let the buyer beware.
Online wine buying is an amazing development for wine consumers as so many choices and opportunities to find selection and optimal price have never existed before. By entering into this world using the same sense that applies to buying anything the consumer can greatly benefit. Though one warning, drinking wine while shopping is not a good idea as may find yourself with a jaw-dropping credit card bill!