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How to win customers and influence people

By makemylunch - 16 October 2007 87

Regarding: ACT Wine Industry Network incorp. Brindabella Wine Tours, and in particular, their “executive director”, Michael J. Tabart

I am (was) on the mailing list for this company, ACT Wine / Brindabella Tours. About a month ago, they sent an email advising of a special offer, and I quote:  “Purchase any case of wine from us between now and Saturday 29th September (by 2.00pm) from our website (at our listed prices), tell us whether you are going for Geelong or Port Adelaide – and everyone who selects the winning team will get ANOTHER CASE OF THE PURCHASED WINE ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE!!! EVERYONE!”

There was no website link included in the email, but luckily I know how to google. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say in all my years of working with website design I have never come across a less user-friendly site.  The online order form told me the wine cost $26.95 per… something, which I assumed was per case because I’ve bought this particular wine before for around $15 a bottle. Yes, that would be a brilliant deal, but they’re a warehouse. The wine is supposed to be dirt-cheap. So I selected ‘quantity 1’, put in my credit card details and got a receipt telling me my order was accepted. However, there was nowhere to specify my choice of AFL team, so I emailed Michael Tabart again.

He wrote back telling me that my choice of wine was not in stock and therefore wasn’t eligible for the special offer. Well, he should have said that in the original email, right? But no – all he’d said was “purchase ANY case of wine” (see quote above). He also said the website displays the number of bottles or cases available. Which it doesn’t. I decided to go ahead with the order anyway and told him so.

Yet another email came back from Tabart telling me my order through the website had not come through after all, and could he please have my credit card details? I gave them to him reluctantly, a little concerned that I’d had to enter my credit card number on his website and my details had been lost. But I’d sent the email in a hurry and forgotten to put my address on it. Back came his reply reminding me to do so. All well and good; I wrote back yet again, joking that I didn’t know where my head was at. The next email I got was a notice telling me he’d posted my case of wine.

At no point during this back-and-forth did either of us think to confirm the price; my fault just as much as his. But this meant that I was rocked off my chair when I got my credit card statement and found that he’d charged me over $300. I was a little shocked, so I emailed him again asking for confirmation of the price and offering to give his website designer a few tips on user-friendly design.  Imagine my surprise to receive the following email in reply:  

All our wines are listed as per all standard liquor sites as a per bottle price. This is also specified on the Order Form (on our site – near the price it says ea – which means per bottle) although we did not receive one from you initially with a credit card no.- that’s why I emailed you requesting your confirmed order and credit card details. I have charged you the stated price per bottle of $26.95 and the $12.00 freight charge also as per advertised. I really am speechless if you thought that the wine was $26.95 a case (or $2.24 per bottle). I really don’t know what else to say except there appears to be quite a bit of confusion on your part – my back log of outward emails records me asking for your address, your credit card no. and again at some stage asking you to confirm your order. One of your return emails refers to your confusion and I think maybe a phone call from you may have made the whole process clearer. Our Terms and Conditions clearly specify minimum amounts that can be ordered and I clearly requested you to confirm that you wanted a case. Your order was specially ordered in as stated and was expedited to you asap.
I take notice of your comments re: the format of our website but I have to say that in 10 years of operating our business I have not had such a case of confusion on a customer’s part nor any complaints at all about our website . However, I will take your comments to our next meeting with our website designer and see if we can improve the site even further.
In the meantime I trust you enjoy your wine and I hope you will see fit to utilise our services in the future.

Kind regards

I couldn’t believe it. I went back to double check, and the terms and conditions says absolutely nothing about minimum ordering quantities – all that’s on that page is a copyright blurb. The order form doesn’t specify whether you’re ordering by bottle or by case – it only states that there is a delivery charge of $12. And how was I supposed to intuit that ‘ea’ meant ‘each bottle‘, not ‘each case ‘? Clearly, I am not a frequent visitor to these ‘standard liquor sites’ he mentions. Not to mention the fact that he’d suddenly turned so offensive. So here’s what I wrote back: 


I have another tip for you. If you want to encourage repeat business, don’t imply your customers are stupid. Telling me you are speechless over my confusion was entirely unnecessary, particularly as my confusion was caused by your misleading and contradictory emails and website.

Yes, I pointed out that I was naive to assume the wine was $26.95 per case. However, I have purchased bottles of Wimbaliri Chardonnay for under $16 before so I don’t think it was THAT naive, considering you apparently operate a warehouse, which should mean the wine is a whole lot cheaper.

I will not see fit to utilise your services in the future as I have never had to deal with such a rigmarole when ordering online in my life. I also don’t appreciate being scolded like a little child, particularly when I have just laid out over $300 on your product. Incidentally, you never did answer my question about the total cost. Not that it matters now. I hope the taste of my wine is not soured by this whole experience.


And this is what he wrote in reply:  

Thanks for all the tips. Now one for you – get some help and get a life! Please no more contact – we will remove you from our mailing list and won’t trouble you anymore.
For many years I ran a successful counselling/psych. practice and only left it because of troubled people continually stressing me out! I don’t need anymore cranks. Any further idiotic emails from you with your misconstrued perceptions will cause us to take legal advice. Kind regards
Michael J. Tabart
Executive Director
ACT Wine Industry Network incorp. Brindabella Wine
Ph: (02) 6231 6997 or (m) 0408 626 918  

 Wow, EXCELLENT customer service, right? Does this guy not realise that word of mouth recommendation is the best way to attract customers? Clearly not! So here is my recommendation to all of you: NEVER EVER EVER buy wine from this company or go on their wine tours.  

And as for you, Michael J Tabart, you really need to get a clue on how to deal with customers. Look how much potential business you just lost! Furthermore, the next time you want to threaten me with legal action, make sure of the following:

 1.       That you have a leg to stand on, legally speaking (in case you’re wondering, you don’t);

2.       That you have not already libelled the person you are threatening (I refer here to your insinuation that I am mentally ‘troubled’, a ‘crank’ and an ‘idiot’);

3.       That the repercussions for you won’t lose you any business.

 This has been a public service announcement. Thank you all for your time!  

What’s Your opinion?

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87 Responses to
How to win customers and influence people
S4anta 3:16 pm 16 Oct 07

make my lunch: my comment was aimed at anyone that honestly thinks that an anonymous complaint, via the interweb under a psydonuem(sp?), on this site or another will get their desired results is a clown. This is not meant to offend makemylunch, but all others, eat it! I am afraid.


I have dealt with you, and your customer service is fine as far as i am concerned, email and face to face matey. you are a good cookie

Sammy 3:01 pm 16 Oct 07

For many years I ran a successful counselling/psych. practice and only left it because of troubled people continually stressing me out!

If this is true, then thank christ he is no longer attempting to provide counseling support to clients.

A statement like this is a good indication that he was not appropriately positioned to provide counseling services.

Sammy 2:57 pm 16 Oct 07

Firstly I agree that the website is very poorly designed. The order form allows you to add wine by the bottle, when they only sell by the case. This is confusing and misleading, and probably contravenes the Trade Practices Act.

Secondly, the website accepts credit card details but is not secure. This undoubtedly violates the credit card merchant agreement that the seller would have with their bank.

Thirdly, the original poster was indeed incredibly naive to think they were getting a case of $16-20 per bottle wine for $26 a *case*.

Lastly, I suspect there were more emails in the exchange than have been provided here. I find it hard to believe that Tabart jumped so quickly into the vitriol.

makemylunch 2:50 pm 16 Oct 07

S4anta: was that comment meant for me? 🙂 I agree it’s easier to see someone as a person when you’ve met or talked to them, and I don’t believe the customer is always right, but you can tell a customer he’s wrong without insulting him. At least, you can if you want to maintain a good business reputation.

Cameron 2:46 pm 16 Oct 07

S4anta – interesting point.

I like to think I have something resembling excellent customer service within my own business, and I spend a great deal of time on any and every email I ever send out from the business to ensure that it conveys nothing but a sincere desire to provide a solution for the customer.

Who knows, a disgruntled customer (and we all have them, despite our best efforts) might take them one day and post them on the internet for all to see… something they are unlikely to do if every email from me is glowing 😀

Mr Evil 2:41 pm 16 Oct 07

Hey, to be fair you can get a case of Coca Cola for under $26!

S4anta 2:37 pm 16 Oct 07

Growling ferret,

May i say that when i have a beef with a particular business or business person, I tend to meet them face to face. You tend to find that they do alot more for you than if fire a broadside at them across the internet.

Perhaps a lesson for all? The computer and email is, IMHO responsible for the decrease of personalised service and customer service in general. If they dont see you, they dont care.
Stick you nose in their face, politely, and you tend to get a more satisfiactory response.

Cameron 2:37 pm 16 Oct 07

Hahaha – if MLM is MJT I’d be impressed by the 22 minutes it took him to realise you’d posted this, read it, sign up and call you a knob.

Cameron 2:35 pm 16 Oct 07

Seems to me that everything up to the last three emails was a misunderstanding. MJT’s handling of it from that point certainly seemingly led to the deterioration of the situation.

Naivety over the price considered, I think that’s your only real gripe. Personally, I never would have ordered from such a rubbish (based on your description, not my own take) website…

makemylunch 2:35 pm 16 Oct 07

mlm – Are you really MJT?

makemylunch 2:32 pm 16 Oct 07

Cameron – Yep, agreed, I was naive about the cost, and I said so, but that sure didn’t give MJT the right to insult me that way. And yes, there are two sides to every story, but since I reprinted the emails, I think his ‘side’ was pretty clear.

Ferret – I take your point too. 🙂

mlm 2:31 pm 16 Oct 07

All the way with MJT.

$2.24 a bottle.. you knob.

Thumper 2:29 pm 16 Oct 07

Seconding the Mr Ferret’s comments…

Growling Ferret 2:25 pm 16 Oct 07


Just another one track pony – before you launch the mother of all sprays, it might be best if you contribute to another story or two. That way the readers would be able to make up their mind on your sense of balance.

If the story was by JB or Jazz or S4anta or VY, we’d have a sense of balance. Instead you could be as crazy as Chester…

Cameron 2:17 pm 16 Oct 07


First: I personally think it is a little naive to think that a case of wine will be $27 unless it was, you know, goon. Then again, I don’t drink wine at all, let alone order it from a website.

Second: Despite that, seems like MJT is a bit of a clown.

Third: Two sides to every story…

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