Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Bit of Wine (An Adventures with Jude Review)

Recently, I had the opportunity to review the website A Bit of Wine.  I was excited, because I do love wine.  Not in a drunken-mother way, but in a vino-with-a-meal way.  (Hey, I married an Italian!)  On our honeymoon, Neal and I had the opportunity to try a lot of different wines because we were a little concerned about drinking local water.  When in Rome, right?  (Or Cairo...or Istanbul...)  We are definitely not wine snobs -- though we know what we like,  we are willing to try just about anything.  Well, anything with a reasonable price tag.   Often, instead of tchotchke souvenirs, we will bring home a bottle of wine from vacation.  We both prefer dry reds, but the odd crisp, cold glass of white in summer can be good, and when at a restaurant we can't decide on a bottle that will go with both of our meals, will order a pitcher of sangria.  Wine-related gifts are always good in our house, so I was excited to peruse this site.

I struggled a little with the layout of the site.  I would scroll through a page, and then click on the next consecutive page, thinking there would be new items there.  However, what I found were items I had already seen.  Having identical items repeat on multiple pages made the pages seem a little untidy.

I was given a 20% discount code to purchase items if I chose (purchase was not necessary to complete the review). I found two items that I thought would make nice anniversary gifts for Neal.  One was this set of silicone wine stoppers (list price $14.95).

silicone winestoppers

Bright and colorful, these would serve a definite purpose here.  We have found that once we take a cork out of a bottle, it never wants to go back in.  We have purchased some cork wine stoppers, but they do not seem to last long - they dry out and break easily.  Plus, we had to keep track of what kind of wine we used them in, since cork can sometimes pick up different flavors. Since these are silicone, they are pretty much indestructible, and easily washed with soap and water to remove any residue.   I like how they are slightly tapered, so they fit into different sized bottles (when it is just the two of us, a regular sized wine bottle is sufficient, but if we host a party we often will get larger 1.5L bottles).

The other item I purchased was this Monterey Arbor Horizontal Wall Wine Rack ($44.95, does not qualify for free shipping).  I saw the design, and fell in love.  It would match our Tuscan-themed dining room perfectly.

monterey arbor wall wine rack
I loved the design!  It holds 4 bottles - plenty for two grownups to be able make a choice and not feel like we had to run back to the "wine cellar" (a rack in the locked off storage area of the basement) because we weren't in the mood for what was upstairs.  I also liked that it hung on the wall -- we used to have a floor rack and were constantly worried about little people pulling it on themselves.

I wish I could say I loved the purchase process.  However, there were a few hiccups.  First, the site does not give dimensions of the item.  I had to go hunt at outside sites for this information so I could be sure it would fit on the wall I wanted to hang it on,  and in the process found several that offered the same item for a significantly lower price.  Even with a 20% coupon, it was still $3 plus shipping higher than that the least expensive site.  While the price was more competitive on smaller accessories, for larger ticket items, the site seems overpriced.  Without the coupon, I could not have purchased the wine rack from them.  Being a small business owner, I am ok with paying an extra dollar or two to support another small business, but as much as $16 is a lot of money to justify as "keeping a small business afloat."  One of my favorite wines (Ruffino Chianti) is only about $14 at my local wine mart -  I'd rather spend my money on another bottle of wine than on the rack holding it.  
In addition, ground shipping took 8 days to get to me (the company ships from Washington State, and I'm l the way on the other side of the country in New Jersey.  While this seems like a fair timeframe (you can't really make the Fed Ex driver hit the gas any harder!), other sites offered overnight shipping for only $3.99 (standard flat rate ground shipping was $4.95 from A Bit of Wine.)

When it arrived, I let Neal open the box.  I did admit it was a review product, but I was permitted to choose the product I reviewed and I chose this for him.  He thought the stoppers were a great idea, and really liked design of the wine rack.  As he lifted it out to look at it more closely, he noticed that the bunch of grapes was missing a grape.  We hunted through the entire box, thinking perhaps it got knocked loose in shipping, and it wasn't there.

I contacted Customer Service at A Bit of Wine, and Katie emailed me back almost immediately.  She apologized for my inconvenience, offered to exchange the item, and shipped it to me immediately.  She also emailed me a postage paid return label.

The second rack shipped UPS ground.  This time, it arrived wrapped slightly better - there was bubble wrap around the grape bunches that was not on the first one.  Unfortunately, it didn't make a difference, and this time there was not only a missing grape but also a second one popped off as I gingerly removed the wrapping.  Clearly, this is not A Bit of Wine's fault - there is something defective in the adhesive that the manufacturer uses.  Since I did not want to wait another 8 days for a third try, I asked if I could just send back both racks and get a refund.  A refund was immediately posted to my credit card, before I even had time to hunt up more packing tape to seal the box to send it back!  I am planning to go to the UPS store in the next day or so and ship these back. 

I have mixed feelings about my experience.   On the very good side, I would give their customer service a stellar rating!  I can find zero fault with their personnel!  I am glad this gift was for my husband, and not someone outside my home, but I will not blame A Bit of Wine for the problems --  I think the rack I happened to choose was not well made.  (Not that he doesn't deserve an unbroken item, but if there's anybody I had to say, "Well, this is what you're getting, now wait for a replacement to actually have it," to, he's probably among the most understanding.) I can't complain about the wine stoppers.  I also like that they have the option to pay with Paypal and not only a credit card.  (I did not use the Paypal option, however, because our account is tied to our household email and I wanted the items to be a surprise for Neal.) 

I would recommend that their web designer spend a few minutes tidying up the sales pages.  The hardest thing for me to overlook though is their pricing.  As I said, I don't mind spending a few dollars more to support a small business and to get the customer service that comes with it, but the cost of many items, even the wine gift baskets, made me think twice about if I were purchasing them without a coupon.  If I needed a basket sent somewhere else, I would consider using them, because it would be more convenient than having to purchase all the gifts, make them into a gift basket if desired, and then ship them.  However, if I was looking for a wine-related gift for a nearby relative, I would probably just stop at the liquor store and purchase a few bottles of wine, or at a local kitchen accessory shop for an accessory gift.

a bit of wine free shipping coupon

A Bit of Wine has offered my readers a free shipping coupon!  It is valid for orders over $49, through October 31, 2013.

Be aware that some items (such as those containing alcohol) can only be shipped to certain states.   Alcohol gifts will require an adult (21+) signature and incur a $2.50 signature fee.

 Another way to save on your purchase is to sign up for their free monthly newsletter. You will receive a 5% discount on your order (cannot be combined with the above offer).

Follow A Bit of Wine on Facebook  Facebook & Twitter Twitter.

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