LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A class-action suit has been filed that alleges BevMo! engaged in a “bait-and-switch,” displaying price signage for bottles with wine ratings for specific years that weren’t the years for sale on the shelf.
“It says 2013 on the red BevMo! tag but the bottle is 2014 and I would never have caught that,” said Nicole Rodriguez-Gasperov, a consumer.
Via hidden camera, CBS2/KCAL9 followed Rodriguez-Gasperov as she shopped the wine aisle at her Manhattan Beach BevMo!
“Look here, ‘Malbec Mendoza 2012’ and the bottle ‘2013.’ That is crazy. How could they do that?” she asked. “The product should be what exactly it says it’s selling.”
But what Rodriguez-Gasperov found again and again were price signs with wine ratings for specific years that didn’t match the actual bottles for sale on the shelf.
“So this is saying this brand, ‘Red Blend 2013’ for $17.95. The bottle says it’s a ‘2012,’ ” Rodriguez-Gasperov said.
Like many customers, she says she relies on those price signs with reviews and vintage ratings to decide if she is shelling out good money or not for the best wine.
“You know I’m reading the description and it’s a great bottle of cab, a 2011, and then I go to grab it, if I don’t notice it’s a 2012 and I get home, the year matters,” she said. “And if it’s not right, then you kinda feel like you’ve been swindled a little bit.”
The news station took a hidden camera into four more BevMo! locations and found the same thing: bottle after bottle, price signs with great reviews for specific years that weren’t the years available for sale on the shelf.
The clerk at the Studio City BevMo! blamed it on incorrect signage.
CBS2/KCAL9 Producer: “So, I noticed this review is for the 2014. Do you have those?”
BevMo! Studio City Clerk: “I do not. What ends up happening is they update the signs either too slow or too fast.”
CBS2/KCAL9 Producer: “So, it’s just that the sign is wrong?”
BevMo! Studio City Clerk: “Correct. The same price will still carry over.”
And the clerk at the BevMo! in Burbank offered an entirely different story.
BevMo! Burbank Clerk: “It’s the same wine with a new label.”
CBS2/KCAL9 Producer: “So, it doesn’t matter what year it is?”
BevMo! Burbank Clerk: “It does. But some is aged from 2011 to 2013.”
The clerk went on to say that the year printed on the price sign is the year the wine won a competition.
CBS2/KCAL9 Producer: “So, it doesn’t matter what year?”
BevMo! Burbank Clerk: “It’s not the year of the wine. It’s the year of the competition.”
None of these explanations sit well with Attorney Scott Glovsky, who has filed a class-action lawsuit against BevMo!
“We’re suing BevMo! because BevMo! is engaging in an intentional, systemic, bait-and-switch fraud throughout the state of California,” Glovsky said. “And then ultimately when people go to buy the wine, the wine sitting on the shelf behind those signs is a different wine. It’s a different vintage and so essentially it’s a bait-and-switch.”
Glovsky said it’s not just in-stores but online, too.
CBS2 found more than 40 interoffice BevMo! emails dating back to 2010 in that court file regarding in-store and online customers.
One states: “customer who is very upset that every time he places an online order he is given different vintages than what he requested. He also makes sure to mark ‘no’ where it states ‘allow vintage substitution.’ ”
“It’s clear that when consumers would uncheck the box, that says ‘allow vintage substitution,’ so they’re specifically telling BevMo! that, ‘I want the wine you’re advertising, not a different wine,’ they would still be given the wrong wines when they went to the store to pick up the wines,” Glovsky said.
In court documents, BevMo! says it prominently displays a disclaimer regarding vintage substitution.
But the disclaimers the news station saw were so small, our buyer didn’t even notice them.
BevMo! told CBS2:
“While we cannot comment on pending litigations, BevMo! does our best to exercise best practices within the industry and to provide quality products and services to our customers. We always recommend customers check the bottle for vintage if they are looking for a certain vintage.”
“I would just tell my girlfriends and my husband: when you go, make sure you read the labels and ask, ‘This says 2011 but the bottle’s a 2012. Are you out of the 2011? What am I getting,’ ” Rodriguez-Gasperov said.