Good, bad, and ugly ways to handle the same problem

My wife, Sally, and I recently returned from a tour of several of California's wine regions. We are huge wine enthusiasts (check out our wine blog!) and used the trip as an excuse to stock up on wine.

Most of our wine was delivered without a hitch but we did experience a problem with orders from three wineries. Each winery chose to handle the problem in a different way. Only one succeeded.

The experience proves that mistakes can and will happen, but it's how you solve them that counts.

The Good - Van Ruiten Family Vineyards
I called the winery to check on our order after a shipment didn't arrive as expected. The person I spoke with explained that the order was delayed because it took extra time to locate two bottles that were in limited supply. She was very apologetic for not contacting us about the delay and promised to get our shipment out immediately. Just as promised, our wine arrived a few days later. The winery included an extra bottle of their delicious Chardonnay along with a handwritten note thanking us for our patience. Just like that, disappointment was turned into delight.

The Bad - Anglim Winery
Like Van Ruiten, I called the winery to check on a shipment that hadn't arrived. I was told that the wine hadn't been shipped yet because it had been hot and there was concern that the heat would hurt the wine. The definition of poor service is failing to meet expectations. I would have been grateful if I had received a call or email asking if it was okay to delay shipment so the wine wouldn't get too hot. Instead, I was disappointed that I had to wait and then had to call. No apology was offered which disappointed me even more. Fortunately, the wine was finally delivered about a week overdue.

The Ugly - Heitz Cellars
I called Heitz after I received a shipment with only one of the four bottles I had ordered. The person agreed to send the missing bottles but a week went by and they hadn't arrived. I called a second time and was told the missing wine had been shipped a couple of days before and would be delivered the next day. A delivery was made the following day, but the package contained only one of the three missing bottles. I called a third time and calmly explained the situation to someone who clearly seemed annoyed. Finally, she agreed to overnight the missing bottles to me. (We'll see if I actually receive them.)

Anyone can make a mistake, but here are all the errors that Heitz made after the initial problem.


  • They waited five days to ship the missing wine. It should have been shipped the same day.
  • I had to call a second time when the wine still hadn't arrived a week after my first call.
  • The second shipment didn't contain all of the missing bottles.
  • I had to call a third time to check the status of my missing wine.
  • The person I spoke with on the third call was rude.


Van Ruiten provided a great example of how to strengthen customer loyalty by handling a problem with grace and style. Anglim exhibited a lack of caring that hurt their chances of a repeat order. Heitz demonstrated a mind boggling level of incompetency that is almost certainly driving up costs and losing future business.