A powerful friend in Stockholm quietly let me in on a secret: there are 20 people who make all the big decisions in Sweden and pull all the puppet strings. A various stages of our business we have felt the slap of the puppet’s hand and the kick of its wooden leg in the hope of stopping wine lovers from having legal access to quality wine. But for every cold wooden kick and slap we get 1000 warm handshakes and hugs from our growing army of members that is now well over 45.000 strong. We don’t feel so lonely in our battle against the puppets of KF and Posten.
This has already been an eventful month (besides it being the birth month of our children).
- We completely stopped selling via Systembolaget and closed our Stockholm warehouse: now we control the whole service experience
- We re-launched Malmö Aviation Wine Club www.malmoaviationwineclub.se with direct delivery to an overwhelming response from this great airline’s frequent flyer members. Well done Mia-Li, you have done a great job launching this new site.
- Australian Wine Club continues to grow like our glasshouse tomato bushes in the summer. March will be our best sales month ever thanks to all our members’ support.
- Vinfynda will soon be resurected from the dead and incorporated in Australian Wine Club where great value discounted wine can be found with home delivery.
- I met some incredibly intelligent and articulate people who understand and support what we are doing. The fact that organisations like Timbro and magazines like Neo exist in Sweden gives us hope that free markets and entrepreneurs have a future here.
- The phones of our wine advisors, under the management of the wonderfully patient and encouraging Maria, are ringing hot and members are really appreciating the service and new way to order wine. I was amused to see that Systembolaget has taken expensive full page newspaper advertisements to let us know that they have copied our wine advisor idea. But we don’t make you feel guilty about buying wine when you call us! When will the government stop monopolies from advertising to support their own monopoly – surely this is a political matter.
- The spring range of wines has just been finalised and includes our first South American wines (bring on the Argentinian Malbec), great value Chianti and Rioja and more Keith Tulloch wines. We shopped up the entire remaining supply of the all-time-member’s favourite wines, Fire Block Shiraz and Grenach. That, along with some very exciting new wines from New Zealand and Australia will make the spring sunny regardless of the weather!
- James and Jimmy are soon off to Pro Wein, the huge international wine fair in Germany, where we hope to find more pearls for the summer and autumn. Any requests?
- To all our industry colleagues who have recently lost their jobs due to Systembolaget’s refusal to increase wine prices due to the severe slump in the € to the SEK, we hope you get back on your feet soon. Can someone explain to me why a monopoly that is supposed to discourage alcohol consumption insists on making its suppliers subsidise alcohol consumers? If it were truly following its remit it would see this as an opportunity to increase prices and reduce sales. However, when all other products purchased from Europe and the US are rising in price, we can thank the monopoly for keeping prices artificially low at the cost of lost jobs in the alcohol importing industry. I suggest that SORAD conduct a study to calculate how many extra sick days will be taken due to the artificially low price of alcohol. The Russian government subsidises vodka, the Swedish State subsidises all alcohol!
- Watch out for next week’s news, it is sure to bring a smile to your face!
Thank you to the large number of people who wrote to the Chairwoman of KF to express your support for our company at how KF has treated us. A selection of the emails have been posted as comments to the below posting. It is clear that many people feel strongly about fairness, good business ethics and do not want the established forces to restrict their legal access to quality wine. Thank you and please encourage your friends to also write. Naturally we have not had any response from KF.
I recently read an enlightening magazine article on the history of alcohol politics in Sweden. The fact that such a term as “alcohol politics” exists here should be enough to raise yourcuriosity to learn more! Then last week I was pleased to meet the author of the article and the new editor of Neo Magazine http://www.magasinetnetneo.se, Mattias Svensson.
Here is the article http://www.voltaire.se/index.php?article=89 I can highly recommend it but be warned, have a good glass of red wine at your side to calm the nerves as you read it.
Managing a rapidly growing company gives me little time to go shopping for the vitamins that are part of my health regime (which includes of course a glass of red wine a night with dinner). An advertisement for evitamin.se caught my attention and being a keen online shopper I took up their introductory offer. 500+kr later I looked forward to delivery within the advertised 5 days.
3weeks later and not a word from the company (email, telephone) I am still waiting. A quick search revealed that there are a lot of other angry, ripped off customers of evitamin.se out there and despite my efforts to contact the company I am 500kr poorer for the experience.
Customer service is always top of our mind in our e-commerce wine company. Every company has had its delivery problems but we have learned that the problem matters less than how and how fast the company responds to it. Shopping online is convenient but impersonal and a fancy website can not make up for real people’s voices. Emails can be misinterpreted and are rarely successful at solving problems. Emails impart information, they can not communicate or build trust.
Australian Wine Club had 7 day a week call centre (0200 33 88 88 ) from our first day of direct selling and we have always preferred to call a customer rather than email, where possible. As we have grown so fast (January has been our best month ever) we have not had the resources to handle every customer contact as good as we wanted. If there is no telephone number on a website I am not going to buy from them in the future. I recently bought a camera from Scandinavian Photo and their service (online and in their Stockholm store) was first rate.
Talk is cheap but worth a lot so now we have trained a team of wine consultants who will give advice on what wine to order on the telephone and take orders directly. To avoid long waiting times we have introduced an SMS service where customers can SMS to 72500 wine (in the text field, along with their name) and we will call back as quickly as possible. After the first call the customer will get the phone number of their own personal wine consultant that they can call to get wine advice and to order.
When things go wrong, as theysometimes do, we now have Caroline, a wonderful new customer service whiz whose friendly voice will be heard more than her emails. I used to answer customer service emails myself but now I just read them all and fortunately we have 99 happy customers for every 1 not. If you are the 1 unhappy customer, you will soon be hearing from Caroline!
If you are following our saga with Posten and KF, there is nothing to report. KF’s media comments are “no comment” and Posten has decided not to return our emails. That is good service! I await their call….
Cheers to good service (I got my vitamins from the bricks and mortar store)
Swedes and Aussies have two important things in common: fairness is important and therefore we detest bullies; and we live in hostile harsh climates and therefore are strong and do not easily give up.
These similar cultural traits have shown strongly since SVD exposed the dishonest actions of the giant KF retailer (Konsum, COOP etc) against our small wine club company. The blogasphere is buzzing with comments of DDR Sweden, outrage (but not much surprise!) over KF’s actions and support for our position. Blog and web comments live forever thanks to Google!
KF executive Pär Jansson was this week quoted several times in the media (see page above: KF Replies World of Wine article) accepting that he was responsible for the contract with APW but he had no comment because the “issue was finished”. The matter is “with their lawyers”, he added. KF unleashed Sweden’s largest and most expensive law firm against our small company and threatened to sue us (for what they never said) but perhaps that is their next move – bully us harder and hope the next blood nose they give us will scare us away. The last beating they gave us really hurt our company, but this made us stronger and more resolute.
Aussies love a fight against a bully and what characterises a bully is their own insecurities and weaknesses. KF’s weakness is their concern for their reputation above all else: “our 3 million members do not want us to market wine,” said Jansson. What damage does a reputation for breaching legal contracts, bullying small companies and acting unethically do for their company?
“Never give in to a bully”, my father told me when I was a boy, “even if you get hurt, by standing up to them maybe they will think twice before bullying someone else!”
Jan 16 and World of Wine industry newspaper published an interview with Pär Jansson on their reasons for cancelling the contract: link to the whole article and below are Pär’s comments extracted: http://www.wownews.se/?a=6735
Det ligger hos Antipodes om de vill kommentera. Men jag ger inga som helst kommentarer, säger KF Näthandels ordförande Pär Jansson när WOW News ringer upp.
Men det är ganska allvarliga anklagelser att ni ska ha brutit ett avtal.
− Inga som helst kommentarer.
Men ni har haft ett avtal?
− Ja, vi har haft en överenskommelse, det stämmer. Det är jag som är ansvarig för den.
Och nu är det bruten?
− Vi har en tvist, det är det enda jag kan säga. Frågan ligger hos våra jurister, säger Pär Jansson innan han lägger på luren.
Since SVD exposed the dishonest actions of the retail KF (Coop, Konsum, Mataffaren, Akademibokhandeln, etc) there has been a number of other media publications contacting us and writing about it as well as a number of influential blogs writing about it. We are not alone in believing that KF has acted unethically and illegally!
Pär Jansson was quoted in one newspaper article saying he would not comment because the matter is finished as far as they are concerned. Famous last words! Tell your friends about this blog if you also care about business ethics.
Fortunately AWC has had its best sales month ever and due to the support of our happy members we continue to grow and grow. A good bottle of wine at home is a small luxury many of us would very reluctantly give up!
If you are interested in how the giant KF deals with small companies working hard to promote free choice read this editorial article in SVD:
For more details read the page above titled: Ideology overrules honesty: Mataffären – KF
or more here http://www.thelocal.se/16820/20090109/
or this interesting blog: http://gudmundson.blogspot.com/2009/01/sjlv-fredrar-jag-grnstedts-monopol.html
Mark (at) antipodeswines.com