Class Action: Liang v. BevMo!
CALIFORNIA CONSUMER FILES CLASS ACTION AGAINST WINE RETAILER BEVMO! FOR DECEPTIVE “BAIT AND SWITCH” BUSINESS PRACTICE
The Law Offices of Scott Glovsky filed a lawsuit on behalf of BevMo! shopper Stephanie Liang and a class of all similar BevMo! consumers against BevMo! (aka Beverages and More), one of the largest wine retailers in California, in the Los Angeles Superior Court case: Liang v. Bevmo!, Case No. BC567785. Mrs. Liang alleges that BevMo! misled her and potentially thousands of other shoppers into buying inferior wine by employing a classic “bait and switch” scheme. In May of 2015, she filed a statement with the court detailing this scheme as follows:
BevMo! (“Bevmo”) is engaging in a classic bait and switch. Wine differs dramatically with each vintage. There is a much greater demand for highly-rated vintages than low-rated or unrated vintages. Bevmo advertises wines with high ratings from wine-rating critics, but the actual wines that it sells are not the wines with the high ratings – they are from different vintages. Bevmo engages in this bait and switch both through its in-store sales and online sales to maximize its profits at the expense of its customers.
In its retail stores, Bevmo advertises certain vintages of particular wines with a high rating (the “bait wine”). Bevmo posts display signs in front of wine bottles that prominently describe the bait wines as having a high rating and certain characteristics. Instead of filling the displays behind the signs with the bait wine, Bevmo fills these displays with wines from different vintages that do not have the same high ratings and are not of the same quality (the “switch wine”). Below is a picture of one such example:
In this picture, Bevmo’s sign attached to the box of wine is entitled “Luisi Pinot Grigio Collio ’12.” Below the title, Bevmo advertises “93 PTS WILFRED WONG. Exotic beyond belief, the ’12 Luisi Pinot Grigio thrills the palate to no end; very concentration, yet stylish and first-class; nectarines in the finish.” However, the wine that Bevmo actually sells in the display is a 2013 wine. The sign is misleading and leads people to believe that they are purchasing the 2012 wine that Bevmo advertises.
Bevmo similarly misleads customers in signs on its store shelves. For example, the following Bevmo shelving sign advertises “Challis Lane Merlot California ’11.” The sign states “91 PTS WILFRED WONG. Stands tall as one of the best Merlots around, the fleshy and nicely ripened ’11 Challis Lane Merlot serves up plenty of red and black fruit flavors to the fore; smooth finish.”
However, the wine that Bevmo is actually selling above this sign is a 2012 wine. The sign is misleading and leads people to believe that they are purchasing the 2011 wine. The in-store misrepresentations illustrated by these two examples are not limited to specific types of wine or one Bevmo location but are the result of Bevmo’s systematic practices that affect customers across California.
Bevmo also engages in a similar deception in its online store. On its website, Bevmo prominently advertises bait wine vintages with a high rating and specific characteristics. But when customers seek to buy the bait wines, instead of delivering the highly-rated wines that Bevmo advertised, Bevmo provides switch wines from different vintages that do not have the same high ratings and are not of the same quality.
More specifically, on Bemvo’s website, customers select a category of wine, such as 5 cent Sale Wines. When the 5 cent Sale Wines page appears, Bevmo first displays its highest critic-rated vintages. For example, see the picture below:
As shown above, Bevmo prominently displays the rating and characteristics of the bait wine vintage. Bevmo also includes a picture of the bait wine vintage next to the description above a box labeled “Buy.” A customer can then click on the wine description to view a more detailed page about the specific bait wine vintage. For example, a click on the first wine, “Las Vertientes Benchmark Reserva ‘11” leads to the below page:
The page prominently displays the rating and characteristics of the bait wine vintage, along with a picture of the bait wine bottle. If the customer wants to purchase the wine, the customer clicks add to basket.
Once the wine is in the basket, the customer needs to go to a checkout screen. The checkout screen prominently displays the bait vintage. Although it is not prominently displayed, the checkout screen includes an automatically checked box that states “Allow Vintage Substitution” as shown below:
The customer then must pay for the wine and wait for a confirmation from Bevmo stating that the wine that the customer purchased is available for pick up at a specific Bevmo retail location. Once the customer goes to the retail location to pick up the wine, Bevmo has a practice of delivering a switch wine, i.e. a wine from a different vintage than the wine purchased online, to the customer. This occurs regardless of whether the customer unclicked the “Allow Vintage Substitution” box or not when ordering. This practice allows Bevmo to get rid of cheaper and lower quality wines at the price of higher quality ones.
As a result of these practices, Bevmo has been able to unjustly profit at the expense of consumers who unknowingly buy inferior wines at the cost of more highly rated wines.
For more information about this lawsuit contact The Law Offices of Scott Glovsky.