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I-Team: Misleading ads for wine customers

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Bait and switch advertising can in certain circumstances be against the law.  The 22News I-Team reveals how wine salesman are using a misleading tactic.

While it’s not bait and switch, it is misleading. The I-Team went to 10 different liquor stores and discovered you may need to read the fine print to find that perfect wine.

When you go shopping for wine at a liquor store, often times you’ll see an advertisement or “shelf talker” below a particular bottle of wine saying that wine won an award. For example, at one liquor store they had a “shelf talker” for a 2009 Cupcake Chardonnay which had won a gold medal. Although, the store only had the 2014 vintage.

(Do you think its misleading to have a gold medal advertisement of one year and not have that year available at a store?) “I guess it would be good to know that the winery has won medals, but I think that the consumer needs to look at the year, because the year will make a huge difference,” said Mary Hamel, Co-Owner of Black Birch Vineyard in Southampton. 

The I-Team went to 10 different liquor stores in Hampden County. We discovered 8 of the 10 stores were advertising for a vintage or year of a wine, they didn’t have in stock. We took pictures of these ads and bottles, then went back to the stores to find out who’s responsible.

(Who puts these (ads) up?) “It’s sales people who put these up.  A lot of times they’ll get pressured to put shelf talkers to sell their wine,” said Jerry Shanahan.

Shanahan owns the Holyoke Liquor Mart, he said it’s not the liquor store employees who are doing this, it’s outside salesman.

At Discount Liquors in Springfield, their owner said it was a low priority to check the dates.

We found 8 of these misleading ads at Liquors 44 in Holyoke. Their store manager wasn’t in when we went there, but emailed us saying, “We request that they just use general descriptions and not specify vintages. Again, some do better than others. We will make a point to remove any “vintage specific” talkers.”

The misleading ads were common. We also found them at Table and Vine and Bertelli’s in West Springfield, Cabot in Chicopee, Phipps in Westfield and McCarthy’s in Agawam. We did not see any at Kappy’s or Lighthouse Liquors in Chicopee.

Shanahan said if you can’t find a wine, just ask. “Ask if have that vintage if we don’t have it and it’s up there we’ve made a mistake by not patrolling our case cards or our shelf talkers.  Nothing intentional, nothing to deceive customers,” said Shanahan.

Whether or not this is a misleading technique is up for debate.  The state’s office of consumer affairs says a bait and switch must involve price.  This does not.  While the Alcohol Beverages Control Commission told the I-Team it’s against the law to advertise a beverage that is not regularly sold there.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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