Dear Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club Member:
We are going to temporarily suspend our wine club operations. This is because the Specialty Services department of the LCBO is in the protracted process of introducing a new automated system and along with it a whole new set of procedures (as yet unpublished) and requirements. We need some time to regroup and to determine if and how we can comply with their revised modus operandi. With a little luck, we should be back in operation within a couple of months. In the meantime, we will continue to process and deliver your outstanding orders in the usual manner. For those wanting more details, please read on.
Besieged by Bar Codes
As of June 1, all newly ordered wine must have UPC bar codes on the bottles. Yet the LCBO will never see them on our wine club orders. This is because our members waive LCBO lab testing, so there is no need for the LCBO to open our cartons (they do, but just to make certain we aren’t importing Château Pétrus when we claim it is a humble vin ordinaire).
We selected our wineries based on their abilities to produce wonderful wines, not bar codes. Several of the smaller ones do not use bar codes and have no intention of doing so. One even said they would lose money on our orders if they had to provide them. We need some time to determine the full impact of this new requirement.
Easier for the LCBO, But Not for Us!
The Specialty Services’ new automated system was introduced to their order input personnel a couple of months ago. It has not gone smoothly. Our orders, that used to take a couple of days to process, now take two weeks or more and usually require our prompting. Errors are commonplace. In a few months they are going to shift the order input responsibilities to the agents. If trained LCBO operators are struggling with the new system, imagine what four hundred plus agents are going to experience!
We recently met with senior Specialty Services representatives to get an idea of what the new ordering process would be like for wine agents. Here’s what we learned. Each time we order, we will have to send a scanned version of the winery’s product quotation to the LCBO. In time they will approve the quote. Then we will have to remotely input each of your orders (hopefully with an automatic edit function that compares our input with the quotation; this is not clear at the moment). So far, so good. However, because we wish to waive the LCBO’s lab testing requirement, we will evidently also have to email them a copy of each order (requiring us to fill out their Private order form in addition to the online order input) along with a corresponding copy of each member’s lab waiver consent. This is a very onerous administrative load. We are hoping that we will be able to automate a significant part of this process and work with the LCBO to reduce or eliminate the unnecessary (in our view) elements. We have always found the management of LCBO Specialty Services willing to work with us on such procedural matters and expect we will encounter the same spirit of co-operation this time. However, we have to bide our time until they introduce the new system to us and release their accompanying operating procedures.
Please bear with us as we work through these latest interesting times with our partners at the LCBO.
Many thanks and cheers!
Jim, Hélène and Kate