A frustrating exchange with the people who run Astor Center, the events and classes space above Astor Wines & Spirits here in New York City, has led me to question my over-reliance on the liquor store and seek out alternatives.
It started last Tuesday when I bought two full-price tickets ($20 each) for Astor’s Holiday Gift Bazaar, a three-hour affair full of free wines, spirits and cocktails on Saturday the 11th. The day after I bought the tickets, I saw a discount code—$5 off per ticket—on Astor’s twitter feed. So I forwarded my invoice to the Astor Center and asked them if they would honor the discount. They would not.
What frustrated me so much was not just finality with which Astor said ‘no,’ but the ham-handed upsell that came with it: I was offered a third ticket, the one thing I couldn’t use, at half off. When I pressed them on it, saying that I felt like a sucker for buying my tickets early, they reiterated the offer of a third ticket. At that point, I started getting angry.
After all, I’ve been buying wine and liquor at Astor for four years. My girlfriend and I have taken four classes at Astor Center. And what are events like the Holiday Bazaar for if not to introduce you to new products to buy at the store? We were planning on spending more money after the event.
So I asked Astor Center to refund my $40, telling them that I no longer wanted to attend. They obliged, and they were nice about it. They encouraged us to attend anyway, for free. But we didn’t, and we won’t be going back to Astor for a while.
While they made it right in the end, it took way too much haggling. Why not just honor the discount code? How many people actually ask for it after a purchase? And if they can’t bring themselves to give the discount to a loyal customer who follows them on Twitter, why not offer a discount on a future class or purchase?
I don’t know, but it made me ask myself why I go out of my way to shop at Astor, which is in Manhattan, when I work nowhere near it and live in Brooklyn. I’ll be trying out Drink Up NY, an internet business with a storefront in Park Slope just off the 4th Avenue F train station. It’s more convenient, they have a wide selection, and their prices are quite competitive.
[UPDATE, TUESDAY 12-14-10] The Astor Center’s manager responded in the comments section, and she was both reasonable and refreshingly human. This was a welcome change after my previous polite but mechanical exchange with Astor. I’ll be back to the Astor store and the Astor Center eventually. As I said in my reply below, it’s still one of the best liquor stores–indeed, liquor institutions–in New York City. But I’m taking a break.