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Total Wine & More, a Maryland-Based Beverage Chain with Enormous, Warehouse-Like Stores


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We took my boyfriend's sister in to Total Wine in Fairfax. She's newly 21 and we wanted to pick up a sampling of beverages for her to try during her visit. The cashier upon seeing her ID handed her a form to sign verifying that she is 21 years of age. When we asked about it, the manager came over to explain that it was company policy that all people born in the newly 21 year (1985) sign the form every time they purchase anything from the store until the year (2006) expires. I mentioned that it was the first time I've heard of a procedure like this and it was a bit odd. Making the visit even stranger, the manager explain to us that the policy was not odd and we were wrong.

Policies are policies and I understand that but I don't believe this is a common practice. That being said I haven't had my age questioned for a number of years so I haven't had to deal with the oddness of being 21 and the efforts to combat underage drinking.

So my question to the group is has any one heard or experienced this? Is this normal?

Thanks,

Emily

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We took my boyfriend's sister in to Total Wine in Fairfax. She's newly 21 and we wanted to pick up a sampling of beverages for her to try during her visit. The cashier upon seeing her ID handed her a form to sign verifying that she is 21 years of age. When we asked about it, the manager came over to explain that it was company policy that all people born in the newly 21 year (1985) sign the form every time they purchase anything from the store until the year (2006) expires. I mentioned that it was the first time I've heard of a procedure like this and it was a bit odd. Making the visit even stranger, the manager explain to us that the policy was not odd and we were wrong.

Policies are policies and I understand that but I don't believe this is a common practice. That being said I haven't had my age questioned for a number of years so I haven't had to deal with the oddness of being 21 and the efforts to combat underage drinking.

So my question to the group is has any one heard or experienced this? Is this normal?

Thanks,

Emily

I don't know about it as a set policy, but it is not an unusual occurance when the potential purchaser appears to be under 21 even if they have legal proof of age. Used to happen to one of my older sisters from time to time.

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"Forms"? Oh, for the love of Christ. Now they are making buying wine as difficult as if she wanted to purchase a firearm? What next, a 3-day waiting period before you can take that bottle of Pinot Noir home? Criminal background checks to ensure that you aren't purchasing too many bottles in a certain period of time? :)

Just bring her to Ace Beverage. All we do is check the photo I.D. card. Easy-peasy. And you can allow her to purchase more than just wine at our store.

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We took my boyfriend's sister in to Total Wine in Fairfax. She's newly 21 and we wanted to pick up a sampling of beverages for her to try during her visit. The cashier upon seeing her ID handed her a form to sign verifying that she is 21 years of age. When we asked about it, the manager came over to explain that it was company policy that all people born in the newly 21 year (1985) sign the form every time they purchase anything from the store until the year (2006) expires. I mentioned that it was the first time I've heard of a procedure like this and it was a bit odd. Making the visit even stranger, the manager explain to us that the policy was not odd and we were wrong.

Policies are policies and I understand that but I don't believe this is a common practice. That being said I haven't had my age questioned for a number of years so I haven't had to deal with the oddness of being 21 and the efforts to combat underage drinking.

So my question to the group is has any one heard or experienced this? Is this normal?

Thanks,

Emily

Another reason not to shop at Total Wine and it's Maryland stepchild, Corridor Wine. BAH! Much better places around to shop for wine.

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It is done to protect the store against over-zealous enforcement agencies who will send young people into the store trying to get them to sell alcohol to them. These statements offer them additional protection.
It's hard to believe that at one time, entrapment got a case thrown out. Now it's everywhere.
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It is done to protect the store against over-zealous enforcement agencies who will send young people into the store trying to get them to sell alcohol to them. These statements offer them additional protection.
I see your point but if the stores are only accepting government issued ID's, how would a signed statement asserting they are 21 make any difference. To me it would be like having a note from 'Epstein's mother'. And while I don't know for sure, I'd presume selling alcohol to minors would be a strict liability crime, like statutory rape. It wouldn't matter what ID was presented or what form was signed.

As TJaehnigen said supra, it's easier to shop elsewhere.

Thanks,

Kevin

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I see your point but if the stores are only accepting government issued ID's, how would a signed statement asserting they are 21 make any difference. To me it would be like having a note from 'Epstein's mother'. And while I don't know for sure, I'd presume selling alcohol to minors would be a strict liability crime, like statutory rape. It wouldn't matter what ID was presented or what form was signed.

As TJaehnigen said supra, it's easier to shop elsewhere.

Thanks,

Kevin

It is an added layer of defense. Most policies that seem silly are in place for a reason, and generally caused by events. Ever wonder why electric blankets have warning labels advising not to be used in the bathtub?

It also provides an added deterrent for those who are trying to use a fake ID, I know that back in the days when I used one, I just wanted to get-in and get-out, and that if a store did anything that would have opened me up to getting caught would have deterred me from trying to use it there.

As for shopping at Total, I do shop there, but mostly to buy water. They sell the brand I like and a whole hell of a lot cheaper than other places. But I would never buy wine from them.

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It also provides an added deterrent for those who are trying to use a fake ID, I know that back in the days when I used one, I just wanted to get-in and get-out, and that if a store did anything that would have opened me up to getting caught would have deterred me from trying to use it there.

True but all you would need to do is present a fake ID stating you are 22 or older to avoid the whole form issue.

I doubt we'll be headed back, especially when she's back in town (next week). We went primarily for the individual beer selection since we are slowly working her up to wine and away from Bud Light. She's not a huge fan of wine but when she listed a couple that she tasted, I understood why. Heck, I drank better wines in college but I would sacrifice using electricity for a good bottle.

Thanks for the responses.

Out of curiousity what wines do you like to introduce to non-wine drinkers? (Maybe that should be a different thread.)

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Out of curiousity what wines do you like to introduce to non-wine drinkers? (Maybe that should be a different thread.)
That really depends on the person and their experiences with wine. Generally they have had some and can tell you what they did and did not like about it. With that knowledge in hand you can steer them to something they might like. If I were working with a blank slate of a palette I would start them with an inexpensive white burgundy or a dry rose.
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I know that wine importers consider Total Wine & More (formerly Total Beverage) to be "an embarrassing but necessary graveyard" <--- I just made that phrase up, but it's true.

But has anyone noticed the beer selection at the McLean location? It's nothing short of incredible. I've had so many skunked bottles of beer from Lost Dog Cafe that I'd no sooner buy from them than I would a 7-11 at this point; Westover Market has a perceived (by me) turnover rate that's pretty scary, given their interior and its corresponding temperature fluctuations (I won't even get into how painfully bad the "Beer Garden" is, despite it having been hip and trendy to rave about it when it first opened (and a major-league wrist slap for those bloggers who did)). Maybe they tap some decent beer in the summertime, and yes, it's fun to hang out on a patio, but have you actually eaten there?

I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this, but I'd love to hear people's impression of the beer selection at the McLean Total Wine. Given the selection, I was surprised that they had only two offerings from DC Brau. I'm on a search for their "Thyme After Thyme" - does anyone know where to find it in the area? (Upon writing this, I realize that, yes, I could always call them and ask.)

Man, I remember ten years ago ... the DC beer scene was controlled by distributors (more than it is now). There was the Brickskeller, yes, and ... and ..... and ..........

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DC Brau. I'm on a search for their "Thyme After Thyme" - does anyone know where to find it in the area? (Upon writing this, I realize that, yes, I could always call them and ask.)

It was a special, so there may not be any more. There was none available at the brewery when we stopped in last Saturday.

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Totally agree, Rocks, that McLean Total Wine has a fantastic beer selection. I've not seen a bigger one in town. My other go-to for selection is Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits, which has almost as good a selection. The advantage for Chevy Chase is the service: the beer guy there is really helpful with any questions you might have and reserving stuff. Forget that at Total Wine. Also need to mention Connecticut Avenue Wine and Liquors in Dupont. Not as big a selection but a very unique set of beers. Al somehow gets his hands on stuff like Cigar City and Russian River and brings them to DC.

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I was at Total Wine in McLean a couple of weeks ago and they have re-organized their beer section. They now have the old beer by variety isles but have also added a beer by brewery isle. I still seemed somewhat overwelmed when I shop there. Last visit for the first time I took advantage of the make your own six pack option and went for a 12 pack instead. Also stoped by Norm's and got a bomber of Madame Rose.

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On 9/8/2017 at 2:09 PM, DanielK said:

To me, it's to support local business, enjoy a day (or weekend) trip, see some beautiful vineyards, and drink some good wine.

The better VA wines are really good, but still overpriced. You're not doing it to save money - even at a case discount price, you can go to Total Beverage and buy better wines from other regions at a better value per dollar.

So as long as you have the right expectations, I vote for going. But if your only goal is to drink great wine at a great price, probably not for you.

Has anyone noticed Total Beverage's importer, Saranty Imports, based in NY if I recall? They seem to own that importer, and I've yet to see *any* wine with that label which I recognize - buying them is a complete crap shoot. Does anyone know how to navigate through the Saranty minefield?

My guess - and it's just a guess - is that someone from the company got an import license, and wandered around France (and perhaps other countries), approaching the *vast* number of unrepresented producers there, and saying to them, "We'll import your completely unknown wine to the U.S., and guarantee you some business, if you let us have exclusive rights to a certain amount of production," but I stress: That's just an educated guess - I have absolutely no facts to back it up with.

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8 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Has anyone noticed Total Beverage's importer, Saranty Imports, based in NY if I recall? They seem to own that importer, and I've yet to see *any* wine with that label which I recognize - buying them is a complete crap shoot. Does anyone know how to navigate through the Saranty minefield?

My guess - and it's just a guess - is that someone from the company got an import license, and wandered around France (and perhaps other countries), approaching the *vast* number of unrepresented producers there, and saying to them, "We'll import your completely unknown wine to the U.S., and guarantee you some business, if you let us have exclusive rights to a certain amount of production," but I stress: That's just an educated guess - I have absolutely no facts to back it up with.

Yeah, that's par for the course with Total Wine. They do an adequate job of exposing you to huge amounts of wine, beer, liquors and so on. Some of them are recognizable. Some of them, generally the ones that you have never heard of, they like to push - hard. I am sure some of those wines are good, maybe even very good, but it is a crap shoot.

They also tend to have some of the things you would expect to see at many other liquor stores - but often not. It can be exasperating because you would expect such a huge place to have pretty much everything, and yet they do not.

They do tend to have some really excellent highly sought after wines, but their prices tend to be on the very high end of the range for a given bottling.

I wonder....if I went and bout a bunch of really cheap sub $10 bottles of wine, say 11 of them, and then one bottle I really wanted - would they offer up the case discount that you have to generally find a coupon for and remember to present it at time of purchase - would they be ok with it? Maybe they would, but that sought after bottle I'd get for 10 or 15% off would probably still be too expensive for the wine in question.

Still, I do go there maybe once every 6 months to see how they have evolved - they are continuing their rapid nationwide expansion.

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1 hour ago, Pool Boy said:

I wonder....if I went and bout a bunch of really cheap sub $10 bottles of wine, say 11 of them, and then one bottle I really wanted - would they offer up the case discount that you have to generally find a coupon for and remember to present it at time of purchase - would they be ok with it? Maybe they would, but that sought after bottle I'd get for 10 or 15% off would probably still be too expensive for the wine in question.

If they offer mixed-case discounts, then yes, they'll honor it for sure. 

I need to again emphasize: The McLean location has one of the best beer selections in the DC area (but for me, that's also a minefield).

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They re-did the Laurel, MD location as well, but it still feels enormous. For my everyday wines,I prefer to go elsewhere. For the sought after wines (sought after is a relative term - sometimes many are seeking the wines, other times, I am the only guy looking for them and most often failing), I go elsewhere for prices and increased chances of success.

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I do visit the Arlington and Mclean stores for beer when I'm throwing a party of visiting my son.  I'm still trying to convince my son to shop the selection at Arrowwine and favor the local vendor.  I did convince him to blindly buy me Aslin beer whenever he gets to the brewery I Herndon.

On a related note, that same son dated one of the Trone(total beverage owner) Daughters when he was in high school. 

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On 1/16/2018 at 11:08 AM, MarkS said:

I do visit the Arlington and Mclean stores for beer when I'm throwing a party of visiting my son.  I'm still trying to convince my son to shop the selection at Arrowwine and favor the local vendor.  I did convince him to blindly buy me Aslin beer whenever he gets to the brewery I Herndon.

On a related note, that same son dated one of the Trone(total beverage owner) Daughters when he was in high school. 

Although a huge company, Total wine is a local company with headquarters in Bethesda.

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Total Wine is very close to opening a new store in Plaza America in Reston, just off the Toll Road.  It is in the location of the Staples store that closed late last year, adjacent to the Starbucks.  Since this is a new build-out, hopefully it will be the latest and greatest design. "Now Hiring" signs are up, and as efficient as this company is, someone will be posting soon it is actually open.

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This expected opening is now squarely on my radar screen!  I go to the Whole Foods there fairly frequently, and as recently as last weekend, and reading this here is the first I heard of TW opening in the Staples space.  Thanks!  Now if we could just get a decent new restaurant where Hooters was supposedly thinking of opening (old Champps Americana on the opposite side of the plaza to the new TW).

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On 1/18/2018 at 4:54 PM, pras said:

Although a huge company, Total wine is a local company with headquarters in Bethesda.

True. I interviewed there. Sadly, while they provide a service and product, they are not, and never will be, my primary (or even secondary) source for wines and other things. I wish them luck, but I honestly find their finding unknown wines of unknown provenance and citing them as 'winery direct' (inferring 'hey this is a deal, we know better - but this now, you will thank us later' method to making a buck slightly skeezy).

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34 minutes ago, Pool Boy said:

True. I interviewed there. Sadly, while they provide a service and product, they are not, and never will be, my primary (or even secondary) source for wines and other things. I wish them luck, but I honestly find their finding unknown wines of unknown provenance and citing them as 'winery direct' (inferring 'hey this is a deal, we know better - but this now, you will thank us later' method to making a buck slightly skeezy).

A few years back, they got caught pulling the "winery direct" deal on Dom Perignon in the southern Virginia market. Any way you can cut out the 3 tier system is OK

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Total wine is a blessing here in Fort Lauderdale, where the competing options are abysmal.  For a while I tried to support the local guy right near me, but his selection is very bad and his prices are high.  It's fine in a pinch, but when I stock up, I drive over the intracoastal to Total Wine.  One of my friends said it is like a Chuck E. cheese for adults! 

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22 hours ago, Mark Slater said:

A few years back, they got caught pulling the "winery direct" deal on Dom Perignon in the southern Virginia market. Any way you can cut out the 3 tier system is OK

Agreed on that point. The place generally just rubs me the wrong way. But they are good in a pinch.

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2 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

Agreed on that point. The place generally just rubs me the wrong way. But they are good in a pinch.

By carrying brand names, Total has to participate in the 3 tier system. This means the national suppliers lean on them heavily for marketing purposes. Eye level placements, floor stacks, shelf talkers all contribute (to me) to the depressing atmosphere, and the supermarket quality of much of the wine. Gallo owns 30 or 40 brands, Constellation owns more, Diageo owns many, Jim Beam owns many, Jackson Family owns very many. That's a lot of corporate pressure.

15 hours ago, dcandohio said:

Total wine is a blessing here in Fort Lauderdale, where the competing options are abysmal.  For a while I tried to support the local guy right near me, but his selection is very bad and his prices are high.  It's fine in a pinch, but when I stock up, I drive over the intracoastal to Total Wine.  One of my friends said it is like a Chuck E. cheese for adults! 

If you know what you're looking for, ask your local guy is he would be willing to order the wines for you. Order multiple cases of your everyday wine from him.

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On 1/15/2018 at 7:48 AM, DonRocks said:

My guess - and it's just a guess - is that someone from the company got an import license, and wandered around France (and perhaps other countries), approaching the *vast* number of unrepresented producers there, and saying to them, "We'll import your completely unknown wine to the U.S., and guarantee you some business, if you let us have exclusive rights to a certain amount of production," but I stress: That's just an educated guess - I have absolutely no facts to back it up with.

Not meaning to sound like a Total promoter, and I have no idea what they actually did, but isn't this what any start-up and even established importer would and should do?  Kermit Lynch established or at least popularized the model.  If they are selective and bring in quality product, that's a good thing, such that you can count on the importer's label as being a sign of quality.  If they just bring in dreck based on volume, that's a different story.  Assuming this is different from the Winery Direct wines, I have not had any experience with a Saranty import, so I can't express an opinion on how Total did it.

Some of the Winery Direct wines can be very good, however, and can be sold by Total at a very reasonable price, particularly when using the coupons.  I saw two totally (no pun intended) diverse views from the producer side during a visit to the Piemonte last summer, though.  Mauro Veglio, a modernist producer in Barolo, loves his relationship with Total.  Total takes his full line-up of wines (except some very limited production things he doesn't offer them) and they pay timely.  Giuseppe Cortese, a more traditional producer in Barbaresco, on the other hand is moving away from its relationship with Total.  It has concluded the typical Total buyer is not the market it is looking for.  Both valid and reasonable positions.  I happen to like both wines and buy them at Total (always with a coupon ;)) but can get them elsewhere.      

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12 hours ago, jpbloom said:

Not meaning to sound like a Total promoter, and I have no idea what they actually did, but isn't this what any start-up and even established importer would and should do?  Kermit Lynch established or at least popularized the model.  If they are selective and bring in quality product, that's a good thing, such that you can count on the importer's label as being a sign of quality.  If they just bring in dreck based on volume, that's a different story.  Assuming this is different from the Winery Direct wines, I have not had any experience with a Saranty import, so I can't express an opinion on how Total did it.

Some of the Winery Direct wines can be very good, however, and can be sold by Total at a very reasonable price, particularly when using the coupons.  I saw two totally (no pun intended) diverse views from the producer side during a visit to the Piemonte last summer, though.  Mauro Veglio, a modernist producer in Barolo, loves his relationship with Total.  Total takes his full line-up of wines (except some very limited production things he doesn't offer them) and they pay timely.  Giuseppe Cortese, a more traditional producer in Barbaresco, on the other hand is moving away from its relationship with Total.  It has concluded the typical Total buyer is not the market it is looking for.  Both valid and reasonable positions.  I happen to like both wines and buy them at Total (always with a coupon ;)) but can get them elsewhere.      

The fact they force you to look for, find, and remember to present at time of purchase the coupon has turned me off on them. 

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16 hours ago, Pool Boy said:

The fact they force you to look for, find, and remember to present at time of purchase the coupon has turned me off on them. 

They have a recently redone app that I've found makes this WAY less of a burden.  When I walk into the store (granted, the Ballston one is within walking distance for me), I open the app, see what the offers are and if any spark my interest its as easy as showing them my phone.

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