Online wine subscription platform, The French Cellar, announced in a Facebook post on Tuesday (28 May) that they have “ceased operations on 27 May 2019 and is now in the process of voluntary liquidation”.
It cited “difficult business circumstances” as the reason.
The news came as a shock as apparently, there was no prior notice given to subscribers, some of whom have lost “thousands of dollars”.
Existing customers will no longer receive the bottles of wine they’ve paid for.
Liquidators will be in touch with them and affected customers can “file a proof of debt in respect of [their] wine subscription”, the post stated.
No Sour Grapes, Just Relationships Gone Sour
Daniel Ogunshakin, a Singapore-based FOX Sports Asia broadcast journalist, shared with Vulcan Post that he has been a customer at The French Cellar for the past 15 months.
His Facebook comment expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the company handled his enquiry on his April order that didn’t reach him.
Mr Ogunshakin subscribed to The French Cellar as he thought it was a convenient way to try new wines that he otherwise might not have tried.
“We were lucky that we only paid on a per-month basis so we only lost $84,” he said.
He revealed that the company didn’t inform him beforehand on the ceasing of its operations.
“I even called them a week or so ago to ask where my wine was and was told it would be delivered last weekend,” Mr Ogunshakin told us.
Ms Lee Hui Ting, however, wasn’t so “lucky”.
Like Mr Ogunshakin, she subscribed to The French Cellar because it’s a convenient service.
She paid $1,014 including GST, upfront, and received a free wine chiller.
Ms Lee, who was a customer since July 2018, was surprised by the news and thought something was wrong when no one answered her call on Monday (27 May).
“[The] number was unavailable when I called again on Wednesday. Only saw the post when I searched on Facebook.”
Her order earlier this year was also delayed and the company also made a mistake on her order in March, which would have been correctly fulfilled in the past.
Left with three more months of her subscription that can’t be fulfilled, Ms Lee said she will lose about $250.
One of the subscribers who spoke to The Straits Times (ST) shared that they have already lodged a police report.
This subscriber had signed up for the 12 months plan last November, paying an average of $143 a month, but she has only received four months’ worth of deliveries.
According to her, The French Cellar blamed its tardy deliveries on the strikes that were happening in France, but she found that reason “rubbish”.
Another customer Vulcan Post reached out to also had a similar experience.
33-year-old Roy Loi attended a free wine-tasting session The French Cellar conducted at a place somewhere in Cecil Street in April last year.
He said that some 20 people attended the event and were given different wines and cheese to try.
“It was a pretty good session. Not pushy. Very informative. Anyone [was] free to leave at any time,” he recounted.
“And the sales guy, I think is one of the founders (sic), was conducting the event.”
The software engineer told us he signed up after the session ended, so he’s been a customer since May 2018.
He revealed that his subscription costs $84.53 monthly and he noticed in January 2019 that his order was delayed.
“They [also] missed my deliveries for February and March. I emailed them and got my wines after a few back-and-forths. They called me as well,” Roy said in a WhatsApp conversation with this writer.
He lost about $168 so far as his April and May deliveries did not arrive.
Roy was advised to cancel his credit card to stop the recurring charges, and he’s “glad” that he did not sign up for the annual subscription plan the company has been promoting, with the incentive of a free wine chiller.
But he sincerely believes that The French Cellar sold good wines that was “value for money”.
“Their service had been good up till January this year. So, I guess something must have gone very wrong by end-2018,” he guessed.
What Could Have ‘Wine’ Wrong?
Founded in 2013 by Eric Joubert and Vincent Morello, The French Cellar wanted to make exclusive French wines selected by its sommelier accessible here.
They dubbed themselves as the pioneer subscription company for wine and has delivered over 100,000 boxes in its five years of operations, their website stated.
Customers can choose from three different tiers that suit their wine-drinking preferences.
For the 12-month plans, monthly subscription fees range from $88 to $288.
Those who don’t wish to commit to a year-long subscription can choose the “Pay As You Go” plan that starts at $108 per month, with the highest tier costing $328 a month.
Every month, customers will receive two different bottles of wines with wine-tasting notes.
ST reported that the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) had received five complaints against The French Cellar between 26 to 30 May, with claims worth a total of at least $5,000.
It is highly possible that the business has been affected greatly by the “strikes” that happened in France.
Based on The French Cellar’s email response to Mr Loi, we would assume that certain partnerships may have fell through, thus causing the “delays”.
Going by the number of engagement on its Facebook, the company perhaps doesn’t have a wide enough customer base to sustain overheads.
The business is targeting a niche market, seeing as they import wine directly from different French regions.
Of course, accepting orders and money from consumers while knowing that their company will never be able to deliver is a dishonest move and only puts them in an even worse light.
On top of that, announcing their closure on Facebook is sure to leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth.
The French Cellar’s website is still fully operational at the time of publishing.
Featured Image Credit: The French Cellar