Bad distributors exposed!

by Brad Asmus

I once published a book that had a very specific regional appeal. After a visit to each of the area bookstores and many specialty stores promoting the book, I put the it in the hands of a local distributor. He had great success selling it and reordered often in the first few months. After that, most folks who were interested in the book had a copy and sales dropped off. I expected that.

What I didn’t expect is that the distributor’s checks to me would bounce, that he would stop answering my calls, etc., etc. I was so new to the publishing game that it took me a while before I figured out that I’d been burned. I later met another publisher from that area who knew all about the distributor. It turned out that he was a notorious slow pay/no pay kind of guy. If only I’d known.

Small wineries often suffer the same fate. Big, established, honest distributors aren’t interested in handling most small wineries, so we end up in the hands of little distributors. Some of these do a decent job. Others try, but for one reason or another, can’t deliver on promises. Still others are flat out dishonest. It can really hurt a small winery to lose cases or pallets of wine to a distributor who can’t or won’t pay.

Peter Norris of Vino Family Vineyards is a guy who has suffered that pain. As a marketing professional in the internet age, he has found a way to fight back. His new website, lets people dish on the bad distributors they’ve dealt with.

Here is the kind of review you find, an item about a distributor in Texas:

How are they still in business? What is the state of Texas doing here? They do not pay actually call with interest in the brand say they’ll pay store the wines in a heated storage area and then complain because the wine went bad.

I have talked to at least 5 suppliers who were never paid by these guys. Texas will not go after them and other distributors will tell you to stay away.

Not all of the reviews are bad. Readers can post the names of distributors they’re interested and those with experience¬† rate them. A good number of these have gotten positive reviews.

At the moment, there aren’t a lot of distributor reviews, but that could change if the idea gets around and more wineries contribute. There are already enough reviews of bad distributors to make a visit to the site worth while–if only for the entertainment value.

I’m not sure how long this site will last. You can be sure that some of the distributors named will be calling in their lawyers. Until then, it’s another tool that the prudent small winery marketer will be aware of. Pass the word.

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