Temporary Suspension of Wine Club Operations!

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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in the protracted process of introducing a new automated system and along with it a whole new set of procedures (as yet unpublished) and requirements.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.

Important Note
The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

LCBO Delivery Notices!

The LCBO has started to mail out delivery notices to all our Members who order wine. This notice is being sent when the wine has arrived from overseas and has been cleared for delivery by the LCBO. The form letter is two sided, one with the numeric details of the transaction and the other with pick-up instructions. Please note - the pick-up instructions do not apply to our Members.


First, they instruct our Member to pick up the wine at the LCBO’s warehouse loading docks at 33 Freeland Street in Toronto. Our Members don’t have to do this – we either cause the wine to be sent to an LCBO retail store that is conveniently located near our Member or we personally deliver the wine.

Second, they infer that our Members owe them for the wine and warn that they will be penalized if the wine is not picked up within a prescribed period of time. Our Members have already paid for their wine and don’t owe any additional money. We look after payment for them.

Please disregard these form letters when you receive them.

We have requested that the LCBO either correct the message or not send it at all. We also asked that they send the message electronically (they have the e-mail addresses of everyone who orders) to save money and be environmentally responsible. They have thanked us for our suggestions and we hope they will act on them.

Why is the LCBO sending out these notices?

When we inquired, we were told that this has always been their procedure; they just haven’t been following it.

We can surmise that it is in response to last year’s ruling by the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario (IPC) ruling that the LCBO stop taking personal information from wine club customers. In a subsequent Ontario Superior Court of Justice appeal hearing, the case was remitted back to the IPC for reconsideration, i.e., the LCBO and the other involved parties were told to work out their issues between themselves. A key point in the ruling was, “it is not clear whether the IPC actually made a clear or consistent finding on the issue of whether the LCBO's customer is the club or the club member.” Since then, the LCBO has been determined to make certain that we are all fully aware that it is they who control the customer relationship when it comes to the purchase of beverage alcohol in the Province of Ontario.

To reinforce this point, they have instructed us to prominently post the following wherever we display our prices:

The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

If you have any comments for the LCBO, please address them to Margaret Plant, Supervisor, Private Ordering (margaret.plant@lcbo.com) and copy Archie Karanxha, Acting Manager, Specialty Services (arqile.karanxha@lcbo.com) and Geoff Allaire, General Manager Operations, Toronto Retail Service Centre, Vintages Warehouse (geoff.allaire@lcbo.com).

All this reminds me of a very old joke. It seems that a little devil was involved in a most unfortunate tangle with one of Toronto’s Red Rockets that resulted in his tail being severed. He was rushed to the Toronto General Hospital but was refused admission. The ER receptionist explained, “I am afraid you will have to take him to the LCBO ... they are the only ones in Ontario allowed to retail spirits.”

Kate joins the team!
We are delighted to announce that our eldest daughter Kate (shown here with a bottle of Penfolds Grange from her birth year!) has officially joined the Arthur Sellers & Company team. She is an avid wine enthusiast with a very fine palate and is renowned for her frequent thirsty assaults on Arthur’s Cellar. Kate will be assisting us with the day-to-day operation of our wine club and will introduce our fine wines to her market demographic (recognizing that this old tippler needs a little help marketing to the younger aficionados of the fruit of the vine). Please join us in welcoming Kate to our wonderful world of wine.

Come Join Us in Provence this September
Hélène is taking reservations for September 2015. Long our favourite part of France, Provence is filled with so many wonderful things - marvellous markets, gorgeous perched villages, exquisite Mediterranean cuisine as well as the Mediterranean itself, a bevy of awe-inspiring Roman ruins, medieval towns, olive oil mills, Southern Rhône vineyards, sophisticated cities with great shopping, and constantly changing, spectacular scenery. And, you get to spend it all comfortably ensconced in your very own castle for a week, the enchanting Château du Goult. Maybe even get a group of friends to join you. That way, Hélène can massage her itinerary to meet your specific interests.

Where’s My Wine??
Generally, it will take three to four months from the time you order your wine till it is delivered. To find out where your next treasure is on its long journey from Europe, just click on Delivery Status in the side bar to the left. We update it regularly.

About our website

Our web site will grow and change as we respond to the needs and preferences of our members. We appreciate the time you take to tell us about how we can improve our web site, and invite you to pass your comments and suggestions along to us. Click here to send us an e-mail and let us know what you think.