Courting the Ripple Crowd: Wal-Mart Wins the Wino

Wal-Mart recently announced they were going to start selling wine under their own branded name.

Now that may not seem like big news, but when you consider Wal-Mart plans to sell their wine for $2.00 USD a bottle, you quickly begin to see Wal-Mart senses a fault in human nature and a hole in core community values ripe for exploitation: Let’s Make it Affordable to Become a Wino!

Now those of us who know wine well know full-well Wal-Mart isn’t going after the upscale connoisseur wine market with the $2 bottle — and they aren’t going after the Trader Joe’s college crowd that buy the private label Trader Joe’s rotgut wine at $4.00 USD a bottle — no, Wal-Mart has its keen business eye set lower… lower down into the gutter… where Wal-Mart wants to win the Ripple crowd who buy wine in jugs.

Wal-Mart wants to win the world. They push local businesses out of business by building gigantic superstores that inflate some prices while slashing other prices to bring in business.
Just who wants to buy a $2.00 jug o’ wine?

The Winos.

The poor. Underage kids.
It seems Wal-Mart wants to bring wine to the masses and what better way to “keep ‘em comin’ back” than to hook ‘em on cheap booze that you might be able to spin as a health benefit instead of a killing addiction?

What’s next? Wal-Mart wine for cats?

50 comments

  • It does make me wonder what Mothers Against Drunk Driving have to say about this cheap wine.

  • Anne —
    It does seem like that sort of cheap wine makes it — “not wine” — in some minds because wine is thought to be expensive and elitist.
    I think your inferred question about the health of young children or others who might drink and drive under the influence of the New Ripple In Town is quite sobering.

  • This is a question of community. What sort of commerce do you want to support? Does only low pricing matters? Or are there more important things to consider when you think of local sales?

  • There are those who would argue, Anne, that commerce is all that matter. Let the businesses test the market. Let the consumer decide. People won’t buy $2 jugs of wine unless they’re thirsty for it.

  • Should desire and thirst define community standards and values? Or do we owe it to one another to resist the temptation of comerce to sell high volume sins at discount pricing?

  • Should desire and thirst define community standards and values? Or do we owe it to one another to resist the temptation of comerce to sell high volume sins at discount pricing?

  • Good questions, Anne. Do we want to sell anything at any price, or do we wish to restrict the sale of something like cheap wine? Or is it against the national interest to repress free commerce in any way even if community standards want protection from temptation?

  • Good questions, Anne. Do we want to sell anything at any price, or do we wish to restrict the sale of something like cheap wine? Or is it against the national interest to repress free commerce in any way even if community standards want protection from temptation?

  • I don’t think there’s any benefit to selling $2 bottles of wine. Except to provide Wal-Mart with big profits.

  • I don’t think there’s any benefit to selling $2 bottles of wine. Except to provide Wal-Mart with big profits.

  • I think you’re right, Anne. The bottom line rules. The rest of us have to resist the temptations to our spirit at any cost.

  • I think you’re right, Anne. The bottom line rules. The rest of us have to resist the temptations to our spirit at any cost.

  • Wal-mart never fail to surprise me as to how low they will stoop in order to bring in business.
    it makes me wonder exactly what are gonna be in these bottles if they can afford to sell it at $2 AND make a profit from it.
    It also makes me glad to a certain extent that some poeple won’t buy it because it’s “cheap”, but then, those people wouldn’t be shopping in Wal-mart anyway.

  • Wal-mart never fail to surprise me as to how low they will stoop in order to bring in business.
    it makes me wonder exactly what are gonna be in these bottles if they can afford to sell it at $2 AND make a profit from it.
    It also makes me glad to a certain extent that some poeple won’t buy it because it’s “cheap”, but then, those people wouldn’t be shopping in Wal-mart anyway.

  • Hi Dawn!
    I hope you had great fun at the wrestling show last night!
    You’re smart to wonder about the quality of wine you’re going to get from Wal-Mart for $2 a bottle.
    I think it’s going to be rather sour, but really high in alcohol content. You’ll buy it to get a cheap buzz alone, not to eat with a delicious dinner or to share with a beloved one.
    Wal-Mart has a great business plan — high volume beats good taste.
    Anyone who knows anything about wine, though, will know pretty quickly $2 a bottle isn’t going to taste very good. You’d buy it to get drunk. That’s it.

  • Hi Dawn!
    I hope you had great fun at the wrestling show last night!
    You’re smart to wonder about the quality of wine you’re going to get from Wal-Mart for $2 a bottle.
    I think it’s going to be rather sour, but really high in alcohol content. You’ll buy it to get a cheap buzz alone, not to eat with a delicious dinner or to share with a beloved one.
    Wal-Mart has a great business plan — high volume beats good taste.
    Anyone who knows anything about wine, though, will know pretty quickly $2 a bottle isn’t going to taste very good. You’d buy it to get drunk. That’s it.

  • What’s next – Sam’s Choice All-American Malt Liquor?
    Things like this make me avoid all things Wal-Mart.

  • Hi David!
    The Wrestling show was amazing last night! A post (and hopefully) photos coming once I’m awake enough to check the photos I took on my digicam.
    As for this wine. I’d never buy it. I’m not a Wine drinker by any stretch of the imagination, but it makes me wonder how low we as a society have to go, in order to drink anything available in order to get that “high.”
    I remember once hearing a story of someone who was so desperate for alcohol that he took a bottle of Brasso metal Polish and tried to filter out the Alcohol content so he could drink it. needless to say he failed, and although he didn’t die, he was extremely ill. I never heard whether he stopped drinking or not after that though.

  • Ha, Gordon! Love it!
    I’ve never been to a Wal-Mart. Target, however, I love. :grin:

  • I’m so glad you had a great time, Dawn, and I can’t wait to read your review and view your photos!
    You’re quite prescient that the Wal-Mart wine gives people an excuse to drink to get drunk while claiming all the while that they’re not low class or degenerate because wine is perceived as expensive and elitist.
    Ick on the Brasso drinking! I’ve heard of people drinking mouthwash and cough syrup to get a buzz, but not metal polish!

  • Hi David,
    Wal-Mart is just reacting to what the market wants — if the story isn’t a hoax. (My Google search had a warning that one of the “Wal-Mart wine sites” might hurt my computer!)
    Wal-Mart isn’t going to put the “ma and pa” liquor stores out of business. Costco is going to do that with its huge wine selections — it’s the largest wine retailer in the nation.
    People seeking cheap wine can already get cheap bottles of MD-20/20 at the grocery or liquor store, if they want without having to figure out how to get out to the suburbs where the Wal-Mart is located.
    The same thing is true at the hallowed “ma and pa” locally-owned stores in regard to cigarettes. If you can’t afford to buy the pack, they’ll sell you a “loosy” for a quarter if you don’t look like you’re from the cigarette taxing authority or a cop.
    And, some “ma and pa” stores in the urban core sell steel wool (for scrubbing pots and pans) and little flowers in glass tubes (for your Valentine, of course).
    I always think that people who complain about Wal-Mart whine — it might just be the people in my area — because they see diversity that they might not ordinarily see in their daily lives. The arguments against Wal-Mart always have to deal with a suspicious element of bargain shoppers from “the bad part of town” who will come and buy cheap items, then rob and kill on their way back across the railroad tracks.
    Personally, I’m always worried about the Ikea crowd myself …

  • Hi Chris!
    Akismet doesn’t like your defense of Wal-Mart!
    The cheap wine story is true. I’ve read about it in many traditional places — it’s the silly wine names that are fake:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2000/10/02/walmart_wine001002.html
    http://www.wineloverspage.com/wood/mass.phtml
    The reason people hate Wal-mart so much is because they lock their overnight cleaning crews in the stores:
    http://www.workerscompinsider.com/archives/000048.html
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4146540/
    And they have unfair trade practices:
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/btc/wal-mart4.cfm
    And they are ruining the environment:
    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1273938/posts
    http://www.salon.com/tech/books/2006/01/23/walmart_effect/

  • HA! I love the big yellow frowny-face. Perfect!
    I am a huge South Park fan. The eighth season included a fantastic episode about the woes of Wal-Mart and the idiocy of those who simultaneously claim to hate the store and continue to shop there. It’s really simple, folks–if you want Wal-Mart to go away, don’t give them your business! If you want Ma and Pa to survive, give them your business! I’m glad to hear that you have never been to Wal-Mart, David–bravo!
    As an aside, I think wine for cats sounds like an awesome idea. The only way those little buggers would seem like interesting pets to me is if they were all boozin’ it up on their Wal-Mart brand Kitty Hooch. :-D

  • For some reason, this experiment http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,791840,00.html
    i read about in college stuck with me. i don’t know who’s crazier the guy doing the experiment, the cats, or whoever is marketing alcohol for cats. i just throught you might be interested, in case you never read this experiment.

  • Hey Emily!
    South Park is a great show and they often speak hard truths in their wild humor.
    That’s right. If you don’t appreciate how Wal-Mart behaves, don’t give them your money. Pay more to support your hometown businesses.
    Yikes! You don’t like cats? I hope you aren’t A Dog Person! :mrgreen:

  • That is a strange cat experiment, fred, and I’m not sure the reason for terrorizing them!

  • The thing is, you can make a much better wine for about $2.00 a bottle from a kit. Now that means you have to put some work into it, of course – but not that much.
    And I’m sure MADD will speak up about this – but not because of the cost. MADD is (despite their name) not an anti-drunk-driving organization. Since at least 1984 it’s been an *anti-drinking* organization. They’re completely against alcohol use of any kind at any time by anybody.
    Their extremism actually drove away Candy Lightner, the founder of MADD, who is against drunk driving and not drinking in general. She left in 1984, which is how long MADD has been an anti-alcohol group.

  • Hiya Charlene!
    Yes, if prisoners can make wine in the toilets in their cells, we too, can make our own homebrew! :grin:
    The MADD sites says the opposite of what you claim:

    MADD is a 501(c)(3) non-profit grass roots organization with more than 400 entities nationwide. MADD is not a crusade against alcohol consumption – MADD’s mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.

    http://www.madd.org/aboutus/1094
    Since they’re invoking their 501(c)(3) status in that very specific statement, I have a hard time thinking they’re lying.

  • David!
    I’m a proud Dog Person!
    But I’m still cool, ’cause I hate Wal-Mart. :-D

  • Oh, no!
    We are wary of Dog People.
    We love the dogs; the people scare us.

  • Well, am I A Dreaded Dog Person just because I own one? I mean, I don’t let him sleep in my bed or sit on the furniture or anything like that. I don’t dress him up in clothes and send people pictures of him at Christmas. But I do prefer dogs to cats, generally speaking.
    I’M NOT A FREAK!!!! :mrgreen:

  • Dog people demand obedience. We run from that!

  • HA! Okay, I’m not a dog person then. If you knew my dog…you would instantly agree.

  • Anyway, back to Wal-Mart and its soon-to-be wino following. I do agree with Chris that their decision to sell Sam’s Choice Hooch will not hurt liquor store business. That is my only real complaint about Wal-Mart: it ruins Main Street America. I could not possibly care less about the so-called “suspicious” shoppers from the “bad part of town” that Wal-Mart seems to attract. That said however, I am still not too amused by this Sam’s Choice Hooch prospect simply because it’s tasteless and ridiculous.

  • Hi David,
    I’ll have to keep an eye out for the Wal-Mart wine next time I go to the store.
    The way Main Street is going to survive is to adapt and not try to compete head-on against Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, K-Mart or any of the other discounters. They are going to have to offer quality products and services that can’t be obtained at the “big box” stores.
    It might mean creating a “main street” shopping community that attracts customers with interesting artwork, food, and other customer friendly innovations.
    Just because Taco Bell sells Mexican food for 99 cents doesn’t mean that it spells the end to sit-down Mexican restaurants. Excellent steak restaurants usually have nothing to fear from a fast food hamburger joint.
    The same thing should be true of any small business if they become experts in their field and offer value-added customer service experiences. Offer something different from the mega store — maybe expert service with a smile — and customers will gladly shop.
    Offer high prices, surly attitudes, poor inventory, and dirty shops, and people will go to the big box stores (or shop online).
    The same is true of Wal-Mart. If they fail to offer quality and value, people will go to Target (where it always seems there are 26 registers, but only two open with cashiers to serve the long lines of people waiting to check out).
    Look at the Wal-Mart of yesteryear: K-Mart. They failed to keep up and have fallen onto hard times. (The same thing can be said of the big U.S. automakers. Just being BIG doesn’t guarantee business success.)
    People will go to a small store if there is a reason to go there. If small businesses can’t evolve to meet new challenges, then they risk facing the fate of others that failed to adapt to changed circumstances.
    There’s no reason why a vibrant downtown shopping district filled with interesting shops can’t coexist with a mall/big box shopping area just a few miles away.
    The key is to offer items and services the big boxes can’t offer because they aren’t mass produced in Chinese factories.
    The ma and pa store needs to pick up its game if it wants to survive. The days of “the only store in town” are long gone as long as everyone has access to the internet and a credit card.

  • Hi Emily —
    The Wal-Mart hooch makes it easier for people to start drinking. Cheap access to mass-produced wine leads to bad things. It also “Americanizes” wine drinking as being perfectly acceptable to mainstream Americans. Going into a liquor store is a much different experience than buying your booze from Wal-Mart.

  • Chris —
    I don’t think there’s any Wal-Mart $2 wine yet. I think they’re in the process of bringing it to market.

    Just because Taco Bell sells Mexican food for 99 cents doesn’t mean that it spells the end to sit-down Mexican restaurants. Excellent steak restaurants usually have nothing to fear from a fast food hamburger joint.

    The problem with that analogy is that Wal-Mart IS selling exactly thing same thing as the Mainstreet store and for a much cheaper price. If a consumer can buy identical products but one is much cheaper because you, as Wal-Mart, buy in bulk and can afford to sell it cheaper, you have a distinct advantage over the mom and pop shop trying to pay their rent. You undercut your competition, drive them out, then raise prices higher than they were before you drove mom and pop out of business.

  • Hi David,
    Wal-Mart does sell many things that main street stores sell. But, the main street store has an advantage over Wal-Mart if they decide to specialize in certain products or offer value-added services (such as expert knowledge of various products).
    I’m thinking of a couple of stores in my area that compete against Wal-Mart, but remain successful. One place sells televisions and appliances, so they are also competing against Best Buy and Circuit City as well. The difference between the local store and the “big boxes” is the service. Of course, BB and CC are offering installation and those sorts of things now, so the store will have to find some other way to compete, but doesn’t that make for a better experience for the consumer?
    Also, product quality is another key area. You you want an $79 bicycle for your kid to ride to school, you go to Wal-Mart. If you want some specialized ultra-light racing bike, you go to the local bike shop that carries the more expensive brands. If you want low cost sporting goods, go to Wal-Mart. If you want some hi-tech item that everyone needs to have to be competitive, you go to the local sporting goods store because it is likely Wal-Mart won’t carry a specialized item that doesn’t have mass appeal.
    The same thing goes for furniture. The local shop that sells low priced put it together yourself particle board furniture kits isn’t going to survive against Wal-Mart. But, the store that does custom work and provides decorators to assist with fabric selection and the like can carve out a successful niche. They’re not going to get the just out of college customer who wants a futon, but someone wanting to get a sofa that will last the next 10 years might consider the custom option.
    Wal-Mart sells commodities. Groceries, clothes, toys, DVDs and CDs, low-priced electronics, household goods, and pharmacy items. Main street should look to offer higher quality lines and stop trying to compete on price.
    Once people are educated to evaluate price as only one part of the purchase process, the main street stores will be able to compete in different arenas.
    Most of the time, the Wal-Marts and “big boxes” have a limited number of products they sell, so the main street store can win by offering items the Wal-Mart doesn’t offer.
    I remember walking to main street stores when I lived in New Jersey and finding that most never had what I wanted to buy and often weren’t as friendly and nice as people always remember. When I lived in Bloomington, I remember going into a small-town store to buy a printer and finding the sales guy on the phone yakking away without even acknowledging my presence. It wasn’t uncommon to feel like I was interrupting the storekeeper standing behind his counter when I came into a place to buy something. If that happens at a huge retailer, I can always complain to the manager.
    I also remember a lot of the small stores keeping horrible hours — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. so that people with jobs were out of luck if they wanted to buy anything. It’s not fair, but sometimes the demands of modern life where people live one place and work another place demands that a store be open into the evening.
    I think of the local stores that have gone out of business and I’m not really sad at their demise since none of them really did anything to try to win me over. Their failures probably makes it a better world for consumers.
    The little guys are more likely to see the customer as the enemy and make unreasonable requests of their patrons than will a huge store aimed at attracting the most customers.

  • Hi David,
    I see that Target is pushing inexpensive wine on the masses as well with the help of it’s master sommelier. :)

    Simply put, Target hopes to lure thousands of discount shoppers into higher-margin but lower-priced quality wines.

    Says Target’s master sommelier:

    Quality and low price are quite compatible, she says.
    “Yellow Tail from Australia is a very good choice for an everyday wine. In some European countries they drink wine at lunch and dinner and believe me they don’t buy a $20 bottle for everyday wine. They spend like $4, which is perfectly fine for that sort of occasion.”

    Take out the European VAT taxes and that $4 bottle of wine actually costs about $2. :mrgreen:

  • Excellent comment, Chris! I think you’re right on all counts! Find a local niche and specialize in knowing something the Big Boys don’t and you’ll find Mainstreet success!

  • Sounds awfully like the *gut rot* a lot of my student friends used to drink at college – foul stuff.
    My fathers home brew elderflower or elderberry was far nicer and actually drinkable.

  • Sounds awfully like the *gut rot* a lot of my student friends used to drink at college – foul stuff.
    My fathers home brew elderflower or elderberry was far nicer and actually drinkable.

  • Yes, Nicola, wine that cheap can only be sour and tart. Icky!
    Your father’s drinks sound wonderful! Oh, to have tasted them!

  • I still have a third of a bottle of sloe gin that he made in 1987 – it is extremely potent and kept for very special occassions.

  • Wow! Fantastic! That is a neat and warm legacy!

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