Costco Replaces Scotch Bottle, Saves Christmas

Travis has a rich tradition of an annual bottle of scotch at Christmas, a tradition that was nearly shattered along with his bottle when it slipped from its box. Luckily Costco has an even longer and richer tradition of being really cool about refunds.

Travis writes:

A few years ago, my boss started a yearly tradition of buying his team each a bottle of wine or scotch for Christmas. After he left, I continued the practice for myself, buying a new bottle of a new brand every holiday season. This year, I am out of work as the holidays come, but I decided to go ahead and buy my yearly bottle anyway. Being more frugal under the circumstances, I waited for some coupons to come into effect and bought my bottle at Costco the day they did. When I took it out of my car it slid out of the top of its box and shattered on my front steps. After a string of profanities, I cleaned up the remains of the bottle and posted an open invitation on Facebook to any nearby friends with dogs who appreciate whiskey.

Examining the box afterwards I noticed that it was designed specifically to prevent the kind of accident I had – part of a sleeve inside the the main box has two leaves that angle down and inward to create a collar and lock the bottle in place. It occurred to me that someone may have opened the box to inspect the contents and failed to push these structures back into place, leaving the bottle ready to slide out when the box was tipped at an angle during carry. Armed with this idea (and positive previous experiences), I thought I’d take the broken remains and box back to Costco to see if they would give me a discount on a replacement bottle. I spoke with the woman at returns, showed her what I thought had happened, and she gave me an immediate refund. The only question she asked is if I intended to use the refund to buy another bottle – since I did, she gave me the refund on a cash card. I was back out the door with my replacement in a few minutes.

Since money is tight at the moment, and it was a significant indulgence to buy a gift for myself to begin with, I would not have purchased another one at full price this holiday. With their refund, Costco saved my gift to myself and helped me keep that little bit of normal in an abnormal holiday season. This is precisely the kind of service that keeps me actively trying to convert other shoppers to Costco – so I would say they also made a wise investment.


It never hurts to ask. As the saying goes, squeaky wheel gets the scotch.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sonicslasher says:

    Is there a way that I can donate money to this wonderful “Costco” foundation? :D

    • sparkypinball says:

      It’s called your membership fee. It’s totally worth it though.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      I have heard that Wall Street tends to deride Costco with that saying. But they male money because the customers reward them!

      • sonneillon says:

        I’ve heard that too, but Costco is profitable, and all of the various ratios, asset to net, asset to liability, etc are favorable to Costco. Wallstreet just mutters because Costco does something different than other retailers and they do it successfully, and because they do it successfully their stock performance is good.

    • magus_melchior says:

      If you don’t want to be a member of Costco, you can buy its stock (though it’s quite a bit more than the lowest membership amount).

      Another alternative, if you don’t want to pay 70+ bucks, is to buy a fixed dollar amount on a monthly basis– some brokers will let you do this.

  2. italianbaby says:

    wow, costco comes thru again. :)

  3. Hoss says:

    For every nine of us that drops something and realizes our mistake, there’s one that acts like a child and wants the store to make up for it

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      well, he admits he didn’t expect the store to make up for it until he realized that the packaging that was apparently designed to prevent that sort of accident had failed.

    • MMD says:

      For every nine of us who reads this story, there’s one of you that drops by, doesn’t RTFA, and craps all over everything.

    • kjherron says:

      You’re a glass-half-empty type, aren’t you?

    • lockdog says:

      I worked for a grocery store in high school. Not a Whole Foods or anything fancy, just a run of the mill early 90s supermarket. If you dropped something in the parking lot we’d replace it. If you mentioned that a bag broke at home or that you had any other problem we’d replace it. And by we I mean me, the kid bagging the groceries was allowed to go back, grab it off the shelves and hand it to the customer.

      • bennilynn says:

        Yup. When I worked at Target as a kid (back in the 90’s), we had the same sort of policy. Sure, you’d have people abusing it from time to time, but we learned to recognize those people quick enough. Most of the time, helping the customer so they were happy was better (and more profitable) than pissing them off. It’s not like they didn’t have other shopping options (Walmart).

        Most retail stores aren’t as forgiving these days, which is a shame, for retailer and employee alike.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I brought a reusable shopping bag to Whole Foods and as the person was loading it, I noticed it was starting to get a little heavy. The cashier assured me the bag would hold, and true to his word, it held – until I got home, and the handle snapped off. I took it back to Whole Foods the next day and they replaced it right away.

    • magus_melchior says:

      Well, as long as the store offers to replace it free before the customer acts like a petulant child, I think the store would have a lot more customers, no?

      Thankfully, you didn’t mention the griefer who breaks store items intentionally. Those I would definitely toss out and charge with destruction of property.

    • coren says:

      For every nine employees that put the box back together correctly, there’s one who doesn’t, causing a customer to end up with a broken bottle.

      • regis-s says:

        Even the original poster thinks it was probably another customer that tampered with the box. Yet you just assume it was an incompetent employee’s fault.

        I’d assume that the process is all automated. There probably weren’t any employees involved in boxing the product.

        • Wombatish says:

          The OP didn’t say the boxing was at fault, he said the (likely) REboxing was at fault.


        • coren says:

          “back together” – implying that it was taken apart.

          I don’t know if it was an employee, other customer or the OP who was to blame – but blaming the OP in a situation where a myriad of possibilities exist rubs me the wrong way.

    • JoeTaxpayer says:

      For every 10 box/bag fails, there’s one or two people who politely ask to get reimbursed.
      When a supermarket bagger stuffs one till it rips when I move it to the car, you bet I walk in and ask for my money back.

    • stevied says:

      service comes at a cost.

      Don’t worry, the other 9 of us will pay higher prices to make up for this generous act.

    • rahntwo says:

      Nice Attitude

    • runswithscissors says:

      He didn’t go back and demand a refund, he went back hoping for a DISCOUNT on a new bottle. Just to politely ask. That’s all. He didn’t demand, he didn’t cause a fuss, he just asked.

  4. clarkins says:

    waited for some coupons to come into effect and bought my bottle at Costco the day they did.

    They make coupons for booze?

    • Hoss says:

      They sure do. And in this economy, it’s a huge marketing tool.

    • mistersmith says:

      …and if you live in a state where beer/wine/booze are sold in grocery stores, your club card can save some serious $$$ too. But, usually, Costco and BevMo can’t be beat.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Promotions on alcohol are very state-dependent. Some states allow all kinds of discounts; others don’t. Anyone who can master what’s legal & what’s not when it comes to booze across all 50 states gets a prize.

    • caradrake says:

      We were in Costco yesterday. The door greeter handed us a flyer of booze coupons. I love Costco.

      Plus they now stock ChocoVine. Mmmm.

  5. CreativeLinks says:

    Replace Broken Scotch Bottle.

    Cost to Costco: $20

    Being featured on Consumerist in a positive light: Priceless.

    Good deal.

    • elladisenchanted says:


      The thing about Costco is that they’ve been this awesome since well before midmarket media had this level of accessibility. It’s not just because they’ll get positive press, it’s because when you’re nice in a situation like this, the customer will tell their friends, they’ll renew their membership next year, and Costco gets more sales and membership fees on balance. It’s a win-win situation. The free positive comment on Consumerist? It’s gravy.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      You are right. I am seriously contemplating getting a membership and, believe it or not, this is swaying me into the yes column.

      • FoxCMK says:

        If there’s a Costco convenient to your home, then it’s absolutely worth it.

        Just keep in mind: they only accept American Express, ACTUAL debit cards (not Check Cards with a credit card logo), personal checks with the name of the club member, or cold hard cash.

  6. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    Costco is always amazing about refunds. It was great that this customer service rep acted like a human and was willing to refund the cost of the bottle so this guy had a better holiday, and could stop beating himself up over dropping the first bottle.

  7. Reading_Comprehension says:

    Scotchy scotch scotch, I love scotch

  8. Trioxin says:

    This exact same scenario played out for me one week ago except with an iPod Nano.

    Costco was to stop carrying Nanos so I purchased one of their last ones a month ago. Last week, I was carrying it in its little box that it came with when I dropped the box. The nano fell out and the screen cracked.

    I really didn’t think Costco would take it back considering it was my fault, but since it was in the box I figured they might. Also, there might have been something wrong with the Nano considering the screen cracked so easily.

    I walked in with my receipt and with a rehearsed speech but they were both mostly unnecessary. The girl glanced at my receipt, took back the iPod, scanned my card, and gave me a full refund. I would have bought another one from them right then and there but they had no more and they will no longer carry iPods.

    I love Costco.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      You probably could have replaced the screen. I had to buy one for my iPod classic because stuff spilled on it. It still worked but the screen was messed up. Much cheaper than replacing the whole thing.

  9. Chmeeee says:

    Reading this just makes me really want to leave a few minutes earlier than planned so I can enjoy a nice glass of my Aberlour when I get home. Mmmm, Scotch.

  10. EverCynicalTHX says:

    The only way Costco would sell booze where I live is if the state government took them over..sadly because I’m sure the customer service would be a whole lot better than our antiquated and seemingly corrupt good ole boy ABC system in NC.

  11. laphroaigh says:

    I dont know why but i like this post……….

  12. Big Mama Pain says:

    Great story, but the name “Sheep Dip” for scotch makes my stomach roll in revulsion. Gross!!!

    • katstermonster says:

      My friend swears it’s really good, despite being blended. I keep meaning to try it.

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      The name isn’t a reference to the distilling process it’s a reference to the depraved acts of those filthy scotts after drinking too much of it.

  13. brianguyy says:

    This happened to me once about a year ago and a half ago at a TARGET when they started selling wine. The dumbo 17 year old cashier put it in a plastic bag with 2 other items unprotected, unbeknownst to me. When I got home i grabbed said bag out of my car with the other bags and this red wine slid right out halfway between my car and my front door, smashing to the ground despite my best efforts. Drove straight back and showed the evidence and receipt and demanded replacement for the shoddy lack of attention this girl put into packing my glass things. Woman at CS apologized and told me to go grab another and wrapped it appropriately. Success at last.

  14. snarkysniff says:

    I purchased a printer a few years back from costco. It had a duplexer and it was the main reason I bought that particular model. I had nothing but problems with it and eventually it came to a point where it wouldnt print anything without jamming in the duplexer. I believe it may have been around 2 years old. I returned it to costco they were super awesome about it and gave me the cost back on a merc card. I ordered another printer along with ink for it from their website the next day and so far Im thrilled with this one (I switched brands something I never thought id do!)

  15. sheriadoc says:

    Hooray for Costco! I once returned an eighth-used bottle of allergies pills and they gave me a refund! My boyfriend decided he wanted to try a different, cheaper brand, but they ended up doing nothing for him. On top of that, it was supposed to be a six-month supply, but the bottle expired in three months. (We should have caught that, but oh well.) I figured I’d try to return them for the hell of it because I was just going to toss them otherwise.

  16. olivetree says:

    We should regard ourselves very fortunate to live in the States. Last time I was in Hong Kong browsing in a store, a bowl fell from the shelf and broke. I was next to it but I did not do it. The store clerk immediately grabbed me accusing me causing the accidental fall and I should pay for it. Fortunately his boss was right there and he might have noticed that I was from abroad because of the way I dressed. He waved it off. I thanked him. In fact, many of the stores in Asia put notices on the wall “You break it, you pay for it.” Be very careful when you shop there.
    Thumbs up to you, Costco.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But if you do break it, why shouldn’t you have to pay for it? In that particular case, it wasn’t your fault, but I don’t see how stores should have to cover the cost of merchandise people carelessly broke in the store.

  17. jake.valentine says:

    I made the switch from Sam’s Club to Costco in 2005 after a couple of bad customer service experiences in 1 month. I have never looked back! Costco is easily one of the (if not, THE) best run retailer. The lines can be silly long, but my family loves shopping at Costco. The Kirkland brand really seems to balance quality with a low price.

  18. areaman says:

    First I have to say I’m a minor (minor, minor, x 100) stake holder in Costco.

    I just went there today to get a bottle for a Xmas present and noticed there’s some kind of price war or (popped) bubble on premium scotch and tequila. Got a bottle of Don Julio (750ml) for $27.99 before tax!!!

  19. rpm773 says:

    Travis has a rich tradition of an annual bottle of scotch at Christmas

    Does Travis’ tradition involve polishing off that bottle before 9am? Because that’s been my tradition.

    I still remember the Christmas my sister, upon knowing my tradition, got me a bottle of sleeping pills as a gift.

  20. yoursupervisorplease says:

    Costco is by far the best of the “members only,” stores…

  21. Murph1908 says:

    Hey scotch lovers,

    I get my father-in-law a nice bottle of scotch every year. I’ve gone through the normal labels. Can anyone recommend a good under-the-radar brand around $50-$75?

    Thanks in advance

  22. lance55 says:

    Shame I don’t have a Costco nearby. I’ve only heard great things about them. They seem rather successful as well – I guess that tends to happen when you please your customers.

  23. katstermonster says:

    Sheep Dip! My buddy raves about that…I’ve been meaning to try it.

  24. tutting4 says:

    Another great Costco article…

    But just thinking about the taste of Sheep Dip makes me want to throw up.

  25. StevePierce says:

    I then got drunk with my replacement bottle of Scotch and wrecked my car that I bought at Costco when I had a job.

    I took the car back to Costco, they gave me a new one.

  26. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    Nobody berating the OP for “wasting money he doesn’t have” nor “Get a stinking job, you lazy jerk”?


    I guess it must be the holiday season after all.

    • pythonspam says:

      Maybe they are starting to buy into the idea that people who are unemployed and actively seeking work do in fact spend that money to consume and stimulate the economy, continue to make their house payments (to stem further foreclosures), and ultimately create the job positions that they will fill soon.
      Trickle down economics is a myth the rich people perpetuate because they know the rest of us will most likely never be.

  27. Willow16 says:

    Costco is great! During a period of unemployment, I checked out prices at many different pharmacies for a few prescription meds I take. No one could beat Costco’s prices. You don’t even need to be a member to use the pharmacy.