An Auckland woman who waited three months for her custom-built wine rack to arrive — part of which turned up warped and twisted — has finally been refunded after inquiries from 1News.
Jaz Crilly was renovating her Warkworth utility room last year when she ordered the wine rack from Wine Stash, a company she thought was Kiwi-run thanks to the .co.nz in its website and the fact all of its racks are made using sustainably sourced New Zealand timber.
Little did Crilly know the fully assembled, custom-built wine rack with a rustic finish she ordered on September 27 would be made by an Australian company based in New South Wales.
Wine Stash has websites for Australia, New Zealand, the UK and US. If customers head to the Australian website, they will discover that is the company's base — "100% Australian assembled", it says.
Users have to either navigate to the FAQs at the bottom of the website or to a “why Wine Stash” tab when viewing a product on the New Zealand site to learn it is Australian owned.
After touching base with the company's warehouse operations manager via an email address on its New Zealand website about getting the rack in a custom size (four wide by 13 high) and checking the finish, Crilly paid $639.19 directly into the company's ASB account.
Crilly was told the rack would be two weeks away. There was no mention it would be in two six-by-four parts.
This is where her fight with Wine Stash and the long wait began.
After two weeks had come and gone Crilly was told it would be another week. After the third week the rack still had not arrived and she was told it would be the following week.
Tracking for her order was finally received on October 18 through Australia Post. Her order did not move. She questioned this and was told it would take a week to update.
There was still no movement after about two weeks so the warehouse operations manager declared the wine rack lost. Another would be made and sent in its place. It would hopefully be with Crilly in "a week at most".
Her renovation was held up by the missing wine rack — costing not only time but money — so Crilly made the first of several refund requests.
Waiting on Wine Stash, she contacted a company in Albany, Auckland, which produced a custom-built wine rack for her in four days, which she picked up. It cost $180.
A Wine Stash refund via Shopify never arrived in her account and the same issue with the tracking occurred with the replacement wine rack.
Crilly asked to be refunded again for the original order and for the shipment to stop. This did not happen. She was told she would be refunded directly but this did not happen until 1News contacted Wine Stash in January.
The week before Christmas a wine rack showed up on her doorstep. The packaging was squashed and the rack itself was warped and twisted. It was only six by four. Another six by four wine rack arrived in a box in a similar condition to the first in January.
Crilly was told "connector clips" would piece the two six by four wine racks together to make her four wide by 13 high rack.
“We are extremely disappointed with Wine Stash and only wish to get our money back for a product and company that is falsely represented on your website," she wrote at the time.
The wine rack was booked for an international return on New Year's Eve by the warehouse operations manager, but to date Crilly has not been contacted by Australia Post.
Wine Stash states on its website it offers free returns on all items. Their return policy is for the item to be posted back to them at the customer's cost within 100 days. A full refund or exchange is offered.
In the three months it has taken for the wine rack to arrive and for her refund to go through, Crilly says she has exchanged numerous emails with the warehouse operations manager, called Wine Stash three times only to speak to a third-party messaging service and visited their Parnell address, which is just an office space.
Her husband Scott tried messaging the company’s CEO, Matthew Childs, via LinkedIn. He also sent in a general inquiry through their website.
Wine Stash responds
After inquiries from 1News in January, Crilly was refunded $639.49. Childs emailed the confirmation through to 1News and said the company “sincerely apologised” for the “poor level of service” she had experienced.
He said production delays resulting from Covid-19 restrictions did not justify the poor service.
Childs said he had also reviewed the correspondence between Crilly and the warehouse operations manager and stated: “I completely agree that the actions taken by Wine Stash is nothing short of appalling. Wine Stash is taking actions to immediately address these issues.”
He said all wine racks over a certain size are delivered in pieces, which then connect together like Lego on site.
"We would love to have everything delivered in one piece, however they do become too heavy to move."
Childs said Wine Stash has been operating from Sydney for just over five years. Its New Zealand website has been operating for just over six months.
He also added a Wine Stash warehouse in Auckland's Parnell is scheduled to open by March this year. It means product designers will be based on the ground in the city, along with customer service and warehouse workers, he said.
“This will further reduce the delivery times in peak periods."
Authorities weigh in
Despite this, Crilly told 1News she still wanted to share her story so other people would not be caught out. She said she regrets not looking into Wine Stash more before buying.
A spokeswoman for Consumer NZ said Crilly had done everything she could — making numerous attempts to communicate with Wine Stash, as well as ensuring her request for a refund was made clear.
Consumer NZ said Crilly had the right to reject the wine rack and request a refund.
“For any consumer who is pursuing a refund for goods purchased, we recommend keeping a clear record of communication, whether that is a log of calls or a record of email correspondence.”
Consumer NZ described the wait for the wine rack to arrive as “not acceptable”, stating Covid-19 airfreight delays are about seven to 10 days — Wine Stash currently states on its New Zealand website due to order volumes delivery to Auckland and Hamilton may take up to five days.
“Failing to deliver items within a reasonable time frame could mean Wine Stash is in breach of the Fair Trading Act.”
The spokeswoman said Wine Stash’s employee had not been “reasonable” asking Crilly to return the wine rack first before receiving a direct refund.
She also had the following warning for consumers: “Seeing a website with a .co.nz may lead consumers to believe that a website is New Zealand based, however anyone can purchase a domain name, so there is no guarantee that the website with .co.nz is New Zealand based.
“We would encourage consumers to look for a New Zealand postal address and phone number if they would like to prioritise shopping locally, as well as checking their social media presence if they have accounts, as this can give an indication as to whether a business is New Zealand based."
Asked about the customer's perception it was a New Zealand-based company they were dealing with, Childs stressed it was moving towards having a presence in Aotearoa.
He added: "Admittedly we’re not perfect. We’re a small business and definitely have a lot to work through. However, we are aware of and are actively taking steps to address these issues."
A Commerce Commission spokeswoman said it had received two complaints about Wine Stash within the last 12 months. Both had been about delivery delays.
“As we have not investigated the complaints we will not comment specifically about this trader’s conduct,” she said.
She did say consumers’ rights are the same whether a person buys online or in person. The Fair Trading Act applies to all traders who advertise or sell to New Zealand consumers, even if the trader is based outside New Zealand.
The spokeswoman also said under the Fair Trading Act an online trader must ensure delivery terms are clear and can be met. This includes shipping costs, taxes, fees and the estimated delivery times.