Person talking(l+r), Total Wine(c)

Total Wine & More (Kennesaw, GA)/Facebook @bourbon_notes/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘I learned my lesson after the first visit’: Customer shares 3 reasons he says Total Wine and More is the ‘Goodwill’ of liquor stores

'I only go there for things you could never get anywhere else.'


Phil West


Posted on Mar 19, 2024   Updated on Mar 19, 2024, 11:26 am CDT

A self-described “bourbon geek” declares Total Wine & More to be “evil,” starting by citing a recent challenge to its distribution practices, and has shared “a few reasons why I take my money elsewhere.”

The video laying out this dislike for the chain retailer, specializing in liquor, wine, and beer, comes from creator Kevin C. (@bourbon_notes), pledging “unique unfiltered opinions of a bourbon geek” on his TikTok account. This video, released on Sunday, has received more than 186,700 views as of publication.

He started in with his first of three reasons. “The first reason is that Total Wine will move into a new market, and then they will immediately sue the distributor to get the prices and the allocations that they want for their store and force the little guys out.” He then said that finding this is “just a Google search away.”

The Dallas Morning News is among the publications covering the story he appears to be referring to: “The Federal Trade Commission has asked a federal court to force Total Wine & More to comply with an ongoing antitrust investigation of Dallas-based Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.”

The October 2023 story goes on to report, “Southern Glazer’s, the largest distributor of wine and spirits in the U.S., is being investigated for possible discriminatory practices in its sales to retailers such as Total Wine in violation of the Robinson-Patman Act, and over whether it engaged in other unfair methods of competition under the FTC Act.”

Kevin C. continues with a second reason: “They will push what is their own branded inferior products over what I think are better products.” He claims that both Wolcott and Chestnut Farms are brands affiliated with Total Wine, saying, “They’re not awful brands, but if you ask them for help or their recommendation, you are not getting a real recommendation.”

He told the Daily Dot via email, “The whiskey sourcing game is complicated and there are many ways to trick consumers. As the saying goes, ‘bourbon is 51% corn, 49% marketing bullsh*t.’ Total Wine sources many of their own ‘brands’ from various distilleries. Barton 1792 is one of them (a sazerac company). [One] example is the difference between a 1792 Full Proof single barrel (~$50) and [Total Wine’s] Chestnut Farms Single Barrel (~$150)….both are 125 proof and literally distilled by the same company. The ironic thing is [Total Wine] actually list the Chestnut Farms as ‘HIGHLY allocated bourbon from 1792 Barton’…kinda funny. This is all on their website, [an] easy google.”

A member of the r/bourbon subreddit on Reddit gave a less-than-glowing review of Wolcott in January, noting, “Wolcott is one of the ‘Expert Pic’ brands that Total Wine employees shill to try to get the uninformed chasing the latest Blanton’s or Eagle Rare drop to get something instead of going home empty-handed,” before adding, “There’s nothing to hate here, but it’s just boring and there are so many better options out there I’d buy instead of getting this one again.”

Kevin C. then goes on to allege, for his third reason, “Their store picks usually stink.” He claims, “They just literally take whatever the distributor sends them. And those barrels are usually ones that other people did not want. In some ways, you can think of them as a clearinghouse for single-barrel picks.”

@bourbon_notes Replying to @Terry Bozsoki nice to see the Federal Trade Comission going after them. #totalwine #bourbon #whiskey #singlebarrel ♬ The Champion – Lux-Inspira

Commenters weighed in.

“So Total Wine is Walmart,” one assessed.

“The goodwill of store picks,” a second added.

Another said, “I learned my lesson after the 1st visit. Salesperson steered me away from what I knew was good, into products I had never heard of.”

One shared, “Only store pick I have ever had from TW that was decent was a Four Roses Barrel Proof and it was great. Everything else was garbage.”

Someone else reported, “Unfortunately Total Wine is the only local store I have found that has my favorite liquor.”

Regarding the virality of his video, Kevin C. told the Daily Dot, “Because of all the smoke and mirrors associated with whiskey marketing, one of the main goals of my account is to provide insight to bourbon consumers to make them more informed buyers. Anytime I can pull the curtain back on shady practices of stores, distributors, or even distilleries it is great, when that content gains some traction it’s even better.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Total Wine via email.

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*First Published: Mar 19, 2024, 3:00 pm CDT