What has become of the once great Garnet Wines & Liquors? Instead of garnering praise, the UES shop – located at 929 Lexington Ave (between 68th and 69th streets) – has appeared in recent news headlines with allegations of racism and abhorrent customer service.
The well-stocked liquor store’s website boasts a “recent” (as the website claims) New York Magazine recommendation from 2013, highlighting how its “drab exterior” holds “terrific bargains.” Another “recent” (again language used on Garnet’s site) recommendation comes from Zagat, 15 years ago, honoring Garnet as “the ruby standard for super prices.”
Today, neither Zagat nor New York Magazine pay Garnet respect. But nature abhors a vacuum and plenty of customers are leaving reviews to fill the void.
“They are thieves” says one former customer on Better Business Bureau’s website (on which Garnet receives a rather straightforward “F”).
Garnet’s two star rating on Yelp features reasonable critiques such as “horrible service and a good likelihood of being profiled and accosted if you go here.”
Of course, patrons aren’t alone in alerting the world to their notable customer service experiences – the press has caught wind of the Upper East Side liquor store’s scandals as well. The Post recently reported a story about a Garnet customer who was denied a refund for a $200 bottle of tequila which tasted rancid. In full Garnet Wines & Liquor fashion, a refund policy debate was not the entire story. The customer accuses an employee of saying “look at your name, you’re disgusting and I bet your wife is disgusting too.” The man’s name was Michael Rosen.
The point of recognizing these reviews is not simply to bash a neighborhood business (though they’ve certainly made it easy to do so). People once loved shopping there. On Garnet’s Yelp page, there is a familiar name – “Michael R.” One might assume it’s Michael Rosen, as this is one of the only reviews which Garnet’s manager replied to. In Michael R’s review, he writes that “Up until recently I would rave about Garnet to others.” The manager replied (in part) that “We know this customer; he is very unprofessional and nasty. He comes to the store and tries to make fools of the employees here. He picks out liquor and if it isn’t to his liking, he brings it back and demands a refund.”
Another one-star Yelp reviewer says “I have been coming to this store for the past 7 years.”
Another customer on Google states “Agree with all the bad reviews here. Used to be a great store…”
Who knows what happened to the neighborhood business Zagat once celebrated by writing, “the Upper East Side staple is still the ruby standard.” Judging by the company’s Yelp reviews, a recent change in ownership is likely to blame. Though many businesses are still dealing with extraordinary stress from COVID, one might assume that the business owner wishes for Garnet to succeed. When reading the reviews, it seems customers would like that as well. So, I hope the business owner is sitting down and reading this right now. I hope he is holding a nice glass of tequila (preferably one of the non-rancid variety) and taking a good hard look at reality. I hope he is ready to get back to work and win his neighborhood’s trust once again.
Garnet stopped offering amazing prices at least 15 years ago with what I suspected was a change of ownership then, and I stopped going across town for value at that stage. But if they have had another change of ownership, you wouldn’t expect the new owners to have the same set of contacts as the old ones built up over many years. This
Garnet has a new website that offers great prices but will not allow you to check out. When you call the store or email for help they say there is nothing they can do. And that if you order on the phone you will not get the same prices offered on the website. Check out PJ Wine on upper west side. Slower delivery but great prices and their website actually works.