Since this week’s hurricane business has made it rather uncomfortable to properly enjoy a smoke, I thought I’d share some different cigar info with you that I’ve come across recently. First is about a group of guys in New York City and the second is about an experience I had with a large retailer’s.auction site.
I recently had an e-mail conversation with Matthias, the chief editor for www.finetobacconyc.com and he was sharing with me some of the cool things they do up in the Big Apple. He said:
“We’re a small team of 6 guys living in New York City who host free cigar events for cigar smokers in the city. We started about two years ago because of the increasing taxation and regulation of smoking that was killing the industry and the community. I had just started smoking cigars, had fell in love with the industry, and I really wanted to help protect our right to smoke, and help promote a tight community. Anyway, two years in, we have about 500 members on our email list, we’ve hosted at least 50 events, helped launch new cigar lounges and introduce new cigars to the market. We are and will remain for some time a non-profit organization. None of us are paid, we do it for the love of cigars.”
Of course, NYC is not the friendliest place to smoke, but there are still a bunch of great places, and these guys know their way around. If you ever visit the city, reach out to these folks, read through their blog (I subscribe via RSS), they also talk about spirits and other lifestyle items as well as tobacco. I hope everyone involved with Fine Tobacco NYC came through the storm OK.
I recently (sort of) had an experience I wanted to share with you. I don’t make a habit of speaking ill of manufacturers or retailers, but think of this as some well intentioned advice. Sometime around the end of August I received an email from Thompson’s about a Dutch auction they had on their new auction site. Call me a glutton for punishment if you like, but I thought if I could buy a sampler of NUb 464T cigars, featuring three of each wrapper for a decent price I’d like having them in my humidor. I was pleased when the auction ended and I had won one of the lots with a bid of $25. With shipping that put my cost below $3 per stick, which makes me a happy camper.
After about two weeks of waiting for my “winnings” to arrive , and after an unwanted evening call from Thompson’s offering me their cigar of the month club, I called to check the status of my order. It was then that I was told that it was back-ordered. So my first thought is “how does someone have an auction for a predetermined lot of cigars and not have the stock to back it up?” Then, the customer service guy offers a replacement deal! I could get a sampler of eight Nubs for only $49.95. What a deal, I’m thinking, I can get fewer cigars for twice the price! Now, understand that in my mind, Thompson’s has always had a reputation of being very aggressive in their marketing as well as having some pretty ridiculous descriptions in their catalogs. On the other hand, they have been in business for over 100 years, so they must be doing something right. It has been my experience that auctions isn’t one of those things. I did correspond with Josie Figueroa, the Auction Specialist there, who initially told me that “The Oliva Nub 464T Torpedo Sampler – 12 Cigars are on back-order due to an inventory discrepancy resulting from damage, receiving miss-count, a supplier miss-shipment or other changes in inventory that occur beyond our control between the opening and closing of a given lot.” That pretty much covers all the bases, eh? So the auction closed on Sept. 4, and I finally received the cigars on October 26. I received a couple post cards with various dates that I might expect shipment, as well as a few automated e-mails that started about 3 weeks after the auction closed. Here’s my advice to Thompson’s, unsolicited and worth what you paid for it: Don’t auction stuff you don’t have. Don’t launch an auction site until you have the communications bugs worked out. Finally, don’t try to upsell me when I have to call in looking for my order, that reeks of “bait and switch” and really left a bad taste in my mouth. In the end, I feel like I got a deal, at least I will when I’ve smoked the cigars and they meet expectations, but the customer experience was less than ideal, the communication was severely lacking and my complaints, which I felt as a customer, were addresses in a very nonchalant manner. I probably won’t bother with their auction site again, I did it as an experiment anyway so in addition to putting some smokes that I like in my humidor, it gave me a little story to share with you.
Sunday I offered a 5 pack to a random reader who made a donation to the Tick Borne Disease Alliance, and three people very generously made contributions to our fundraising efforts! Thank you Dennis, Joel and Jim. Since I can’t pick from only three, I will send each of you a 5 pack from my humidors, so please e-mail me your addresses, although I’m sure I have them around someplace. Hopefully I can scrounge up some interesting cigars for you guys to say thank you for your generosity.
Well, that’s about it for this episode. Our power was out for about 22 hours and it was inconvenient, but certainly not nearly as much as it is for those who lost everything. Hopefully everyone is OK. I celebrated the power coming back on last night with a cigar I blended at the Joya de Nicaragua factory when I visited there on the Cigar Safari in March of 2011. It was fantastic, I have to remember the blend so I can try to recreate on a future trip.