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Whisky woes

Published:  18 January, 2007

I am curious to learn whether any other whisky merchants, like myself, find the Gordon and MacPhail's Malt Whisky Trade File' to be an absolute nightmare to translate.

Unlike most trade catalogues, Gordon and MacPhail tailors each offer differently, and so at three-month intervals we must wade through its offers catalogue to see what has changed. While I appreciate the effort that must go into the negotiation of such deals, I cannot help thinking of late that an already confusing system has deteriorated into a rather chaotic and confusing ordeal.

To begin with, the April/May/June 2005 catalogue arrived, as usual, halfway through April. As some of the offers read April only', this is rather annoying.

Attached to this particular catalogue was a list of amendments to the offers, explaining that some of them

had not been explained correctly, or were just plain wrong. However, an in-depth examination of the catalogue indicated that these were not the only corrections that ought to

have been made. There were at least two more errors in

the index, and inside there are many ambiguous statements and a confusing inconsistency between the bold green

and black type that draws your attention to the offers.

It is easy to miss offers (this is not helped when some

of them are not listed in the index), and it is equally easy to misinterpret them (if anyone can make head or tail of offer 69/69a/69b and the amendments to these, I'd be very grateful for an explanation).

When you work on such tight margins as we do in this trade, it is important to get the best deal possible, and so accidentally ordering an extra bottle of Macallan here and there can utterly defeat the purpose of wading through the offers catalogue in the first place. Increasingly, offers are randomly listed as May only' or May/June only', which simply adds to the confusion.

Mistakes in recent orders have indicated that perhaps I am not the only merchant who struggles to understand the catalogue. I suspect that when the current catalogue finally begins to make sense, it will be time for the July/August/September edition to arrive (midway through July, I suspect).

I appeal to other whisky merchants who have lost the will to live while trying to piece together their G&M orders to highlight this problem. Maybe a less confusing format could be explored? Maybe the catalogue could be more thoroughly proofread before being despatched a fortnight late? Perhaps four catalogues a year is a little too much to keep up with?

Come on, G&M, we are beginning to think you don't want us to take advantage of these offers. Any thoughts?

Stephanie Lunn

via e-mail