Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

The new cons (miscellaneous)

with 3 comments

Product pages

  • Vintages are no longer shown for inexpensive wines.
  • Wines in outlets may not be the vintage shown online or, when two or more vintages are available, no vintage may be shown online.
  • The product info doesn’t include a link to the producer’s website. (EDIT 13/02/17: Looks like they’re doing it for some large producers, e.g. Cousiño-Macul.)
  • The product info doesn’t include the agency that represents the producer in Quebec.
  • The information for specific products (taste tags, tasting notes, drinkability windows, etc.) appears to be one-size-fits-all-vintages.


  • There’s no “wish list” or “favourites” function. Want to make a shopping list to take with you to the store? You’re going to have to print each product’s info or availability page or copy and paste the names into a word processor or another application.
  • There’s very little in the way of personalization aside from a “favourite outlets” list.
  • Why doesn’t the site remember my postal code? Or point me to the nearest outlet that has the product when none of my selected outlets does? Or adapt its product suggestions to my search and purchase history? Amazon can do this but not the SAQ?

Weak translations

  • The “practical tools” should be useful tools.
  • Mead is here called “honey wine.” Go figure.
  • No anglophone would ever say “terroir product,” which should probably be translated as Quebec product.
  • The alcool category should be called the neutral grain spirit (or neutral alcohol) category in English; instead it’s “alcohol.”
  • “Empyreumatic” means nothing to 99.9% of anglos, isn’t found in most dictionaries (e.g. the Canadian Oxford and Merriam Webster’s, though it is defined on and would be better rendered as charred or burned aromas.
  • One of the price ranges is “$40.00 and more.” “$40.00 and over” sounds more idomatic to me.
  • Literally topping them all, the HTML title “Wines, alcohols & spirits” is a calque of the French Vins, alcools, spiritueux. Do anglos even use “alcohols” in everyday speech? And, regardless, what can it possibly mean here? A better translation would surely be something like “Wine, beer and spirits” or “Wine and liquor.”

Assorted WTFs

  • No info is provided on how to order and return private imports, which account for a significant and growing percentage of the SAQ’s sales, especially among buyers of specialty products.
  • There’s no direct link to the online shop. You have to click a product category (e.g. wine) and then filter the results by selecting the online option.
  • People who use the online shop complain that they can’t save a session and return to complete it later.
  • Since the Our Suggestions products do not reflect the user’s preferences (as established by his/her search and purchase history), they’re useless. They’ve got nothing to do with products you might like, everything to do with products the SAQ wants to move. “Featured products” would be a more honest description. And, just wondering, but does the SAQ charge producers/agencies to display their products here?

Written by carswell

February 14, 2013 at 12:24

Posted in Commentary

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3 Responses

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  1. Your testing and reporting is so thorough that there is not much to add. It looks like they launched with what they had and have been adding content and making incremental improvements over time. For instance, there is now complete information on Private Imports, under About > Doing Business with the SAQ > Individuals.

    Overall, in my opinion, the site is improved over what we had earlier, but… The SAQ is a monopoly, and drinkers have no choice but to buy wine, beer and spirits from the SAQ. The multitude of concurrent marketing programs is confusing (and wasteful?) rather than helpful, especially on the home page where the useful tools are given third rank. I’m not visiting the home page to find out about promotions, or to read the SAQ’s lifestyle mag, I WANT TO FIND SOMETHING TO DRINK. Disappointingly, the new site doesn’t make that much easier.

    The shortcomings in user interface (as you point out, the layout is inflexible) and the sloppy translations and/or lack of attention to site content in English (“Related sites and ressources”) are inexcusable. There’s no point in producing content if it’s of such poor quality, especially when you’re the retail monopoly on drink. Just for example, the entry for “Hell” in this Beer Glossary is incorrect. It should read: “This list of beer definitions.”

    The mobile apps don’t appear to be changed – just ported to the new look and the new infrastructure. With a decent mobile site, they’d be obsolete – and the “favourites” functionality could be integrated into My Account. That’s a huge omission, along with a feature to send you email when your favourites re-enter inventory. It’s no big leap…

    The expansion of the pairing suggestions suggests there was a big investment in filling out the empty areas of the database, and it seems like every wine now shows suggestions. As useful as this may be as a sales tool there are other, more useful features that you and others have pointed out that would be even more valuable.

    It’s probably too much to hope for but an increasing number of us want to be able to search by agent-importer, because that association can raise the credibility of an unknown bottle. I appreciate the new “All products from this producer” link that appears in a product’s “Detailed info” tab. “All products from this importer” would make life even easier.

    One or two additions of such user-friendly features might wash away the bitter taste of a relaunch that falls as short as this one.


    February 24, 2013 at 12:43

    • Excellent points all, Elkin. Unless you’re seeing something I’m not, though, still isn’t covering private imports. All I find under About > Doing Business with the SAQ > Individuals is information on private orders (having the SAQ special-order and import wines that are not otherwise available in Quebec), not private imports (wines that are available in Quebec but must be ordered through an agency).

      It’s funny about the product info not including the agency that represents the product in Quebec. The information is in the SAQ’s database and appears on the “lettre circulaire” sent out to outlets each week to inform them of the products and quantities they’ll be receiving. For example, according to the “lettre” for the JTM outlet, the agent for the Bize white Burg I just posted about is Liquid Arts. In other words, all that would be required to include the info on the website is a little programming magic; omitting it was thus a conscious decision. An “All products from this agency” link would be awesome. (The SAQ wouldn’t say “from this importer” because technically the SAQ is the importer.)

      I’ve been noticing some eye-rollers in the food pairing suggestions lately. The most recent was chili con carne for the $75 Pégau I posted about yesterday. Despite the already huge investment, that algorithm still needs a little work.

      We’ll see how much attention they pay to the blowback on this and other sites but probably not until the next iteration of, which reportedly isn’t likely to happen until the winter of 2014. In the meantime, we can keep on pointing out bugs and desirable improvements.


      February 24, 2013 at 13:36

      • I did not carefully read the Private Orders info which I mistook for Private Imports. I wonder what that, plus the omission of agency attributions on individual wines, says about the monopoly’s attitude toward the agencies. Credit where it’s due…


        February 24, 2013 at 13:49

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