For bourbon taters, there’s no rush quite like getting their hands on a prized bottle at an affordable price. But when it comes to tracking down these rare expressions, not all that glitters is Pappy — especially on social media. Now, it appears American bourbon collectors have been scammed by yet another seemingly successful operation.
According to news network WDRB Louisville, alleged spirits scam Whiskey Shack targeted a number of southern Indiana and Kentucky residents this year, claiming to sell a variety of highly allocated bottles at or under cost. After hitting purchase, customers reported receiving fraudulent shipping numbers through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) which were later delivered to incorrect addresses, if they were delivered at all. And though some orders received by USPS did contain several bottles (none of which were the expressions promised), each package was suspiciously light when weighed.
Louisville resident Ken Mueller was one of Whiskey Shacks’ many alleged victims. On Dec. 13, he told WDRB that he has been collecting whiskey for years. So when he came across a Facebook advertisement from a small liquor store that was going out of business, he believed he had to act quickly.
““It looked spectacular,” Mueller explained to WDRB of Whiskey Shack’s post. “They had a ton of dusty bottles and stuff they were getting rid of at cost — or just under cost — just to settle tax liens.”
Mueller was even more convinced after heading over to the advertised website, telling the news network that it looked “perfect” and offered bottles of Pappy Van Winkle listed for as little as $20 to $30. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, Mueller says these prices “should have set off the flags right there.”
Despite the suspiciously low price points, Mueller continued with the online sale, purchasing five bottles of whiskey for a total of $110, including a bottle of 20 Year Pappy Van Winkle for just $35.99. (For reference, the expression typically sells for between $3,000 and $10,000 on the secondary market.) The bottles never arrived on Mueller’s doorstep.
“They delivered on a street in southeast Louisville and [the package] wasn’t even my name,” he said. “They either intentionally or unintentionally messed up the shipping label.”
Several other southern Indiana residents reported similar experiences on the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB’s) Scam Tracker. One scam victim posted to the tracking forum claiming that one month after they had placed their order, they received a tracking number through USPS which claimed a package had been delivered just five days after the whiskey had been purchased.
It’s important to note that it’s illegal to ship alcohol through the U.S. Postal Service. Whitney Adkins, director of strategic marketing for the BBB, tells WDRB that consumers must always do research on unknown companies prior to purchasing, especially around the holiday season.
“We definitely have seen an uptick across the board with scams this holiday season,” she expressed to the network. “More consumers are shopping. More consumers are shopping online. It’s a hectic time of year. We’re thinking with our emotions rather than rationally.”
Following the scam, Mueller told WDRB that he no longer purchases anything from Facebook advertisements.
“It’s $100,” he said. “It’s not going to make or break my lifestyle. But, by the same token, man, it was such a good scam.”