April 20, 2017 – Mumbai, India
In a classic example of brand substitution, Industrialist Sanjay Jindal filed suit against St. Regis Hotel for serving his guests a lesser quality liquor than what he had ordered. Mr. Jindal had the occasion to meet the General Manager of the Five Star Rated St. Regis Hotel at a party he was attending at the Mahaaxmi Race Course. Impressed with the service and banquet quality food that was catered by the St. Regis Hotel Staff, he discussed hosting his own event at the Hotel’s Luna Nudo Night Club.
Mr. Jindal of Jindal Drugs Private Label Limited reserved March 25, 2017 party in a meeting with the General Manager of The St. Regis Hotel in Mumbai and Banquet manager of the Luna Nudo Night Club. During the meeting to set the reservation for his private party, Mr. Jindal specifically requested imported brands of liquor to be served. The Liquor decided upon was Belvedere Vodka and Ketel One Vodka for his guest list that included industrialists, race horse owners and guests from the entertainment world.
During the party one of the guests approached Mr. Jindal complaining of the liquor choice that was being served at the party. Pointing out that he would never drink domestic brand Smirnoff. Embarrassed by his guest’s comment, Mr. Jindal immediately approached the bar and confronted the Staff about why they were substituting brands. The explanation that Mr. Jindal received was that it was a mistake, and the bartenders were only serving the Smirnoff in their haste to serve those who wanted shots quickly. In his lawsuit Sanjay Jindal said, “I could see that Belvedere vodka bottles were not even stocked in enough quantity to cater to the requirements of the invitees. This was an act of cheating,”
During the legal proceedings the Hotel representatives blamed the error on a single bartender who stocked the bar with the wrong selections. However, the opening and closing inventory of the bar did not reflect that it was a bartender’s mistake but rather a concerted effort of substituting brands. The opening inventory of the bar as presented by the Hotel was 3 bottles of Belvedere Vodka, 6 bottles of Ketel One Vodka and 2 bottles of Smirnoff Vodka (which was not ordered). The closing inventory listed by the bartender was 1 bottle of Belvedere Vodka, 6 bottles of Ketel One Vodka and zero bottles of Smirnoff Vodka.
The lawsuit was privately settled between Mr. Jindal and the St. Regis Hotel which offered no comment on the outcome or lawsuit. Mr. Jindal stated that he was only looking for an apology, and that the $1500 per person that he paid for the bar service be donated to a charity. He said it was important that this example of substituting brands be made public, and he felt like he had been cheated.
When establishments partake in brand substitution, that is exactly what they are doing, cheating the customers. Mr. Jindal was a customer who was only looking for the best for his guests no matter the cost. Yet, a five-star rated hotel, decided to increase their profit margin by substituting brands of liquor, serving a less expensive version instead of the brand requested. This is an example that came to the public attention only because Mr. Jindal decided to make an example of the St. Regis Hotel for this deceptive practice.
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