‘We got duped’: How this premium putter landed on Costco’s shelves without consent
Bettinardi Golf sells high-end putters in nearly 50 countries around the globe, but despite the company’s best efforts South America always represented a glaring hole on its distribution list. Sky-high import taxes in countries like Brazil made it difficult to access that economy.
“With the likes of Joaquin Niemann, who’s from Chile, that golf market has exploded,” Sam Bettinardi, the company’s president, told GOLF.com Tuesday. “Argentina is another strong golf market. We were looking for a true distributor to get our product in the right accounts in South America like they have in Japan, Korea, Thailand and the UK. We’ve been doing this for 10 years.”
As Bettinardi continued the search for a suitable distributor, one finally came to the fore that seemed to check all the boxes. The contact had all the right connections in South America and shared with Bettinardi a long-term business plan that eventually led to a distribution deal.
Everything appeared to be going smoothly until three months ago when Bettinardi started hearing rumblings of its Studio Stock putters, which retail for $449, selling on Costco’s website for $359. Several weeks ago, Bettinardi Queen B putters also surfaced on the wholesaler’s site, and a video on Instagram went viral highlighting the discounted putters.
“It was alarming to me because we don’t have an account with Costco,” Bettinardi said. “I was just going to let it go, but there was talk on social media plus the video and some retailers calling me. I felt it was in the best interest of our brand to let our partners and customers know that this was not intentional.”
After conducting some research, Bettinardi was able to pinpoint who was selling its putters wholesale: the South American distributor. When confronted by Bettinardi, the distributor pleaded ignorance and blamed his network of sellers who were supposed to be selling the putters only in other South American countries, Bettinardi said.
“They just blamed the person they sold the product to, which I don’t think is what happened,” Bettinardi said. “I think they just went right to Costco instead of trying to grow our brand in South America, which has been a challenging market to begin with.”
Last week, Bettinardi released a statement about the situation that received considerable blowback from many social-media commenters who wondered why the putter manufacturer had a problem with the wholesaler selling their putters.
“I didn’t think this was going to blow up like it did,” Bettinardi said. “I couldn’t believe all the comments on social media, but I guess this is the internet, so you gotta expect everything, right?”
While the statement might read as if Bettinardi has beef with Costco (which did not immediately reply to GOLF.com’s request for comment), the real issue, Bettinardi said, lies with the distributor who violated the agreement that stated he’d sell Bettinardi putters only in South America.
In the end, Bettinardi said, the distributor sold putters back to the same country where they were initially manufactured.
“The reason for the statement is because we have a lot of retailers around the country that sell our product at MSRP, which is $430 on the Queen B and $449 on the Studio Stock,” Bettinardi said. “All distributors sign contracts where they’re supposed to sell in that country only. We already have retailers who sell our putters in America. That wasn’t part of the agreement with this distributor.
“We could’ve probably done more research, but the person we sold to seemed legit and had the right connections. He shared with us his business plan, but it was probably all fake. So we got duped.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Costco no longer was selling Bettinardi putters on its website, and Bettinardi confirmed they were actively working with the wholesaler to come up with a solution for the remaining putters.
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