Traveling Vineyard Review: Wine monthly autoship done right?
Traveling Vineyard operates in the wine MLM niche.
The company is based out of Massachusetts in the US, and is headed up by “Chief Grape Stomper” Rick Libby.
Libby (right) claims to have coined the concept of a wine-based MLM opportunity. He acquired Traveling Vineyard following its bankruptcy in 2011.
The concept behind free home wine tasting and Traveling Vineyard had been my idea in 2001 when I worked for Geerlings & Wade, a leader in the direct marketing of quality wine.
If the home party concept could work for plastic storage containers and cooking utensils, why not wine?
I tested the idea with a dozen people and it took off. By 2005, Traveling Vineyard had thousands of independent consultants, who work from home hosting more than 100,000 home tasting events a year in 26 states.
After decades in various sales, marketing and management positions, I had finally fallen in love with a business.
Just when the Traveling Vineyard model had built momentum, a leadership change in the parent company triggered some strategic decisions with which I disagreed, particularly a decision to make changes to the programs we created that supported the self-employed independent wine consultants, our Wine Guides.
The Guides form the heart and soul of the business model. How could I be expected to tell these wine enthusiasts about program impacts to them that I completely disagreed with?
That’s when I left Traveling Vineyard and spent five years doing other things – until I heard about the bankruptcy filing.
I persuaded my wife, presented my case to dozens of friends and investors, emptied my savings accounts (yes, all of them), and made a run at it.
I knew that if our Wine Guides received the support they needed to be successful, the company would get back on its feet.
By November 2010, Traveling Vineyard was back in business. Today, we’re proud to have more than 2,500 happy and satisfied independent Wine Guides in nearly 40 states who love their home based businesses.
Read on for a full review of Traveling Vineyard’s MLM opportunity.
Traveling Vineyard’s Products
As the company name suggests, Traveling Vineyard markets
a large variety of products including red wine, white wine, sweet wine and accessories.
Traveling Vineyard’s wines are grouped into themed collections or can be purchased individually.
Prices start at $16.99 a bottle and there are also various wine themed accessories available:
- winged corkscrew – $15.99
- wine saver – $14.99
- wine chillder – $15.99
- stainless steel wine cubes (set of six) – $24.99
- arctic pole (cooler) – $19.99
- six bottle tote bag – $2.99
- magic decanter aerator – $29.99
Regular shipping rates within the US for a six-bottle order is $12.95. Single bottles ship for higher (not sure if it’s flat rate or varies from state to state).
A discount is available for retail customers who opt for Traveling Vineyard’s monthly “Rewined” autoship order program.
Traveling Vineyard’s Compensation Plan
Traveling Vineyard do not provide a copy of their compensation plan on their website.
The following compensation analysis is based on a Traveling Vineyard affiliate presentation.
Bits and pieces (mostly updated bonus information) was sourced from Traveling Vineyard’s website.
MLM Commission Qualification
To qualify for MLM commissions a Traveling Vineyard affiliate must generate 250 PV a month and maintain at least 500 PV over a rolling two-month period.
Traveling Vineyard Affiliate Ranks
There are fifteen ranks within Traveling Vineyard’s compensation plan.
Along with their respective qualification criteria, they are as follows:
- Wine Guide – sign up as a Traveling Vineyard affiliate
- One Star Leader – recruit at least one affiliate, have a unilevel team leg with an affiliate who has generated at least 250 PV, and generate 250 PV and 500 TV a month yourself
- Two Star Leader – recruit at least two affiliates, have two unilevel team legs with an affiliate who has generated at least 250 PV in each, and generate 400 PV and 1000 TV a month yourself
- Three Star Leader – recruit at least three MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least one One Star Leader in your downline and generate 600 PV and 1800 TV a month yourself
- Four Star Leader – recruit at least four MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least two One Star Leaders and one Two Star Leader in your downline and generate 800 PV and 3500 TV a month yourself
- Team Leader – maintain at least four MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least one Three Star Leader, one Two Star Leader and one One Star Leader in your downline, and maintain 800 PV and generate 5000 TV a month yourself
- Senior Team Leader – maintain at least four MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least one Two Star Leader and two Three Star Leaders in your downline, and maintain 800 PV and generate 7500 TV a month yourself
- Director – maintain at least four MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least two Two Star Leaders and one Team Leader in your downline, maintain 800 PV and 5000 TV a month, and generate 10,000 GV a month yourself
- Ruby Director – maintain at least four MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least two Two Star Leaders and two Team Leaders in your downline, maintain 800 PV and 5000 TV a month, and generate 20,000 GV a month yourself
- Emerald Director – maintain at least four MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least one Two Star Leader, one Team Leader and two Directors in your downline, maintain 800 PV and 5000 TV a month, and generate 50,000 GV a month yourself
- Diamond Director – maintain at least four MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least two Team Leaders and two Ruby Directors in your downline, maintain 800 PV and 5000 TV a month, and generate 100,000 GV a month yourself
- One Star Diamond Director – recruit at least six MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least four Team Leaders and two Emerald Directors in your downline, maintain 800 PV and 5000 TV a month, and generate 250,000 GV a month yourself
- Two Star Diamond Director – recruit at least eight MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least six Team Leaders and two Diamond Directors in your downline, maintain 800 PV and 5000 TV a month, and generate 600,000 GV a month yourself
- Three Star Diamond Director – recruit at least ten MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least eight Team Leaders and two One Star Diamond Directors in your downline, maintain 800 PV and 5000 TV a month, and generate 1,000,000 GV a month yourself
- Four Star Diamond Director – recruit at least twelve MLM commission qualified affiliates, have at least ten Team Leaders and two Two Star Diamond Directors in your downline, maintain 800 PV and 5000 TV a month, and generate 3,000,000 GV a month yourself
PV is sales volume generated by retail orders and an affiliate’s own purchases.
Note that from Two Star Leader, only up to 50% of required PV can be sourced from autoship orders.
TV stands for “Team Volume” and is PV generated by an affiliate and their downline, excluding PV generated by any downline Team Leader or higher ranked affiliates and their own downlines.
GV stands for “Group Volume” and is PV generate by an affiliate and their entire downline.
Required ranked downline affiliates can be anywhere in a unilevel leg.
Where multiple required ranked downline affiliates are required, only one is counted from any one unilevel leg.
Traveling Vineyard affiliates earn a 15% commission on product sales to retail customers.
Personal Volume Bonus
Traveling Vineyard affiliates earn a Personal Volume (PV) Bonus, determined by how much PV they generate each month.
- generate $400 to $1249.99 PV and receive a 5% PV Bonus
- generate $1250 to $2999.99 PV and receive a 10% PV Bonus
- generate $3000 to $4499.99 PV and receive a 15% PV Bonus
- generate $4500 or more PV and receive a 20% PV Bonus
Traveling Vineyard affiliates are paid to recruit new affiliates during their first 100 days with the company.
- recruit one affiliate within your first 40 days and receive a $100 commission and an insulated tote bag
- for each affiliate recruited within your first 100 days a $100 wine credit is issued
Traveling Vineyard pays residual commissions via a unilevel compensation structure.
A unilevel compensation structure places an affiliate at the top of a unilevel team, with every personally recruited affiliate placed directly under them (level 1):
If any level 1 affiliates recruit new affiliates, they are placed on level 2 of the original affiliate’s unilevel team.
If any level 2 affiliates recruit new affiliates, they are placed on level 3 and so on and so forth down a theoretical infinite number of levels.
Traveling Vineyard caps payable unilevel team levels at three.
- Wine Guides do not earn residual commissions
- One Star Leaders earn 3% on level 1 (personally recruited affiliates)
- Two Star Leaders earn 5% on level 1
- Three Star Leaders earn 5% on level 1 and 3% on level 2
- Four Star Leaders and higher earn 5% on level 1, 3% on level 2 and 1% on level 3
The Leadership Bonus is a residual commission match paid out on each unilevel team leg, up until a Team Leader or higher ranked affiliate is found in the leg.
- Team Leaders earn a 1% Leadership Bonus
- Senior Team Leaders and higher earn a 2% Leadership Bonus
Whereas the Leadership Bonus only pays out on up to one Team Leader generation per unilevel leg, Traveling Vineyard also offers a proper Generation Bonus.
A generation within the Generation Bonus is defined when a Team Leader is found in a unilevel leg.
This affiliate caps off the first generation for that unilevel leg, with the second beginning immediately after.
If no second Team Leader is found deeper in the leg, the second generation extends down the full depth of the leg.
If a second Team Leader is found, they cap off the second generation and third begins after them.
Using this generational structure, the Generation Bonus pays out a residual commission match on up to five Team Leader generations per unilevel team leg.
- Directors earn 2% on one generation
- Ruby Directors earn 2% on the first generation and 1% on the second
- Emerald Directors earn 2% on the first generation, 1% on the second and 0.5% on the third
- Diamond Directors earn 2% on the first generation, 1% on the second and third and 0.5% on the fourth
- One Star Diamond Directors earn 2% on the first generation, 1% on the second and third and 0.5% on the fourth and fifth
- Two Star Diamond Directors earn 2% on the first generation, 1% on the second to fourth and 0.5% on the fifth
- Three Star Diamond Directors earn 2% on the first generation and 1% on the second to fifth
- Four Star Diamond Directors earn 2% on the first and second generations and 1% on the third to fifth generations
Fast Start Program
New Traveling Vineyard affiliates have 100 days to qualify for Fast Start Program rewards.
- generate 500 PV within your first 40 days and receive $50 wine credit, a coffee mug and 50 thrive points
- generate 750 PV within your first 70 days and receive $75 wine credit, one testing set credit and 50 thrive points
- generate 1000 PV within your first 100 days and receive 100 wine credit, $50 merch credit and 50 thrive points
- generate 5000 PV and recruit three affiliates within your first 100 days and receive $100, $100 in wine credit and a silver bracelet
Thrive points are an internal currency that can be used to acquire Traveling Vineyard rewards.
Early Promotion Bonus
The Early Promotion Bonus rewards new Traveling Vineyard affiliates for rank qualifying within their first four months.
- qualify at Three Star Leader and receive a $50 Early Promotion Bonus
- qualify at Four Star Leader and receive a $100 Early Promotion Bonus
A 100% Early Promotion Bonus match is also paid to the direct upline affiliate (the affiliate who recruited the affiliate qualifying for the Early Promotion Bonus).
Rank Achievement Bonus
Starting at Team Leader, Traveling Vineyard rewards affiliates for rank qualifying as follows:
- qualify as a Team Leader and receive $100 ($100 match also paid to direct upline)
- qualify as a Director and receive $500
Elite Leader Bonus Pool
The Elite Leader Bonus Pool is funded ‘at the discretion of Traveling Vineyard’.
Ruby Director and higher ranked affiliates can qualify for shares in the Elite Leader Bonus Pool by
- having personally recruited at least one affiliate who has generated at least 250 PV in the last ninety days; and
- having generated at least one new Team Leader leg in the last 365 days.
A “Team Leader leg” is a unilevel team leg with a ranked Team Leader in it.
Ruby Directors and above who meet the above qualification criteria receive shares in the Elite Leader Bonus Pool as follows:
- Ruby Directors receive two shares
- Emerald Directors receive three shares
- Diamond Directors receive four shares
- One Star Diamond Directors receive five shares
- Two Star Diamond Directors receive six shares
- Three Star Diamond Directors receive seven shares
- Four Star Diamond Directors receive eight shares
Additional shares can be earned by generating unilevel team legs with a Team Leader or higher ranked affiliate in them.
- a Team Leader or Senior Team Leader unilevel team leg rewards one addition share
- a Director or Ruby unilevel team leg rewards two additional shares
- an Emerald or Diamond unilevel team leg rewards three additional shares
- a One Star Diamond or Two Star Diamond unilevel team leg rewards four additional shares
- a Three Star Diamond or Four Star Diamond unilevel team leg rewards five additional shares
Note that a unilevel team leg can only have one qualified status. The highest ranked affiliate in the leg defines which rank that leg qualifies at.
I.e. a unilevel team leg with a Four Star Diamond and a One Star Diamond in it only qualifies once as a Four Star Diamond leg.
Joining Traveling Vineyard
Traveling Vineyard affiliate membership is $99 or $179 (right) for a Success Kit.
Primary differences between the two Success Kits are bundled Traveling Vineyard wines, accessories and marketing tools.
A $15.95 monthly fee kicks in after a new Traveling Vineyard affiliate’s first three months.
I first came across Traveling Vineyard back in 2016. A reader had requested a review and after researching and putting together a blueprint, I realized Traveling Vineyard doesn’t provide a compensation plan on their website.
Breaking with my norm of publishing a review from the stance of a member of the public, I reached out to Traveling Vineyard. They told me their compensation plan was “proprietary information“.
That answer makes marketing copy like this on Traveling Vineyard’s website ring hollow:
Our Favorite Question: “How much will I get paid?”
We really love answering the question “How much do I get paid?” because our Wine Guides know that their compensation is really up to them!
If you want to answer the compensation question, provide a compensation plan. Refusing to do so was baloney back then, and it’s still baloney now.
There is no excuse for an MLM not to provide the public with a detailed compensation plan document.
Outside of that disclosure failure, Traveling Vineyard hits a number of retail friendly boxes.
Although it isn’t for everyone, wine is a staple consumable for those who enjoy drinking it. In that sense Traveling Vineyard has a readily retailable product line.
What might present as a roadblock is an inherent range limitation.
Traveling Vineyard no doubt tries to cover a broad range of tastes with the wines it has available. But when I can drive down the street to a bottle shop and browse literally hundreds of wine varieties, the competition deficit is obvious.
Where Traveling Vineyard might find an in is with those who are curious about wine and want to expand their palette.
The preferred marketing method for the company is the house party, which reinforces the company’s value on personal communication – something my bottle shop can’t provide.
Ultimately if I’m happy with the advice, service and wine selection – signing up as a retail Traveling Vineyard autoship customer makes sense.
On the compensation plan side of things Traveling Vineyard encourages retail, by limiting 50% of required PV to non-autoship orders from the Two Star Leader rank.
This also doubles as an affiliate autoship recruitment deterrent (signing up for autoship and then recruiting affiliates who do the same at the expense of retail).
The Personal Volume Bonus is also a great retail incentive, although it could be improved by excluding an affiliate’s own purchases.
Outside of that I’m willing to give Traveling Vineyard a pass on having too many ranks, owing to the age of the company. Still if possible, decluttering the compensation plan would go a way to making it easier to break down and share with others.
Perhaps a moot point though if Traveling Vineyard fails to ever provide their compensation plan to the public in the first place.
Getting back to marketing, although Traveling Vineyard ‘have their hosts sign a host responsibility letter, outlining the specifics of a tasting and what’s expected with the consumption of alcohol’, it’s still something to consider.
Wine Guides also have their hosts sign a host responsibility letter, outlining the specifics of a tasting and what’s expected with the consumption of alcohol.
When dealing with leads who might very well be strangers, you run the risk of people getting drunk on the supply (so to speak) and no purchasing anything. Not to mention having to deal with potentially troublesome intoxicated punters.
This isn’t specific to Traveling Vineyard but shouldn’t be ignored.
There’s also the issue of potentially having to get a liquor license. On their website Traveling Vineyard states that
in some states you are required to apply for a (liquor) license, but our friendly World Headquarters Cheerleaders will provide you with all you need to know.
I don’t know why Traveling Vineyard doesn’t just provide a list, saving potential affiliates time. In any event, it’s worth independently checking whether a liquor license is required in your state and what’s involved.
One final thing to take into consideration is the recent collapse of Direct Cellars.
Direct Cellars was a competing MLM wine company, but since its collapse appears to have sold Traveling Vineyard access to their distributor list.
Ethics aside, Direct Cellars had a similar business model to Traveling Vineyard – albeit with a much stronger emphasis on affiliate autoship recruitment.
Obviously retail was a problem company-wide though, otherwise they wouldn’t have gone bust. Something to keep in mind when considering wine-themed MLM companies in general.