Sunday, March 20, 2022

Cheer up, things could get worse ...

... So I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse!  

This was a line my mother and her group of friends used to toss back and forth at each other in the 1960s, and I've tried to pin it down for attribution, but so far I've come up with three possibilities: James Hagerty, Robert Lynn Asprin, or Jerome Lester Horwitz, also known as, Curly Howard.  It seems like such a Curly thing to say, so I'm going with that one, except in my head when I hear him saying it, "worse" is always spelled, "woiyse," because, of course it is.

This quote could've easily been my theme for 2021.  By now, I probably sound like I'm just whining, but I promise you I've taken it all in stride, but at almost every turn last year, when something good would happen, something would come along right behind it to take all the wind out of my sails, including but not limited to when nearly all of the new roses I ordered died.  It's tough out here for the little guy, I gotta tell ya!  You can't buy in quantities large enough to score the good discounts, or wholesale prices so you're buying everything at retail, and then when something goes wrong, you're definitely not a large enough account to get the customer service the big guys get, and we're not even talking about expecting the red carpet treatment here. 

Pretty soon after their (late, but who's counting?) arrival, I started noticing black patches forming on the stems of my brand new rose bushes that were spreading, and causing them to die back.  Now, I am by no means an experienced rosarian, but I know the difference between an alive plant, and a dead, or soon-to-be dead one.  So I started taking photos of the problem areas, to do this, however, I needed to drag the plants back into my house, and set them up on my dining room table to get a better view of what was going on.  Once I got a good look, and documented what seemed to be happening, I got in touch with the company asking for advice ... I mean, where better to go than to the actual rose-growing, and tending experts, right? 

To say the response I got left something to be desired is ... Generous.  I was given no insight into what the cause could possibly be, like, what diseases roses are prone to, what pests to look out for, or what to do to your plants if they've been infected with something.  What I was told, is that the plants weren't meant to be "houseplants" and that the temperature inside my home is what was likely killing them.  The temperature inside my home.  For the 10 minutes they were on my table.  That's what caused the long black patches to develop on every freshly clipped stems someone at your facility clipped before shipping?  I hardly think so.  I was informed, however, that if I couldn't revive the plants, and believed it to be the fault of the company, I was welcome to initiate a refund, boasting their 1 year guarantee.

Ok, it was still a bummer because I was really counting on getting these plants in the ground, and established, but at least there was a bit of recourse for a person.  At least that's what I thought until I read the warranty page:

[Company Redacted] cannot be held responsible for abnormal or extreme weather conditions or improper care/planting by the gardener. Improper care/improper planting includes the use of granular fertilizer (any type of fertilizer that begins as a solid, including fertilizer stakes and powder or granules mixed with water), roses that are planted in incorrect hardiness zones, roses that do not get at least six hours of sun per day, roses that do not get enough water or are overwatered, roses planted during the time of frost danger in their area, roses that are not planted within a reasonable time frame upon delivery as determined by [Company Redacted], roses that have been kept indoors for any period of time, or roses that have been neglected by the gardener. We do not approve warranty requests for roses that incur blackspot, powdery mildew, or pests as this is the responsibility of the gardener. Roses that experience broken or damaged canes during transit will not be replaced as these can be pruned back and will generate new growth from the own-root system.

I— surely, at this point it would just be easier to say what you DO accept as a refund, which is very clearly nothing.  Like, why pretend?  Why all the dancing around it?  Beyond that, who could prove any of this, anyway??  I followed the instructions on the packing slip for how to care for your roses, and what to do as you await the passing of the last frost, and this isn't even a company or procedure I'm unfamiliar with (I've ordered from them in the past, and even sent plants as housewarming gifts to my friends without incident), but the first time I have trouble with a product I'm told I'm on my own, it's my fault, and here's a way you can attempt to get your money back, but you actually have a snowball's chance in Hell of that happening?  Yikes.  All I wanted was advice on how far back I maybe needed to prune if there was any hope of saving my plants, and if there was something I should be spraying on them, or...?  But the primary response made me feel a bit grubby, and being in customer service myself, the last thing I've ever wanted to do in business is treat the customer like they're just looking for a handout, especially when they were only asking for more knowledge on a subject, so I was definitely less than impressed by the handling of it, and I didn't push for a refund under the warranty, because beating my head against a wall didn't seem like very much fun, and I'd already provided photographic "proof" that my plants had been inside my home - even though it was to inspect and photograph them, it was apparently enough to have the CSR already concocting ways that this was customer error, which led me to believe it was going to be one of those things that would take way too much effort on my part to end up nowhere. 

One other thing that I was hoping to accomplish by contacting the company was simply giving them a heads up about what's happening with their product in the event that my experience wasn't just a one-off.  Like, if I knit a hat and it unravels, and a customer asks me about it, I could instruct them on how to re-knot it, and secure the yarn, or send them a new hat ... If 50 hats unravel, I've got a much larger problem and it's time to take a closer look at my procedures.  I admit, it kind of shocked me that after presenting the company with (having looked into it further, myself) pretty clear evidence of a fungal infection, that they just didn't really care, but I didn't rule out the possibility that if more people came forward with the same problem that they might take it upon themselves to make it right.  How hard would it be to concede that a certain batch of orders that went out between X and Y dates had been clipped with dirty clippers, and give those folks a store credit, or replacements?  Again, maybe it was one of those random, odd occurrences with just my order, but at least they'd have the information in case it wasn't.  

As for my roses?  Some died, some didn't.  

I clipped the living hell out of my plants, got them into some fresh dirt, and hosed them down with a fungicide that's not supposed to make you grow a tail or kill your pets.  For the most part, my approach worked (even if the growing season was lackluster thanks to our record-setting heat wave).  I took it upon myself to replace the plants that didn't survive, and went on my merry way, until December 16, 2021 when I received a letter telling me that my full name, and credit card number had been stolen from the company's website during my transaction.  Ok, it happens, and apparently it was happening a lot last Summer if you read my most recent post.  Here's the kicker: THEY KNEW ABOUT IT SINCE AUGUST!  By September, customers were complaining on Facebook, and they were forced to address it, however the post barely got any traction, and so most customers were kept in the dark (like me) for the better part of 4 months.  That amount of time in the grand scheme of things probably doesn't sound like that much, I mean, we get letters from banking institutions, and big box stores sometimes a full year after the fact to let us know our info is once again zipping around on the dark web, or whatever, but usually that's just a name and a password or something, this was a little more disconcerting, and for them to just sit on it for months because they were waiting for the completion of their internal, and third party investigations to wrap up before saying anything??  I don't know about other folks, but I don't need a full report, just a dude emailing me with, "Hey, your junk's been compromised.  Keep an eye out!" would've been a hell of a lot better than silence.  

All of that being said, I did place one last order with them.  I know, I'm either a masochist or an idiot, but there were two plants that have been on my wishlist for years that are to be discontinued, and no longer available for purchase anywhere, and they have them ... What's a girl to do?  The company has also recently partnered with two very well-respected flower farmers that I also happen to think highly of - at this point, I'm not really sure what I think about that.  Personally, after this order is delivered I won't be shopping with them again, the customer service + the lack of transparency + the fact that the prices per bush have tripled in the last couple of years is enough to make it not worth my while.  I'll be interested to follow along, and see if the farmers I mentioned above will continue partnerships with the supplier in the long term, and continue to hype this business up, or if it'll all just sort of fizzle out at some point.  Part of me is glad that they're still having good experiences with the company, but part of me wonders (like I mentioned earlier) if those two farms have just scaled up to the point where they're receiving the VIP treatment that most of us will never be exposed to ...

I guess all I can do is end with: Buyer Beware.  I know I haven't revealed the name of the business, and how frustrating that might be.  I read blogs too, and there are so many times when I'm like, "Why won't you just SAY IT!?" but the thing is, I never just want to unreasonably, or unfairly slagg people off, this very well could be just a me-problem (you know, aside from the identity theft, of course), and just because I don't want to shop there anymore doesn't mean that other people can't, or shouldn't.  On this blog, the only folks I call out, by name, are people or businesses I find to be legitimately dangerous, abusive, or straight up dishonest / cheats, and I truly do not think the family selling roses is any of those things.  Simply put, I think there was a string of events that just makes it difficult for me, personally, to continue buying their product, and that's okay.  As a very wise man once said:

You got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run.

And that's what I've done.  I promise, no one is going to be losing any sleep if I'm no longer a customer.  Let's be real, I was definitely not keeping the lights on for those folks, and I've already found a new supplier that I find extremely interesting, with pricing that is much more agreeable with my wallet that I'm super excited to tell you all about a little bit later ... Hopefully I'll have some pictures to share, too, I always like seeing what other people are growing in their gardens, so I'm going to try to do a little more of that around here as well.  What I like to do around here is build up, or promote companies, businesses, and products I know and love.  You're never going to see me give a glowing review of something I don't actually stand by, or believe in.  This blog wasn't created to be a money-maker, where I'm just punting every latest thing with the new and improved Kung-Fu grip; it was always a weird little piece of cyberspace acting as a rickety bridge between my personal, and my business life, and I'd like to think I run it with some shred of integrity I still have left.  So, I guess that's one kind of assurance I can give you; I haven't divulged the name, but I will no longer advertise it here, or have it listed in my sidebar.  I will only support companies with which I've had excellent experiences.  It might not be much, but it's the little bit that I can do to look out for others, and that's what it's all about folks!  Be cool out there, and take care of one another.