Monday, September 3, 2012

Retail Therapy

This past August was a 'Blue Moon' month when two full moons occur in the same month, for which, a lot of weirder than normal, going on's around the garden center.  It could also be the fact that our summer temperatures have broken and people are coming back out from their air conditioned isolation, so the social integration is proving harder on some.

Full Moon-itus
Of course with the flood of re-awakened home owners and gardeners comes the return of many dead plants, every one as crispy as the last.  According to the victims of plant loss, "I watered it and it just died", is the common excuse, but like I've written before the next thing to come out of their mouths is, "its your fault and I want to know what you're going to do about it"?  Of course we buckle and give the customer what they want as the motto in retail is to keep the customer happy (customers are always right!)  Apparently, someone leaked this information and now the customers know this too. Let's face it, plants mainly die because of watering, normally a lack of watering. It's not because we sold a dead plant in the first place.  I occasionally see the after effects of a plant that I remember selling and wonder how they bridge leaving here with a healthy plant, to us being responsible for it now being dead is ever made.

I have learned to spot the grumpy customer as they walk through the door.  The tone of voice, the defensive stance and deep breathing before the conversation is a dead give away to how the rest of the discussion will go.  Some will come in with their partners, playing the good cop/bad cop routine or in some cases fight amongst themselves like a pack of angry dogs trying to assert dominance.  Sometimes a domestic dispute will erupt, leaving us in an awkward position of playing devils advocate or in most cases,  just to run for cover.  Often the return of the  plant is premeditated and well rehearsed in the car, leaving us little room to have a discussion.  All we can do is smile nicely and write the credit even though there's an overwhelming desire to scream, "You plant murderer!"

Maybe its time we look into a different retail model, one where the ownership is placed on the consumer and not the retailer.  A retailer who accepts returns needing to absorb the loss by charging a higher mark up.  Just as an example, if a retailer doesn't offer a warranty, but instead prices the plants lower, knowing that they don't have to absorb that loss, would that make a difference to the consumer?  Let's face it, warranties were only created to keep up with box stores that even guaranteed the health of their Annuals for a year!  Annuals by nature, are supposed to die in under a year away.

In an ideal world, it would be great to be just like the soup Nazi from Seinfeld, determining who can and cannot buy plants with a saying, 'No plants for you!'.  Instead we massage every customer, agreeing with them that it was our fault their plant died just so they can come back and do it again.  Isn't that the definition of insanity?!


  1. It IS insanity, Robert. And a disturbing testimony to the audacity of a small number of dishonest customers. They are the same folks who will complain about the high prices (which, in their minds, is further justification for their actions). Water your GD plants!

  2. You massage customers? I had no idea it was your fault my stephandra looked so stupid in their little pots. They are now happily tucked away in the moist shade of a friends garden. Is that your fault, too? I think you and I are dealing with the same people, just in different capacities.

    Refusing to acknowledge responsibility has created a society of enabled idiots who never have to acknowledge they've made a mistake. Too bad the plants can't speak or the buyers wouldn't be so gutsy.

  3. My tough love is quite different from your No Water For You! policy. This morning the garden was served a refreshing compost tea served from my finest china and silver. Was I too harsh? Should I have offered them a massage, too?