Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wayside Gardens Doesn't Want My Business

Warning: This is not a feel-good blog post. Not unless you've had the same experience I have and you're in the "misery loves company" camp. If so, read on. If not, my apologies.

For a couple of weeks now, I've been trying to complete an order with Wayside Gardens, and today I came to the conclusion that they would rather not have me as a customer. I don't think I've ever purchased anything from them before, mainly due to their high prices on most things I'm interested in, but they were having a sale, so I thought I'd go ahead. And the Very Special Thing that led me to make this attempt was Paris polyphylla.

Ever since I've laid eyes on this, I've coveted it for my own garden. There's just something about it that's attractive to me and I want it. Wayside Gardens is one of the very few places that has it. My attempt at getting it from there to here went something like this:

I received an e-mail from Wayside Gardens advertising a 30% discount sitewide. Oh good! Maybe I can get my Very Special Thing now, since it will be 30% off! To sweeten the deal, if you used their code, you'd get a free upgrade to express shipping!

Since I'm going to order the Paris polyphylla, I might as well see if there's anything else I might want. Sure, I'll take a 'Zombie' Amaryllis and an Agapanthus bulb. I dropped them into my shopping cart, went through the steps to complete the order and whoaaaaaaaa . . . look at those shipping charges! Even using the code, express shipping is $18.90 for three bulbs. And that's not all - there's a side note that due to an increase in fuel costs, there will be a $2.00 surcharge to all orders. Except that my order has a $4.00 surcharge added. So now we have a total of $27.89 for the items I want to order and $22.90 for shipping.

I. Don't. Think. So.

I abandoned my shopping cart for several days until I received another e-mail from Wayside stating they'd made an error on their website and they had it fixed. To compensate for their error, they were now offering 35% off sitewide. He who hesitates, wins!

I once again went to their site and my items were still in my shopping cart. (I'll give them a point here, because some sites empty your cart the minute you leave their site, even if you sign in. I hate that.) But the amaryllis isn't showing the sale price. Oh, look! They're giving me a free one instead!

I don't want two amaryllis; I only want one, and I want it at 35% off just like the rest of the items. If they want to give me a free one, then make it be free, instead of charging me the full price for one and throwing in another.

I decide to see what happens when I try to once again complete my order. Are you with me here? You know what happened, don't you? Still incorrect and exorbitant shipping charges. Now my total for the items is $25.91 and shipping is $20.90.

I shot off an e-mail to customer service, explaining my experience with trying to order and pointing out that even if the shipping charges are based on the original prices of the items I'm ordering (which is exactly what they do), the shipping should be a total of $10.95. It says so on the page where they state their shipping charges online and it says the same thing in their print catalog.

I got an automated response from them telling me they'd received my message and they'd get back to me within five business days, due to this being their busiest time of the year. And it was a full five days later when I received an e-mail from Barbara, apologizing for my frustration with their website and any inconvenience I experienced.

Barbara explained that the reason the price on the amaryllis showed up the way it did was because it was a daily special the day I tried to order it. She told me I could now order the amaryllis at 35% off. She said the shipping charges should be correct now, too.

So I went to the website and yes indeed, the amaryllis problem was corrected. Not so with the shipping fees. Still the same high price. I really wonder what they would be without the free express upgrade discount!

I once again e-mailed customer service and this time I only had to wait a day for a response from Barbara. She apologized for my frustration and inconvenience then went on to tell me I had failed to tell her what the subtotal was for my order and what shipping charges were listed when I tried to finalize my order. WHAT? I did too tell her what I was charged for the items and what the shipping charges were, but apparently Barbara had forgotten or she merely overlooked those details that were still showing in her response e-mail had she scrolled down and reviewed my initial complaint.

Now you would think that Barbara would try to do something here to help me with the placing of this order. But no, that was the end of it on her end. Barbara clearly isn't paid commission on sales, not that I would expect that, but it might be motivation for any employee to help their customers as best they can. More sales means more profit. More profit just might mean higher salaries or bonuses. At least I thought that was the way business worked.

I replied to Barbara that yes I did supply the information she asked for, in my initial e-mail, but I copied and pasted it once again for her convenience. Isn't it the job of customer service people to gather the information they need to properly respond to the problem presented by their customers? I really would be surprised if Barbara and I communicate further. I pretty much left it with her that I had already spent way too much time trying to order from them and that there were many other businesses just like theirs that didn't require such hard work to make a purchase and be charged the right amount.

One more thing - this fuel surcharge of $2.00 that they add to each order (except in my case, it's $4.00, for whatever reason). We all pay more for gas. If businesses need to charge more for shipping, then do it up front. People like to know what they're paying for without having to add this or that as an 'extra.'

It is probably not in my best interest to be posting this rant publicly on my blog about a specific business, although I did do it once before. That time was a rather comical error by the business and not really a rant, but this is downright irritating. It's not in Wayside Gardens' best interest to not take care of their customers either, no matter how large or small the order, especially when it's a first-time potential buyer.

I'm done. And if you've made it all the way to the end of this, let me give you a hug. Sometimes all people want is to be listened to. And Paris polyphylla.

Photo of Paris polyphylla courtesy of UBC Botanical Garden website.


Unknown said...

Oh, Kylee, YOU deserve a hug after going through that much nonsense with a nursery. And good for you for doing a rant about it. As much as we want to support nurseries, they do have to also earn our business, not assume they're going to get it and our hard-earned cash then provide mediocre service.
Neat plant. I'd never seen it before, and I'm intrigued.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

You poor baby. This just makes me realize why I don't order things on line very often. I don't usually have very good luck with it.

I have never heard of Paris polyphylla. I will have to look up the plant and see what has captured your interest.

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

I read to the very end and YOU deserve the hug, not me. That's really not acceptable. I'm going to remove them as an advertiser on my blog just as soon as I get finished typing this. I don't want some outfit like that getting facetime on my blog! Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Anonymous said...

YUP! Kylee you have a right to be vexed! I have tried to order that plant, Paris polyphylla, but it was, of course, out of stock! I usually make a phone call to place an order just because it is so frustrating but your experience takes the cake! One mail order company I had wonderful service with was Gardener's Supply! They actually give you free product when it is not right and also credits! Too bad they don't sell exotic plants! Good for you for venting!

Kylee Baumle said...

Thank you all for your support. I really debated whether or not I should make this post, because it was written shortly after I received the last e-mail from them. It's generally not a good idea to "write and send" anything when you're full of negative emotion.

BUT . . . I just really get tired of companies seemingly not caring about whether they make a sale or not. I would imagine that the biggest share of most of these mail-order companies are doing business with home gardeners and as Cindy said, this is just not acceptable.

Layanee, I LOVE doing business with Gardener's Supply and I've done a great deal of it with them. I can honestly say I've never had a bad experience with them.

I do tell when I've had a good experience, too, and I'll be mentioning a business I just recently made a purchase from and was very, very pleased. Stay tuned! :-)

Earth Girl said...

I made it to the end also, but only because I was waiting for the rest of the story. I haven't ordered from Wayside for several years because of the poor condition of the plants I received. (Order placed by phone.) They replaced the plants but the replacements were just as bad. I finally gave up. So maybe it was a good thing that you couldn't get this order placed.

Lynda Lehmann said...

It's good to vent, Kylee. They have hurt themselves more than you, I'm sure. Seems as if they need to be better organized and have a more consistent policy. Be happy that YOU would not run a business this way!

Connie said...

Wow, Kylee...what a hassle! I hope you can find your 'Paris polyphylla' from another source.

Kylee Baumle said...

earth girl ~ I'd read Wayside's Garden Watchdog ratings at Dave's Garden and they're not all that great, but I figured bulbs would be fine. Actually, the Paris polyphylla is a rhizome, but still, I figured I'd be safe with those.

Lynda ~ I don't know why I'm continually surprised and disappointed at the way some businesses do things (or don't do things). It seems to be a trend and I don't like it.

Connie ~ Guess what? I did! Trans-Pacific Nursery, located in Oregon, has them for $10 each. They've got a fabulous 100% satisfaction rating on Garden Watchdog (as opposed to Wayside's 50%), and I just placed an order. I think maybe Wayside Gardens just did me and Trans-Pacific a favor. ;-)

Gotta Garden said...

Oh Kylee...bless your heart. I'm glad you found it elsewhere. I think it's perfectly fine to write about it as you did...you simply wrote about your experience. I've certainly had my share!

I think it's really important to patronize businesses that treat us, their customers, well. And, conversely, as you did, to not put up with such aggravating treatment.

Take care now.

Phillip Oliver said...

A fuel surcharge? You've got to be kidding!

I have been frustrated with customer service people via e-mail in the past. It's like they don't read your e-mail clearly. And it never fails, if you are inquiring about two separate things, they will only address one. You would expect more from "customer service," wouldn't you? I'm glad you got it cleared up!

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

Oh my gosh---what a pain! I haven't ordered from Wayside before, and after hearing this (and similar stories) I don't think I'll ever bother. Who needs the hassle?

I'm so glad you found your Paris polyphylla---be sure to keep us updated once you've got it planted!

MrBrownThumb said...

Shipping costs and fuel charges is what makes me shop locally and at big box garden centers. I don't have to deal with bad customer support but I also don't get to have the fancy garden I'd like to have.

Sorry to hear about your experience and I hope your next one gets better.

Kylee Baumle said...

gotta garden~ Thanks for the encouragement. I don't think I'm that fussy and I've got a lot of patience when it comes to buying things online, but this really did irk me.

phillip ~ That whole shipping issue is a BIG issue for me, period, not just with Wayside. If other businesses can sell quality products at reasonable prices with decent shipping charges, then so can anyone else. I'm not sure why they vary so much. But the surcharge - I can't believe that sits well with anyone, because we're all unhappy about having to pay more for gas so we sure don't want to have it thrown at us in this way, to boot. I do understand that it may cost businesses more to ship, but just give ONE shipping charge based on what you're buying without adding those "handling fees."
And you nailed it on the customer service thing. I totally agree. There are a few companies out there that are wonderful at the customer service thing and I appreciate that so very much.

colleen ~ If Wayside has what you want, then I'm not going to tell you to not buy it there. Stay tuned, because as of a couple of days ago, there is yet more to the story and the story may just have a happy ending after all. I'll make a post when it's all said and done. :-)

mrbrownthumb ~ I try to buy locally as much as possible, too, but we live in such a rural area, it severely limits the choices for our gardens. That's why I go nuts when I visit garden centers in places like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, etc. It takes me half an hour to pick my lower jaw off the ground after walking through the doors of places there.
On the other hand, I have an appreciation for the so-called "common" plants. It can be a challenge to make your garden look like something special when you're working with a limited palette. I love a challenge. ;-)

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