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Posted on April 20, 2013, updated April 21, 2013
I placed order on 4/1
I received notice that order mailed on 4/11
I called Fedco on 4/17 at 12:42 pm, CST
Explained the problem, was asked what I would like them to do and I asked them to reship seeds overnight because of it having been 16 days since I placed order and I need the seeds for market on 4/19, having already missed being able to seek them on 4/12. I asked them if they had any kind of tracking number and was told that they did not use them because they couldn't do it with the post office. I informed them that I had extensive experience using a low cost tracking number that was available with first class or priority mail postage. Was told that they were a co-op and their low seed prices prevented them from being able to pay any amount of price. I told them I would have been happy to pay the amount if I had been given an option and they could just have added it to my charges. It would have been a small price to pay for knowing where my seeds were. After an extensive conversation which mostly consisted of the Fedco person repeating over and over that they were a co-op and kept their prices low and could not have used a tracking number, the girl said that she would call the warehouse and check and see if they could re-ship and would call me back as soon as she found out. I reminded her of the time and said that if she didn't call the warehouse right away it would possibly be too late to ship the seeds overnight. She agreed to call me back promptly. Over an hour later, at 2:00 pm CST, I called back and spoke to another young woman who told me that she'd overheard the entire conversation with the first person and that they never ship anything overnight, and that I would have to wait 14 days from the date of shipping before they would do anything. She re-iterated the fact that they are a co-op and they have to keep their costs down as well as informing me that the website says that they are not responsible for doing anything before 14 days have passed. I told her that had only seen a statement that it could take up to two weeks to have the order shipped, but that I had received an email that the order had been shipped. She insisted that the policy was two weeks before they would do anything, and continued to reiterate that they were just a coop in business for over 30 years and that they had to keep their costs down. When I explained that it was my first order with them and that I was just starting my seed business and that they had my money but I had no seeds and no idea where my seeds were and if they would be delivered, they said that they, too had had seeds lost in shipment and weren't able to do anything about it. The idea that I was not able to afford to replace my seeds was not of concern to her, nor was my reassurance that I'd send the seeds back to Fedco by return mail if they did arrive. We went through the tracking number issue again, with her reiterating that it was an expense that they just couldn't undertake (implying that even if I and other customers were willing pay for the option they couldn't afford staff time to get the stickers and put them on the package) and that if I had chosen to ship by UPS, a tracking number would have been available at no charge.
4/20 When I arrived home from market today there was a bedraggled envelope, with what sounds like only one box of seeds in it, taped together and, on it, an apology note from the USPS saying that the package was damaged during their mechanized sorting system. I've never had this happen in all the years that I've traded (sometimes very large amounts of) seeds all across the country. It actually looks as if someone opened it, or maybe Fedco Seeds reused an envelope that had been opened before and didn't secure it before sending it off. Despite Fedco's claim that they do not and cannot afford to use a USPS tracking number there is actually a tracking number sticker on it, so, either they did use a number (which now doesn't show up on the USPS tracking system) or they did reuse an envelope. I would expect that this envelope, an 8 1/2 x 11" plastic bubble padded envelope, which at this point feels very "not padded" could not have been an appropriate envelope for the amount of seeds I ordered. At this point, I can feel one box of seeds in there, which seems to take up about a quarter of the available space, and my order contained the following items:
1539 - Early Summer Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash OG ( C=1/2oz) 1 x $4.00 = $4.00
1616 - Spaghetti Winter Squash ( C=1oz) 1 x $3.60 = $3.60
1618 - Sibley Winter Squash ( C=1/2oz) 1 x $6.50 = $6.50
1673 - Marina di Chioggia Winter Squash ( C=1/2oz) 1 x $5.00 = $5.00
1693 - Seminole Winter Squash OG ( C=1/2oz) 1 x $6.00 = $6.00
2731 - Cracoviensis Lettuce OG ( D=14g) 1 x $6.50 = $6.50
2805 - Bronze Mignonette Lettuce ( D=28g) 1 x $3.40 = $3.40
2831 - Speckled Amish Lettuce OG ( C=4g) 1 x $4.80 = $4.80
2921 - Anuenue Lettuce OG ( C=4g) 1 x $3.30 = $3.30
3034 - Perpetual Spinach or Leaf Beet ( D=1oz) 1 x $4.80 = $4.80
I'm sure that this is the original shipping envelope because the tag indicating the mailing cost corresponds correctly to my shipment.
Based on my very unsatisfactory dialogue via phone with Fedco and the fact that, buried on a clickable page on their website about shipping, I did find a statement that after I wait two to three weeks after the order is shipped to call them, I am going to digitally record my opening of the package before calling them.
Before I placed this, my first order with Fedco, I would look at their catalog and website and find the hodge-podge of information and the difficulty of use kind of charming. It seemed to represent the kind of "we're just all good folks here farming together" attitude I'd like in a company, but the customer service, was loosey-goosey and disingenuous, and far from the experience I had expected. I read their feedback on GardenWatchDog before posting this, and realize that maybe others like the loosey-goosey way they do things, but I had a significant issue with my new business because of it and when I get this straightened out I can't imagine that I'll feel comfortable ordering from them again. The market farmers where I have my seed business are all very interested in how this turns out. Needless to say, they have much more to lose than I did, and if the same thing happened to them it would be very serious.
On April 21st, 2013, growmomma added the following:
I opened the package of seeds. All but the perpetual spinich were rubber-banded together and that's why it felt like there was a box of seeds instead of individual packages. The perpetual spinich was opened and some seeds had spilled into the envelope. This does not appear to be a good packaging system to use- This is the kind of envelope that is usually sent through a mechanical sorting and cancelling process and the lump of seeds were probably what caused the package to hang up. I have ordered seed from three other seed companies and they all came in Priority Mail Boxes with no damage to the container.
I just sent a question to Fedco to say that I don't understand on the packing slip why my subtotal and grand total are $43.10 and I paid $47.90, when I paid no shipping and no tax. I'd like to understand that.