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On Mar 21, 2011, Nepitella Syracuse United States wrote:
Unique and fantastic selection. Beautiful, healthy trees. Completely inept customer service. The previous commenter describes the company and its problems very well. If you decide to order, pray that there are no errors or omissions in the original order. Attempting to get a refund or rectify an error is a long and extremely frustrating process. Keep good records and keep on top of any problems! Seems unready for the 21st century, with lots of excuses and little inclination to accept responsibility for shortcomings. My good nature and the great condition of the trees I received nudged my rating out of negative and into neutral range, but I will never order from this company again.
Posted on July 5, 2010, updated July 19, 2010
Well, I've read all of the recent "new and improved" comments about SMFG, but I'm afraid my experience doesn't support them.
On February 22nd of this year (2010), I mailed an order form and a check for two apple trees, as Southmeadow was the only company I could find on the net that still claimed to have Pink Pearls in stock. My check was cashed almost immediately, but I then heard ... nothing. No acknowledgement of the order, and certainly no trees. I placed inquiries about the shipping time in late March, early May, and finally placed a phone call near the end of May, to tell them that I would not be around in June to plant any trees that arrived, so that my order should be canceled if they could not get the trees to me by the end of May. The first week of June rolls around, and no trees, no response to emails. I called again, and had a pleasant conversation with Peter Grootendorst, who said he could find no record of my order anywhere. He asked me to send him PDF copies of the cancelled check, which I did the next day, along with the address to which my refund check should be sent. Needless to say, the email received no response.
One month later, and I returned home, and no refund has been sent, nor any communication made. I sent a notice yesterday indicating my attention to refer this to the state attorney general and the BBB, as I feel at this point that my $70 has been stolen.
If I do in fact receive a response (and my refund), I will happily post that as an update to this review, but under no circumstance will I ever order from these folks again. You may make your own decision.
On July 19th, 2010, hopsage changed the rating from negative to neutral and added the following:
This matter has now been resolved properly, with a full refund received earlier this week. Given that, and the concern that Peter has expressed about his company's reputation, I also retract my impression that his company has dealt with me dishonestly. Flaky, perhaps, but not dishonest.
In the end, my impression of SFG is that Peter (the owner, and as far as I can tell, sole employee in the managerial realm) is trying to take on more than he can do as one person. The orchard seems to have an excellent reputation for the quality of its trees, and if you read the recent positive comments, many of them are from people who picked up their trees directly from the orchard. From having talked with him myself, the guy clearly knows his trees.
However, running a mail order business that hopes to serve the entire U.S. seems to require much more than just one guy, one computer, and paper orders, delivered by U.S. mail. I'd love to see this orchard do well enough that Peter could afford to hire someone to help with the order processing, and pay for a proper web-based shopping cart and a robust IT infrastructure. Ideally, orders made on the web would be payable by credit card and would immediately be part of a database, and not subject to ups and downs of hand-processing (that's what resulted in my lost order, I think).
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that standard for internet commerce is now 10 years old. I understand that it's neither cheap nor easy to get this in place, but it would make a huge difference in the effectiveness of the company's mail order organization.
Another small changes that would make a big difference is to send an email acknowledgment the moment an order is received. A quick note to say "the check was cashed, these are the trees you ordered, and here's when you'll probably get them" would go a long, long way toward ensuring customer happiness.
I ordered two one year goosberries (Hinnomaki Yellow and Poorman). They arrived in reasonable shape with fair packing. They have somewhat small roots and stems. I will see how they grow and update as appropriate.
On June 13th, 2009, doctrtim changed the rating from neutral to negative and added the following:
On 5/29/09 I notified Peter via email that one of the two gooseberries is "not viable." Peter requested I call but I responded that I prefer to correspond via email. I added, " I have drawn the conclusion that both the Poorman and Hinnomaki Yellow Gooseberrys I received were from rooted cuttings harvested within the past year." They were both tiny with rudimentary roots. No response to date. On June 16th, 2009, doctrtim changed the rating from negative to neutral and added the following:
Peter DID respond to my email with offer to refund my money on the dead gooseberry. Apologies to Peter for not seeing the email.
I checked the ilex vertillicata and the bayberries I bought from them 2 years ago, and they are still going. They came as tiny little things, but they have survived a hard winter and a fairly easy one in northern Illinois-allegedly Z5, but it gets colder than that. I ordered some other conservation plants at the same time, and they never showed up. I called and emailed but no response-I figure they nicked me for $10.00, and it is too bad they went to the bad, because their catalog was interesting, and the stock I got was hardy.
I have had a good many praises about Southmeadow's trees so I placed an order. After several weeks I received a partial shipment and some weeks later received someone else's order. I sent 2 e-mails without a response, tried calling and sent a certified letter saying I had someone else's order and would like to know how to handle the trees. Southmeadow never responded to my attempts to communicate with them. I must say that they only cashed my check after the shipments of trees even though my order was partially filled.