My experience is pretty much the same as a lot of the other negative feedbacks regarding sweet potato orders with condescending customer service and last minute notification that they cannot fill the order.
In March I could not get a return email when inquiring about two varities of potatoes. Early April I placed my order. May 26 I receive my confirmation letter stating my order would be shipped by June 25. The problem here is they do not state in the catalog or in this letter that you could be out of luck if there is a crop failure, and that didn't occur to me. I assumed with this letter we were good to go and my slips would be on the way, so I did not order with anyone else.
June 29th I got my check back with a letter saying they can't fill the order because the demand was tremendous and that they were already sold out in early April.
I called and left a message about ordering something else but did not get a call back. I sent an email July 21st about being unhappy with their lack of customer service and asked if they were already sold out, why did they not return my check immediately so I could order with someone else. NOW I get a response with a nasty and sarcastic email from Mr. Drowns telling me that "he's sorry I don't understand they are not super human and cannot just snap their fingers or turn a crank and produce more of a product." They had crop death with some of the old standbys and they were not aware of this before the letters went out.
Yikes! The letter I received with my return check said nothing about crop failure, but rather the demand was tremendous and that early April they were sold out of the regular season slips. There is nothing in the catalog about receiving a confirmation letter does not necessarily mean you're going to get your order, so you might have a back up plan.
However, after saying that he's tried very hard to explain to me how things work and I still seem to think they can just make plants appear, he is offering to send me my 2012 order for free in 2013.
On Jul 27, 2011, Janna Mahwah, NJ (Zone 6a) wrote:
I placed an order with this company in February and was so excited about my new sweet potato collection! The company offers many varieties and I was really looking forward to it. In mid-May the order never showed up, so I called and was re-assured that the order will ship soon after a small delay. The woman was not very friendly on the phone, she blamed the delays on the bad weather. I agreed to wait and did not order my potatoes elsewhere (what a mistake!). Then I called again few weeks later, and this time a long recording was re-assuring people that their orders will ship no later than "next week." After July 4th I got the sinking feeling that I am not getting anything from this company. In a week or so I received a letter saying that my order will not be fulfilled and my check was returned.
Well, thanks! So I will not grow sweet potatoes this year at all because of Sand Hill Preservation Company's procrastination practices. I would appreciate if you at least let me know earlier that you can't ship the potatoes, at least I would have had a chance to order elsewhere. Now what?
Why businesses do this?? Please have respect for your customers and be honest with them upfront instead of holding their money and making false promises that you can't fulfill.
I am very disappointed, and what a shame, since they have such a large collection. I almost recommended your company to my gardening friends, now I certainly won't.
On Jul 27, 2011, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
"On Jul 28, 2011 9:22 PM, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
We are sorry for your disappointment, but as we clearly state in our catalog and on our website, our slips are started here in Iowa, in the field. Therefore, we are totally dependant upon the weather as to whether we will get a crop. As an avid weather observer for over 40 years, I felt that the cold spell would not linger as long as it did and delay the slips' growth. All indications from previous years, with the heat building in the Southwestern United States that it would eventually spread northward and we would finally have normal growing conditions. We had enough roots bedded had we had normal weather to produce enough slips. When we did not get normal weather by the middle of June, it became a crisis situation for us. We attempted to keep people updated with messages on the "News and Updates" section of our website and via messages on our voice mail. We did all that we humanly could to try to reach every person, but we realized that we would not be able to please everyone. What this person recognizes is the fact that we do have a huge collection, of which it is our goal and mission to spread as many varieties around the United States to as many people who have never had the opportunity to grow sweet potatoes but can with some of the unique varieties that we have. There is a reason why the large scale producers only offer a few varieties, because those are the ones that are predictable sprouters and produce large numbers of slips so that they can guarantee a crop. We try not to focus on those varieties, but instead, focus on ones with unique characteristics and genetic diversity. The unfortunate situation is many of these are not predictable sprouters and in some cases produce very few sprouts. We never ever advertise or try to convince people to rely totally on us for their sweet potato crop. We, instead, prefer to stick to our mission as being a source of genetic diversity for those who are adventurous enough and patient enough to deal with the uniqueness of some of the ones in our collection. We wish this person well on the search for sweet potatoes for 2012."
I placed an order for sweet potatoes very early this year along with a seed order. There should have been plenty of time for the company to get the sweet potatoes sent in a timely manner, at least in time for planting in my area. I recieved a letter stating that the rest of my shipment would be sent ( the sweet potaotes). I waited and waited, the optimal time for planting passed, I emailed and got no response, I called their number and the message there stated that "if you had not gotten a confirmation letter you probley would not get your order', I asked at that time ( left a message, as they do not actually answer their phone or email you back) for my order to be cancelled and requested a refund. I did not recieve my refund as requested and will chalk up my experience with Sandhill preservation center as a waste of money, time and aggrivation. A lot of us work regular jobs and do lots of activities on the side. I imagine that a lot of us would be able to find time to respond to others that had sent us their hard earned money for products we were selling.
If they would have called or emailed me and let me know I would have obtained my slips else where.
Will not be ordering from them again.
On Jul 18, 2011, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
"On Jul 28, 2011 9:07 PM, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
We are very sorry for this customer's disappointment over the sweet potato situation. It is extremely difficult for many individuals to understand that our sweet potato slips are grown here in Iowa in the field (not in a greenhouse) and are not drop shipped from the southern states. This is the reason that we are able to offer well over 100 varieties --- because we grow them ourselves. We grow the roots one year and make our starting beds to produce the slips the following April. This year was an exceptionally cold Spring and we were not able to get the slip beds started until the first week-end in May. We did not have very many warm, sweet potato favorable days in the month of May and the cold stretch extended into June. To help explain the process of how sweet potato slips are produced, you place the roots on the ground in 2" x 4" frames and then cover with peat moss. We then soak that down with water and cover with plastic for a couple of weeks until the slips start to show. In normal weather, you can harvest the slips every two to three days and a new crop keeps coming on. Normal sweet potato slip weather is highs in the 80's and lows in the 60's. The perfect temperature seems to be about 90 in the daytime and 70 at night as well as very humid. Sweet potatoes produce very little growth with temperatures below 70 during the day. We had one full week in June when it rarely reached 70 during the daytime and was close to 50 at night and they simply did not produce slips. We indicate in four places what our normal shipping season is - - - in our catalog, on our website, on the order blank, and on the confirmation that is sent when we receive the order. Our normal shipping season is May 25 to June 25. We in no way attempt to deceive the customer that we are able to provide them earlier than that. We, ourselves, here plant ours when our normal shipping season of June 25 is over and before we start shipping the "Season Closeout" specials. This person's order number was in the 400's and was for some varieties that were slower to sprout this year. These varieties were also extremely popular and there were many orders ahead of hers. Her slips were shipped on June 22 and the only communication that we can find from her was a telephone call on June 23 cancelling the order. I attempted to contact her and was told by the person who answered the phone that she did, in fact, receive the slips but not when she wanted them. I am not sure what we can do further when we clearly indicate what our limitations as far as shipping times are."
On Jul 6, 2011, DarkBrownEggs Macclenny, FL wrote:
*************** The Nightmare from Hell!
I ordered 15 Golden Cascade ducks last year so to make sure I got in on a early hatch and early delivery and was told I would get a conformation and possible delivery date by the first week of January, never heard from them.
March I contacted them asking about the order and when I could expect the ducks and was told the order hadn't been paid for yet (these were a gift from a person that lost her flock to a bob cat inwhich I was supposed to get)
Finally got a hatch date of May 17th and on that day got a call telling me they were shipped, box arrived on May 19th with 5 dead and the smell was like something had been dead for a week which my locale PO can verify. They come
home and are put in a warm brooder and with in 24 hours 6 more drop dead (total 11) so I called and left a message
and the following Tuesday May 23rd I get a call back saying I would get a full replacement but being other orders need to be filled they didn't know when I would get my replacement ducks so I wrote a very pleasant email and sent a hand written insurance form saying I would gladly take substitutes and gave them 2 other breeds, also said I would take a mixed order of left over ducks after other orders were filled so not to put someone else out of their order and have never to this date heard back about my request for substitutes.
I have called every 2 weeks and sent emails asking about a possible mixed shipment and that I did not want to be brooding baby ducks late in the year, actually didn't want to do this twice being they are so messy...never heard back from them until finally after me writing and telling them how horrible they were about customer relations and to send me something so I can be done with them and I promissed to never bother them again with any future orders...I even asked for chicks as a substitute just to be done with this nightmare and finally got a reply saying "There are NO Golden Cascades to send" and thats it... so I replied asking about a substitute and again was ignored again. I sent a very unpleasant email July 1st and get a reply from Glen saying "I haven't read any of your emails but my wife said" blah blah blah and that I have not asked for any substitures or they would have been sent and goes on and one about looking at the stars and smelling the roses and I can't be pleased and lies out of both sides of his mouth just like he has done in his replies here to others that have given them a negative feedback here and I will bet he will do the same after mine but I have every email I sent begging them to please respond and with the same substitute info on every message and nothing. Glen tends to place the blame onto his customers
when he is at total faught.
Every one I know that has bought from SandHill has had the same experience with waiting on orders and no responce from Linda or Glen.
I was ignored by Linda, lied about from Linda and then was told by Glen I was about to get my replacement order but he changed his mind because of the way I wrote them asking for someone there to respond. again, more lies from Glen
and Linda....I was told I would have a check by the end of this week July8th, I am willing to bet thats another "checks in the mail LIE" I will NEVER deal with them in any way other then report them to better business and possibly call every state agency to report the sick animals they are sending out to customers....I have since lost another duckling, one was a runt and never grew an inch in over 6 weeks and finally died...
As stated I can prove I have sent emails after email asking for mixed or substitutes to take care of getting my replacement. and I have the finale response from Glen saying he never read my emails but: blah blah blah
and I expect him to do the same here...How about the truth Glen, for once.
On Jul 6, 2011, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
"On Jul 28, 2011 8:50 PM, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
We have waited to respond to this posting until we received verification that Mr Higginbotham not only received our check for a total refund, but had actually cashed the check. Now that that has occurred, we are going to present our side of the story with facts and minimal emotion. On December 13, 2010, we received an order from a long time customer of ours for 15 ducklings to be shipped to the above individual. No money was enclosed with this order and, not knowing if it was a surprise gift, we sent the confirmation on January 3, 2011, to the individual that placed the order indicating that we would need payment by January 20 if the order was o.k. as confirmed. On that confirmation, we indicated the first possible ship date of May 17. In the rush of the Spring season, we did not realize that we had not received payment for this order until March 13 when Mr. Higginbotham called wanting to know where his ducks were. We indicated to him at that time that we had not received payment for his order yet. We did receive payment for this order on March 21. On May 17, we shipped him 17 ducklings. On May 19 he received them and 5 were dead. He called the next day and indicated that 11 total had died. At that time when he called we indicated to him that we were very booked up on the breed of ducks he needed replaced and that we would work him in for a reshipment just as soon as we possibly could. With our odd Spring weather that we had, duck fertility did not hold up well and when we were running behind, it became more apparent from his e-mails that he wasn't patient but that he also kept changing the breeds and species that he wanted us to send as replacements. Therefore, on July 2, I sent him an e-mail indicating that I would send him a total refund including postage and indicated that I would pray that he would be able to come to peace with this situation. I then went out to do chores and, over the course of the next 1 to 2 hours he sent 4 e-mails and 3 telephone messages that were filled with filthy language and violent threats against our personhood. The things that he mentioned that he would do to us personally should not be placed in a public forum where children might have access to them. As far as his reference to us as being a nightmare, it is us who has the nightmares wondering if he will show up to carry out those violent acts. We have contacted our County Sheriff's office to alert them of this possibility and were told to call immediately if anything devloped. He has received a complete refund. He was not sent diseased birds. Our flocks are inspected twice a year by a certified veterinarian and we comply with all the rules, testing and guidelines of the NPIP. Therefore, he should have nothing more to say about this issue."
On Jun 21, 2010, MotherGoose2 Lobelville, TN wrote:
Posted on June 21, 2010, updated June 21, 2010
I ordered a "Fancy Goose Assortment" in early March- they arrived on June 19th. One was dead, and I recieved 2 White Chinese goslings. No, there's nothing inherently wrong with White Chinese, but they are hardly considered "Fancy", and are not listed as one of the breeds I might possibly get. I'll have to say that I'm more than a little dissappointed with this order- and I will most likely not deal with them again.
On June 21st, 2010, MotherGoose2 added the following:
I was contacted later in the day with a message saying that they intended to send me a partial refund since they didn't send me the breeds I had ordered. He was rather short and accused me of hanging up on him twice- please! In any case, we'll see what kind of refund I get. It will be only established poultry houses from now on- rest assured.
I have ordered from this company for the past 3 years and while I admire the mission, I have grown less impressed with the customer service over time. I ordered sweet potatoes the first year and those came packed well and performed well. The seeds have also been fine and I really do enjoy the rare varieties they offer. My sweet potato order 2 years ago was not filled due to weather/flooding (understandable), and last year I ordered an assortment package that did not get filled.
While both those circumstances were understandable, my concern is that I find the customer service to be very unprofessional. The website has a bunch of bold, somewhat condescending statements about what not to expect from them. Meanwhile the ordering process is more labor intensive and lacking in communication/updates about orders. Today I pulled them up on the web with my list in hand and after being reminded of their negative tone, I concluded I will shop elsewhere this year.
On Oct 27, 2009, containergarden Los Angeles, CA wrote:
We had a very poor experience with Sand Hill Preservation Center sweet potatoes as well as with the staff. We are both Master Gardeners and have successfully grown sweet potatoes before from slips we produced at home from supermarket sweet potatoes. This year we decided to branch out and order a variety of slips from Sand Hill for ourselves and our fellow community farmers. So we put in a reasonably large order with Sand Hill. As a back-up, we bought an organic Whole Foods sweet potato to make slips ourselves. Needless to say, the Whole Food slips produced heavily. However, Sand Hill took more orders than it could reasonably fill, and failed to respond to a series of messages I left concerning the order I had already paid for. When a woman finally responded, she was unpleasant, seeming to blame me for her failure to respond or to satisfy the order. Nevertheless, she petulantly promised to satisfy my order. Although the slips spent no more than two days in the mail, many of the Sand Hill Preservation Center slips were dead on arrival and had to be discarded. We planted those with any sign of life in them, but got only meager harvests from them. Some of the stunted potatoes were clearly diseased, even though sweet potatoes are normally disease-free in southern California, ideal growing country. So we can only assume that the slips themselves were diseased. The way Sand Hill seems to fill orders is to start collecting slips and then wait until they have the full order, which may take a long time. The result is that the earlier collected slips are dead and only the later collected slips are remotely viable. In short, a regrettable expenditure of about $50 for a useless product. Fortunately, we have since located a reliable, responsible, and friendly California supplier of a wide variety of sweet potato slips.
On Oct 27, 2009, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
"On Nov 4, 2009 9:08 PM, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
We are very sorry to hear of the poor experience this customer had. This posting on Garden Watchdog is the first that we have heard of this customer's problems with our product. Had they contacted us directly at the time of receipt of the order, we would have immediately sent replacements for what was damaged in shipping. It has been four months since the sweet potato slips were shipped out and this is the first we have heard that there was a problem. As we start our slips in the field here in Iowa, we are at the mercy of the weather and we indicate that both in our catalog and in the "News and Updates" section of our website. We indicated on the website in April that we were all sold out for the season. We attempted to keep people updated on the website with the progress of the slip production. We kept anticipating that warm weather would be forthcoming, but we never had an extended warm period which is needed for the roots to sprout and form slips.
We have never had a case of disease on the slips here at our farm. We do not collect slips and hold them. An order is all pulled at once, carefully labeled, wrapped and packaged for shipping within minutes. We start pulling orders each morning once the dew has evaporated and they are mailed out that same day. Nothing is held once it is pulled.
We regret that this customer did not contact us directly to allow us to make things right with them. Our goal is to spread the diversity of the sweet potato world across the country. As our name indicates, we are a preservation center and therefore are trying to preserve these varieties not send out inferior slips that will not produce. We have many heirloom, regionally adapted varieties that have allowed folks in areas otherwise thought to be non-sweet potato growing regions to harvest many diverse and tasty roots. It is important that folks realize that not all sweet potato varieties will grow the same in all soils. Some like heavy, clay soils. Others like loose sand.
We hope that in the future that others who have problems, concerns or questions about their orders will contact us directly and that we won't have to try to search our records and figure out who has "anonymously" posted here on Garden Watchdog. We can't help someone who will not contact us to discuss their problem.
Glenn and Linda Drowns
Sand Hill Preservation Center"
Unlike Most of the people here, I have had a horrible experience with Sand Hill Preservation. First I ordered seeds and a lot of them failed to germinate, They advertise they send more seeds than the 15 they quote, but the pack of okra they sent me had 14 seeds and not a single one germinated, they sent a free pack of flowers and again not a single one germinated.
I ordered Sweet Potatoes in early march and got a confirmation number. Since we have been going through a horrific heat wave I E-Mailed them on June 22 asking when my sweet potatoes would arrive and letting them know if they were not at my residence by the 25th of June it would do me no good to plant them in this High Heat and to cancel the order and refund my money. I received one of the most unprofessional e-mails I have ever received in my life.
I can say this I will never order anything from this company again.I believe they should take a course in customer relations. I guess they think it is ethical to keep my money for three months and not send my order.
On July 10th, 2009, cityfarmer066 added the following:
The people at Sandhill Preservation are whiners, and groaners,. They whine all through their catalog, they set up their rules and regulations for the people who might consider ordering something from them, then they do not abide by the rules and regulations they set up. It's like the old adage "don't do as I do, do as I say" They blame every one and every thing for why they can't keep their word. They do not have the professionalism to deal with the people who are unfortunate enough to order anything from them. They moan and whine about the weather constantly. From my dealings with them they are very negative people. If you order anything from Sandhill Preservation be prepared to be disappointed.On Jun 27, 2009, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
"On Jun 27, 2009 10:03 PM, Sand Hill Preservation Center responded with:
Upon reading this posting, we were immediately very concerned and started searching our records for someone in Addison, IL. We place all orders once they are filled into files by state and in zip code order. This allows us quick access when a customer calls about an order for any reason. Sometimes they call because they want to know what variety they ordered in a previous year because it did well for them and they didn't keep track of what it was. Because we have such a diversity of material, this allows us to give our customers a little extra help if they forget (for example) which one of the over 600 varieties of tomatoes it was that they ordered. We searched the Illinois state file and found no customer in Addison, IL. The comment also indicated a sweet potato order, which we also checked our sweet potato order list and found no order at all from Addison, IL. We then checked our mailing list to see if we had sent a catalog out and found no listing in Addison, IL. We have no idea who this person is as we have sent no seeds, sweet potatoes, or catalogs to anyone in Addison, IL. In addition, we received no e-mail from anyone in Addision, IL concerning a sweet potato order. That concern being addressed, we must assume that this person lives somewhere else so we will address the concerns that they had.
The first was a shortage of seed in one packet of okra. Our business has grown some to where it is not just the two of us filling packets anymore. We have several very responsible people that help us during the busy season. Since our policy is to only fill five packets of a variety at a time (we do this to keep the seed in proper storage for as long as possible), it is entirely possible that one of our packet fillers accidentally grabbed the wrong measuring spoon when filling that packet. Had the customer contacted us, we would have certainly sent them a new packet of seed plus something complimentary for their trouble. We were not contacted about this situation so, therefore, could not remedy it.
The next concern this person expressed was that a lot of the varieties of seed that they got from us failed to germinate. Seed germination is extremely important to us because we maintain so many varieties that are not available elsewhere. If the germination fails on those, then, in many cases they would be lost to the world. Again, we were not contacted that there were any germination problems, so, therefore, could not help this person.
The sweet potatoes this year have been a challenge. The interest in ordering slips has been three times greater than the previous year. We set orders up with a number as they come in with the explanation (in the catalog itself, in the online catalog, and on the order form) that the slips are not shipped until between May 25 and June 25. Our sweet potato slips are all started here on our farm in Iowa from sweet potatoes grown on our farm here in Iowa. We are totally dependant upon Iowa weather to get these slips sent out to the customers as quickly as possible. We cannot set up our starting beds before the end of April or first of May because it is too cold. Many of the varieties that we maintain require several days of consistently 80+ deg. F weather before they will break dormancy and sprout. The first 16 days of June this year we never reached 80 deg. F. No one could have been more frustrated than we were with day after day of cloudy, cool weather. We are thrilled that we got as many to sprout as we did in that cool weather and are very disappointed that we never got the heat in time to get all of the orders filled within our established dates.
We are in the process now of sending refunds to all those people who didn't get anything with our humblest apologies. We have no intentions of keeping anyone's money when we were not able to supply a product to them. Unfortunately, it does take quite a bit of time to process and mail out all of these refunds. We posted weekly updates on the website (as we indicated in our printed catalog that we would do) to keep our customers informed about the status of the sweet potato orders. It is simply impossible for us to contact each and every customer who places a sweet potato order to let them know the status of their individual order. We did indicate on the "News and Updates" page of our website that confirmations were not sent out after April 1 because of the uncertainty as to whether we would be able to produce enough slips to fill all of the orders. We also indicated that the customers could telephone our office to inquire as to whether we had received their order and to get their confirmation number by telephone.
One or two days of very warm weather speeds up the process just as one or two very cool days slows down the ability to ship out slips. It is impossible for us to give an exact day that an order will ship out just as it is impossible to predict what the exact temperature will be a month from now.
We are very sorry that this customer has so many complaints about their order, but we have not had anyone from Addison, IL contact us either to place an order or about problems with their order.
We would encourage each and every one of our customers to please contact us if they have problems with any seed germination or number of seeds in a packet. We are very concerned about having satisfied customers and will do everything we can to work with each person.
Sincerely, Glenn & Linda Drowns
Sand Hill Preservation Center"
Unfortunatlely, unlike most of the other folks who have posted to this site my experience has not been a positive one. I placed an order in May for poultry and received a confirmation letter dated July first. I understand that they are busy and I did not expect any contact with them until either the delivery date that I was given of July 20 or failing that, the backup date of August 17. Well, it is now the 25th of August and despite effort on my part to contact them I have not heard anything. Frankly I am at a loss as to what to do. My sons where anxiously waiting for their new ducks, but they have started back to school and there isn't anyone I can have sit around our house for the first three days each week on the outside chance our order may be delivered. All that aside, I would have been content if they had just let me know that they were even aware that they had missed the backup delivery date.