robeezee Perrineville, NJ (4 reviews) June 11, 2018
I ordered a juniper from The Tree Center on June 3rd. On their website, they indicate that most orders go out the next day, and that once shipped, customers receive FedEx confirmation.
On June 11th, after not having any further communication from them, I attempted to use their on-line chat function to learn the status of my order. The on-line chat function gave a message that no one was available.
I then phoned them, and was cut off 3x. On the 4th attempt, I remained on line for 15 minutes and finally gave up. I sent them an email asking them if they could provide me an update to my order status.
In summary, they offer on-line chat that doesn't function, a call inquiry menu that either cuts off the customer or simply places them on hold for an extensive period of time and they do not remotely live up to their timeline of processing orders in a timely fashion. I would not do business with them again.
Posted on May 16, 2018, updated May 18, 2018
I design community garden and outdoor spaces for communities, businesses, and individual clients. As such, I am always on the lookout for companies that I can work with to obtain healthy, reasonably-sized and unique offerings at a reasonable price. I literally never know what I will need because every situation and client is different! My expectations of a company are simply that the company stand behind the statements given forth on their website, that they deliver on their promises as given on their website, that the order process, fulfillment and shipping go smoothly, and finally, that their customer service is excellent. If those things go well, I will add them to my list of vendors from whom I will seek out plant material from. For literally years now I have relied on the Garden Watchdog Community to alert, inform and educate me in regards to reputable companies and also, the nefarious ones. I had a very negative and uncomfortable experience with the owner of a company once after posting a negative review, so I haven\'t posted any since. However, I believe in supporting small businesses when they have earned a positive review from me. While I spread the word locally, I want to also post online so this company can \"get started\" here on Garden Watchdog. It\'s hard to feel comfortable buying from a vendor who has no reviews. I felt more confident placing my order because of the language on The Tree Center\'s site which indicated a passion for the environment and for trees. So, here is my experience and I will not cover every detail of their site or company, only my own personal experience:
This order was for my personal yard. I wasn\'t working for a client, but I was looking for some specific trees. In my search online, I kept noticing The Tree Center popping up close to the top and was \"sponsored\" in a few of the upper links. Typically, I avoid those links, but I did finally click on one since they obviously had the material I was looking for. In particular, I was seeking out some Spanish Golden Firs and a few different Cryptomeria. I also ended up ordering some Star Magnolia, and a Smoke Tree, though those are easily locally obtained. I felt they had the unique offerings I was looking for, and I was happy to find they were in-stock. So in this area they get a green thumbs up from me.
In total, my order was around $630. I ordered a total of 11 trees and I felt their prices were reasonable and comparable to local garden centers and nurseries for what I received. In this area, they get a green thumbs up from me.
THEIR WARRANTY AND GUARANTEES:
I also purchased a one-year warranty as they did not offer an \"extended warranty\" included with the price though they do offer a \"Arive Alive Guarantee\" which states (in part) \"We guarantee that every tree, shrub or bush that we ship will arrive to you in excellent health.\" I typically prefer to purchase from local nurseries/garden centers and the ones I frequent offer a 1-year guarantee which I do not pay extra for. I fully expected to not have to ever contact the company. It isn\'t often that a plant fails to thrive with my care, so the guarantee is a back-up and not a first line of defense for me. But, I swallowed hard and paid the optional 1-year guarantee which costs 15% of the order total and will not cover future shipping of any plants that the guarantee was used for. There are a few terms of the guarantee but they seem reasonable to me. Even with the price of the optional 1-year guarantee, I still feel the price is reasonable. To me, it would be an intelligent decision to focus on making consumers feel more comfortable ordering by offering a good warranty, even if it meant an increase in prices by 15% and reserving the right to charge customers the second shipping charge. Even if other so called \"mail-order\" companies have similar return policies, the company that any online company is competing with for plants is the LOCAL one. Plants invite being looked at and touched and experienced. It\'s hard enough to buy them online and having a nice padded guarantee makes a customer feel more comfortable making that purchase vs. driving to any one of numerous garden centers or nurseries nearby and purchasing comparable plant material. So, while I appreciate having the option to purchase a 1-year guarantee, I believe I would feel more comfortable being charged 15% more and receiving a good warranty for my peace of mind (and that of any clients I buy for). In this area I am a neutral rating, I feel this company can make some shifts in wording and help their customers feel a lot more comfortable. Even after an over-all positive customer service experience (which I will detail later in this review) I would still be a lot more comfortable placing repeat orders for myself and for clients if the company makes some minor changes in this area.
HEALTH/CONDITION OF PLANT MATERIAL:
I expected the plant material to be what The Tree Center claims I will get on their site: \"We ship amazingly beautiful and healthy trees directly to your door!\" The Tree Center gets a green partial thumbs up from me in this area because my own order had some issues, but I see that the plants themselves had a good pedigree and were grown with care. Aside from the sun-scald on the Spanish Firs, they are otherwise beautiful plants with a good shape (and juvenile Golden Spanish Firs do not generally have a nice shape and must be trained to have one as they grow). All other plant material seems healthy too, assuming the smaller issues my plant material had/has will be able to be dealt with easily enough with my care. So, I will expect any future order I place to be satisfactory to me or my clients. As I will detail later, the issues I had with my plant material WERE DEALT WITH SATISFACTORILY by the company owner.
THE ORDERING EXPERIENCE ONLINE / WEBSITE:
The website is intuitive, beautiful, engaging and easy to navigate. Whoever is doing their website design and management is doing a great job. They walk a fine line of providing enough plant info but not too much. I would like to see more photos of the actual size of different plant offerings they have. They provide a large photo of a mature specimen, a different angle of a smaller mature specimen and an up-close for foliage/bark/bloom. It\'s so difficult to sell a client on a garden that will look great in 5-10 years. My clients always want to know their garden spaces will look great as they evolve. It\'s always up to me to find photos of juvenile plant material and it would be so great if companies that are growing the juvenile plant material would simply post photos! The reason is that some clients prefer ordering the material themselves in order to save money and it saves me a lot of time to just send them the link to the site where they will see all they need to see in order to feel comfortable making the purchase.
The ordering process was simple. I had no issues adding/adjusting/deleting cart contents. The cart held my content for a reasonable period of time as I was interrupted a few times during my shopping experience for hours at a time and once, overnight. I really appreciate that. Businesses have lost my business permanently over my cart being dumped overnight! I was able to use Paypal to pay, also important to me. They accepted other forms of payment and I could have placed my order over the phone, though I never reached anyone to be able to do that ( I will address this later in the review). The ordering process and website area gets a big green thumbs up from me. Great job, guys.
The shipping was speedy. I received my order within three days of ordering. They were only in a box 1.5 days, as I recall (maybe less?) Two of my boxes arrived crushed on one side (they used Fedex and Fedex outsources their shipping so an unmarked truck delivered my items. I was home when they delivered so I opened two boxes while the Fedex guys waited. It was clear upon opening the top of the boxes that the packaging kept the trees from being harmed even though the length of the boxes were crushed. The boxes my trees were shipped in were very sturdy and long, and clearly marked that they held plant material. The boxes were on their side on the truck, as they should be. However, if the boxes were tossed around or dropped by Fedex, they were packed so well, the plant material should be fine. In my case, each box held two trees, packaged firmly at each end. The tops of the trees were not wrapped, but had been thoughtfully packaged. Yes, some trimming had occurred, but the trimming was thoughtfully done and whoever trimmed knew what they were doing. They weren\'t just lopped off which could result in a misshapen specimen. Each tree had a root system inside a plastic container which was held in a plastic bag and tied firmly around the base of the plant with a zip-tie. This was to keep the dirt from escaping, though on three of my trees, the dirt did escape into the bag, but not the box. They use a stiff piece of cardboard attached by heavy duty shipping staples to keep the pots from moving out of place during shipping. You will need something to remove these staples. I used a flat-head screwdriver. I was impressed with the packing and the shipping. Another big green thumbs up from me in this area.
REACHING SOMEONE ON THE PHONE OR ON THE WEBSITE:
This company needs to improve in this area. I called before I attempted to place an order and I also attempted to reach a person via their live chat feature online. Both times I was unable to connect due to someone not being available online (I get that) and unreasonably long hold times. I held for more than 10 minutes the first time I called. The second time I called, I was on hold for 14 minutes before I hung up. The third time I called, I held until I reached someone at about 9 minutes and 30 seconds. Seriously, this feels like forever in this instant age. I know its hard, but someone needs to answer the phone if there is a phone number for people to call. And, every company should have a phone number. I won\'t even shop from a company who doesn\'t. I give the company a thumbs down in this area but I am assuming it\'s the busy season and it\'s just hard to man the phones during such a crazy time. As a business person, I understand..but as a client, that isn\'t an excuse to make a customer wait that long to speak to someone.
ACTUAL CUSTOMER SERVICE:
I\'m not going to detail it all, but I had an initial negative experience that was changed to a positive when the owner stepped in to handle my issue. Initially, an employee who could really use some customer service coaching mishandled my call about the concerns I had with the issues my plant material had. I called knowing I would not be able to use the Golden Firs in the landscape due to the sun-scald they had and I had concerns over the brown tipping in the Cryptomeria. I simply wanted to discuss the options as it wasn\'t (and still isn\'t) clear as of right now on their website what happens when a plant has issues right out of the shipping box that isn\'t the fault of the customer. I was assuming that the burden wasn\'t on me, the customer, to deal with an issue that the plants have that were not caused by me and especially as I had paid for the optional guarantee. To be clear, I knew what I had ordered and had zero buyer\'s remorse. I simply had a problem with my plant material that I would not be able to fix with a little care. The employee I spoke with clearly didn\'t know the policies as stated on the website and was defensive and argumentative with me, even rude. Honestly, I was really irritated after finally connecting with someone. Detailing every incorrect statement this person made won\'t help this company any, so I won\'t. Let me just say that when I was asked to send photos of the plant material (I always video and take photos right out of the shipping box as soon as I have natural outdoor light to do so), I copied another email for sales that I found on the site in addition to sending my emails to the employee for my claim. I didn\'t hear back from that employee, but I DID hear from the owner (there may be more than one owner), Clint, who ultimately delivered an EXCELLENT customer service experience as I had expected based upon the statements on the website. He responded quickly to my initial emails by asking me what I wanted the resolution to be (I wanted replacement Firs and a guarantee that if the Cryptomeria do not flush out new growth on those brown tips that they will replace them or refund my money). When I responded, and provided more details of my beliefs that that the plant material was suffering from sun-scald, he agreed with my diagnosis without being defensive. He explained that there was a misunderstanding between a return claim initiated by a customer when there is a problem with the plant material and a claim made when a customer simply changes their mind. Because I was not simply changing my mind, I do not know how that claim would be handled. In my case, I had a problem with the order, and Clint refunded my money promptly on the two Golden Firs since they were out of stock on the items and personally guaranteed replacement or refund on the Cryptomeria if they do not flush out..and he gave me advice on helping them to do so. Though I already know how to encourage new flushing on evergreens, I do appreciate the tips as it shows he truly cares about the plant material thriving. He also send me a 20% off coupon for a future order, which is intelligent, and shows a desire to have another change to prove that their company is worthy to be one of my vendors for future orders. Again, though my experience was initially negative because of the lack of knowledge and attitude of an employee, I believe that can and in my opinion should be resolved with more training and coaching. The bottom line is that Clint, the owner, stood behind the claims the company makes on their website and provided the customer service I expected to get based upon the claims that sold me to begin with. A big big thumbs up.
Overall, I think you will be pleased with your order if you do place one with The Tree Center. Remember to always take a quick video and photos of your plant material upon receipt or as soon as you can. Be certain you know what you are buying. Do your research! Be patient in holding on the phone so you can speak with someone and get all your questions answered before you order, if you think that you will need more information in order to be truly comfortable. I\'d like to see some improvements in the warranty and in the verbiage online so it doesn\'t seem like The Tree Center will place the burden entirely on the customer\'s shoulders if there is a problem. Clint proved by his actions that this isn\'t the case so some tweaks to their current written statements and policies online can help. I\'d like to know that I can reach someone quickly when I call and that person will be patient, aiming to turn that first-time customer into a repeat customer and armed with the knowledge of their own company policies. I would like to know that even when it\'s super busy, that whoever is packing the orders will slow down a little bit during the inspection and that there might even be someone who will pull plant material that isn\'t up to snuff so that it never gets sent out to begin with. That takes a trained eye and staff may not be available. I have no idea.... These are all tweaks to my overall positive experience that would serve to take this company from a good vendor in my arsenal that gets used when I can\'t find something locally to a truly outstanding one that I will prefer to use instead of local companies. On May 18th, 2018, CarynDalton added the following:
I forgot to mention in the shipping section that I received FREE shipping on my order which is fantastic and helps tremendously.