Tag Archives: farm

Blueberry Rot

. . . all is not well in the garden . . .

While visions of blueberries danced in my head . . .blueberry-close-up_w725_h488

Having been mostly a hermit for the past 27 years, starting over again back home in North Carolina stirred up many wonderful ideas I am hopeful about. Being fortunate enough to have both my parents who have a goodly amount of acreage to play with, to invest in I pondered different possibilities.  Even in this meager amount of time since arriving here mid October, much has been done toward realizing some of these goals.

After thinking about different notions, in a practical way . . . I determined that I would grow a u -pick farm. I determined that I would grow Galangal (Thai) ginger, a plant that I had grown abundantly in Florida and brought with me. I think it will grow even better here in NC.  I determined that I would grow Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  I also determined that I would try my hand at growing edible mushrooms.

While I dream of other things I could add . . . right now . . . while the soil is workable . . . I became focused on the plants.

Blueberry plants.

Going, of course, to my primary source of knowledge . . . I googled.

There are many blueberry farms.  Best price for best plants was my mission. A farm in New Jersey caught my eye. Bookmarked it. Bookmarked several pages of their site.

Full of visuals . . . videos and images.  I liked that.  They  built a confidence in me that they had good, healthy plants and that they knew what I didn’t about growing blueberries.  Helping their happy satisfied customers start their u-pick farms seemed to be a specialty. Plus, their price was good too. Something I need to look at. I don’t have a large amount of money to invest in this endeavor . . . so I must find the best plants for the best price.  Reading about the family farm of 4 generations also garnered my respect. I can only dream that my humble beginnings of a family farm will last that long.

I became convinced that DiMeo Farms was the best place to buy my blueberry future. The plants looked vibrantly healthy and they seemed like people who would nurture my dream of a u-pick farm. Once I become convinced its very hard to steer me in a different direction. Viewing their website had instilled in me a confidence in their farm and that they were truly concerned about helping new gardeners get their blueberry plants growing with abundant harvests. They offered 3 year old plants that would be fruiting the first year, guaranteed.

Originally only going to purchase 20 plants, I ultimately decided to get 30. On sale for $10.00 each, I felt that I could afford the additional 10 plants to give me a more reasonable start for my u-pick farm.  If I could manage these, then I would get even more next year.

Looking at their website over and over again . . . and seeing this on every page . . . .

BLUEBERRY FARMER-DIRECT CUSTOMER SERVICE. EXPERT TIPS. FAST SHIPPPING.
CALL NOW FOR QUOTE or TO ORDER.
ONE CALL, ALL YOUR ANSWERS:

I made the call. Confident that I would be working with people who cared about their customers.

The first call was to learn more about the different varieties of blueberries that would be best, but the only information offered was what they had on their website.  Their website lacked a complete listing of the different varieties with their different attributes.  Though I wanted expert advice on the different varieties, I was referred back to their website.  Yes, they’re listed . . . but, due to the time of year and my eagerness to get them planted before the weather might turn bad, I decided to just yield to their expertise and let them pick the best ones for my location.

On my next call, the young girl was pleasant and I told her I’d like to order 30 blueberry plants and offered her my credit card for payment. They do not take orders online, and only accept checks or money orders.  I must send them my order with the payment.  The total with shipping came to $449.46. $149.46 for shipping.  While this seemed rather high, I didn’t question it. I figured that 30 plants in containers  – as shown in the videos and other images- would probably cost that much.

So, on November 19th I typed up a purchase order/letter . . . enclosed my personal check for $449.46 . . . and sent it priority . . . for fast service.

Then I waited . . . waited to receive an order confirmation. Checking my emails every day . . . nothing was ever confirmed.  I checked my bank, and the check had been deposited.  So, while I didn’t want to worry . . . I was betting a bit concerned.  I’ve done business with many companies.  Online or not, you always receive a confirmation of your order.

I called several times . . . but only got a recording. It did not seem to matter what time of day I called, the same recorded message. I left messages, but still heard nothing. You would think a farm a large a theirs would have someone to answer the phones during regular business hours.

Finally,  on November 27, 2012 I sent an email using their online contact form.

“I sent in my order on November 19 for 30 blueberry plants. I have sent you an email message and made several phone calls but have not heard from you. I know the check has been deposited and would like some confirmation as to when this order will be shipped and when I should expect delivery. My field is ready to plant, and now I worried that you will not be conpleting this order. I would also like to know if you are labeling the plants before shipment.”

On Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 2:58 PM, DiMeo Farms  wrote:
Be advised that your telephone number does not work. We have called you a countless number of times. You must contact us by telephone doing the hours of 1 PM Eastern standard time until 5 PM Eastern standard time Monday through Friday. We are awaiting your call 609-561-5905

Its possible I didn’t get their call, I’m in and out of the house all day and don’t always have my phone on me.  My telecommunication ability is somewhat hit or miss these days . . . don’t get any bars on my cell phone, and the telephone to the  land line I had installed is hard for me to figure out. If it has a message recording feature . . . I know I haven’t set it up, much less how to retrieve them. That, I confess . . . is something I need to do.

This still doesn’t explain why they never sent me a confirmation email . . . I provided them with 2 email addresses, and no correspondence of any kind, until November 27th was sent to me. That would have been the best and fastest way to reach me. . . and they never even tried that. A simple order confirmation by email is customary with every single purchase I’ve ever made . . . online or not.

So I called, and felt better knowing the order was ready to ship and was on its way. The plants had been labeled. Were being sent by USPS priority.  I did not ask anything else.  No insightful expert questions about how I had prepared my garden for the plants . . . nothing of any expert advice was offered.

I guess I have, like most people, some level of expectation to what I believe customer service should be. After all, while my current life situation has prevented me from making and selling my Yuletide ornaments this season . . . I do value each and every customer and will do whatever it takes to keep them. No matter how large or small an order is. I do know that I try to make my policies clear, and do not make promises that I do not intend to keep.

Starting a small farm business means that I want my customers to be happy. I stand behind my product and my promises.  If a problem arises . . . I will do everything I can to solve it according to my own policy. Even going beyond policy if possible to make my customers happy. That is good business. I expect no more or less from those I do business with.

That is where both my disappointment and complaint is with this company.

Attached to the above email I did receive from DiMeo farms was the following statement with a link to their company policies.

The following information was submitted via the DiMeo Farms CONTACT section directly from the official company website. Detailed message is shown below. Submission of this form is further confirmation that prospect or customer has read and agrees with any and all of our company policies as published on the website: http://www.DiMeoFarms.com”

This is 14 page web page.  I implore you to find a clear company policy on it or any other page.

On Saturday, December 1st – around 2pm – the plants arrived. Expecting a very large container of some sort I was surprised at how small the box was.

Opening the box, I was shocked at finding 30 bare root plants. Postage had been $28.55. So why did I have to pay $149.46 for shipping?

I was a bit ticked off.

Bare root plants as they arrived from DiMeo Farms. Click for larger view.

Bare root plants as they arrived from DiMeo Farms. Click for larger view.

I have no problem with bare root plants . . . but that is not what I was expecting. In fact, if you do a search of every single page on their web site . . . you will not find a reference to bare root on any of them. (Though, I must admit, I did not search the Family Recipe, Our Friends or Direction pages. Pages one would assume does not contain anything about how they ship plants.)

I do have a problem with how the bare root plants were shipped.  In general, you at least wrap damp newspaper around the roots of the plants to prevent them from drying out. The plastic bag was wet, but the exposed roots seemed rather dry . I quickly took newspaper, dampened it and wrapped the roots as I would not be able to plant them until the next day.

Blueberry plants after wrapping roots in damp newspapers and damp paper grocery bags. Click for larger image.

Blueberry plants after wrapping roots in damp newspapers and damp paper grocery bags. Click for larger image.

I soaked the plants in water as suggested in the accompanying instructions. I heeled them in to a proper trench on Sunday. As the soil test from the state had not arrived, I purchased a soil test kit and found that the location I had prepared was just too alkaline and would take 3 months for sulfur to repair it.

So, I had to dig a trench in an area of my garden with the appropriate ph level, and heel them in quickly to save the plants. I now am preparing a new garden bed for planting them permanently.

Heeling in blueberry plants . . . before covering them . . .

Heeling in blueberry plants . . . before covering them . . .

The following Monday, I tried calling DiMeo Farms several times. Just a recorded message. So I left messages. They claim to return calls within 24 to 48 hours. However, I thought . . . because I was a recent customer . . . someone would have tried to reach me.

When no one did . . . I sent an email as follows:

On Dec 3, 2012, at 10:05 AM, Judy Miller  wrote:

I received your shipment around 2pm on Saturday, December 1,  2012.

I am unhappy with several things about this order and my dealings with your company.

I looked at many different nurseries online before deciding to buy my initial plants from you. The reasons that I decided to order from you:

1. I was confident that your many years of expertise resulted in good and healthy plants.

2..I liked that you are a family run business that has been in business for over 100 year. Though your website is a bit confusing and not clear about what to expect . . . I believed in your statement that I would be “in good hands with DiMeo”.

3. I liked that your plants are grown organically and are non-GMO varieties.

4. I felt confident, based on your online instructions, that I would be able to plant them and would have the necessary expertise available by phone call if I needed it.

5. Your website made me feel like you valued your customers.

All that being said . . . . my experience with you thus far has been one huge disappointment.

Here are my complaints:

1. My phone number at _______ does work . . . you did not try very hard to reach me apparently, especially when you consider #2.

2. Even though you claim to respond to emails with 24 hours . . . even after I sent you several, the only one I have received from you is the one I am now using to reply to you. 

3. Replying to this email seems to be the only option I have to contact you as all I ever get is the recorded message.

4. I purchased 30 plants @ $10.00. My total charges with shipping added was $449.46.  As all your videos show plants in black containers, I assumed the shipping charge of $149.46 was because of the weight of shipping those plants.

5. The plants arrived bare root in a box and the posted shipping charge was $28.55.  Thinking I was in “good hands”, I did not mind paying $150 for shipping because they were suppose to arrived in pots.  Shipping costs are not explained on your website, nor explained by your representative.

6. The plant roots were not even covered with damp packaging material.

7. The urgency to plant IMMEDIATELY  was unexpected, as I expected them to arrive in containers, not bare root.  These instructions differ greatly from those online.

8. No invoice was enclosed, nor has an order confirmation or invoice ever been emailed to me.  This differs from your claim to respond to emails within 48 hours.

9. I do not feel like you value me as a customer at all.  It was my hope that I would be developing a good business relationship with your farm. This is my first year . . . and if all goes well, I have an additional 7 acre plot that I am considering.

10. Variety . . . I felt that I would have had a greater variety selected for me. I realize that 30 is a small order, but as I stated to the girl who took my order on the 1st of 2 phones calls where I actually talked to someone, I am trying to start a u-pick farm . . . and would have liked a greater variety to see which ones I would like to buy more of. 

11. I asked, in my initial purchase order, to have berry plants that produced the quarter sized berries . . . . from my investigation of the varieties sent . . . none of those where selected for me.

12. I also asked for information regarding your blackberries and raspberries . . . but no info, other than your instructions was enclosed.

You do not seem to be what your website claims you to be. I am not confident with my purchase from your company. I feel like l have been taken for a fool  . . . which apparently I am for buying anything from you.  Don’t think other blueberry growers won’t be told about my experience with you as I will be amongst many other growers in the coming months.

I am hoping you will respond to my concerns.  I especially need to have a detailed invoice of this purchase for my tax records. This is a new business venture for me.  I invested in these 30 plants with very limited funds.

I have photos of the plants as received and how I heeled them in, if anyone is interested.

Judy Miller
Secret Garden Blessings

My tmobile number is _________ . . . although I do not get regular good service, you might be able to leave a message.”

The following emailed arrived :

“On Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 7:57 PM, DiMeo Farms wrote:

Ms. Miller,
 
We would have been more than happy to work with you and also respond to all of your concerns. However, due to your numerous abrasive and disrespectful voicemails as well as numerous threats within your emails, we have respectfully decided to terminate you as a customer. The fact is, that we have thousands of happy customers every year that we do all types of business with. However, out of the thousands of customers there are almost always about 2 to 3% of our customers who, no matter what we do, we cannot make happy. Many of them simply do not understand our fair and common company policies. Our company policy clearly states that we charge a fair shipping and handling fee. Almost all companies charge a handling fee in addition to the cost of shipping. This is all made quite clear on company policy as disclosed on our website. In addition, you were sent beautiful healthy plants with planning instructions that were included. The varieties were marked and labeled as you requested. Shipping and handling costs are in fact clearly explained within our company policy. You were made well aware the fact that the plants need to be planted immediately upon you are receipt. As a matter of fact, you called and said you wanted the plants promptly, then in another breath you stated that you didn’t realize they needed to be planted immediately. You contradict yourself. All and all, when people come to tour our operation and see the quality if our plants and real expertise, they end up laughing at all the lies on Dave’s Garden. If it makes you feel better, go ahead and post. It will not change our reasonable and fair position which we shall defend at whatever cost. Best of luck with your operation.Sent from my iPhone”

.First of all, my experience thus far with them has been questionable. Bear in mind that I’ve had only 3 phones calls . . . 1 before placing the order, 1 about placing the order, 1 about shipping the order and the 2 emails I’ve posted above . In retrospect, I’m surprised I actually made those as it seems like no people are in their office, apparently, to answer the phone. Not knowing if they would call or not . . . may have made me sound stern, but I was not “abrasive”.  I was upset, and all they had to do was give me a call.  I was upset, not unreasonable. They have never shown any care what-so-ever in working with me.  And the above email message from them proves that.

Now.  Let’s look at why I did get an email from them. After I didn’t hear from them I started looking for more customer experiences buying from DiMeo farms.

If I had done my homework before buying from them . . . my choice would have been very different.

When I googled a search for DiMeo farms . . . one of the automated choices provided by google was DiMeo complaints. In fact, it was the second automated choice . . . a most popular one. You’ll find many links to the word complaint from the DiMeo website . . . usually about their many satisfied customers . . . there were 2 which stuck out of interest.

So I chose that search term.  The first link I tried was Dave’s Garden, an online source I sometimes use for basic info regarding plants . They had a specific link to complaints about this company.  Before adding a complaint, they suggest that you contact the company directly, and provide a means through their forum system to contact them. So I sent them a message through their forum. Interesting that the person who wrote the email to me makes a comment about Dave’s Garden . . . so I know that they received the message from that website. It’s also interesting that a specific person who sent the messages from DiMeo remains unknown.

Feedback History for their company is:

64 positives
23 neutrals
61 negatives

In the email fro DiMeo they state: “All and all, when people come to tour our operation and see the quality if our plants and real expertise, they end up laughing at all the lies on Dave’s Garden.

Sums up how they feel about the 61 customers who are unhappy with how they were treated by this company. Also, with their “thousands of satisfied customers” you you expect a lot more positives.

Then, I visited the link from the Better Business Bureau.

Let me say that the BBB is a good source of information about businesses who have up and above board practices. People don’t file complaints who are liars. People file complaints because they have been scammed, have not received the customer service expected, or have not received what they expected in the goods or services purchased.

The BBB has been around for about 80 years  and is a well respected source for being a mediator of consumer complaints, when all other measures fail.

On a scale from A+ to F . . . DiMeo Farms received an F.

The following is copied and pasted directly from the BBB website:

Reason for Rating

BBB rating is based on 16 factors. Get the details about the factors considered.

Factors that lowered the rating for DiMeo Farms include:

  • 21 complaints filed against business
  • Failure to respond to 10 complaints filed against business
  • 1 complaint filed against business that was not resolved

Additional Complaint Information

The business indicated that it will not work to resolve customer disputes through BBB.

That unwillingness to solves complaints speaks volumes about their customer service policy. The statement from the last email: “out of the thousands of customers there are almost always about 2 to 3% of our customers who, no matter what we do, we cannot make happy” . . . so they don’t even try . . . by simply making a phone call or sending an email. A breach of the trust I had in their company.

Another interesting page I found on the BBB website details their Standards for Trust. I’ve posted them here:

BBB Standards for Trust

Build Trust
Establish and maintain a positive track record in the marketplace.

Advertise Honestly
Adhere to established standards of advertising and selling.

Tell the Truth
Honestly represent products and services, including clear and adequate disclosures of all material terms.

Build Trust
Establish and maintain a positive track record in the marketplace.

Be Transparent
Openly identify the nature, location, and ownership of the business, and clearly disclose all policies, guarantees and procedures that bear on a customer’s decision to buy.

Honor Promises
Abide by all written agreements and verbal representations.

Be Responsive
Address marketplace disputes quickly, professionally, and in good faith.

Safeguard Privacy
Protect any data collected against mishandling and fraud, collect personal information only as needed, and respect the preferences of consumers regarding the use of their information.

Embody Integrity
Approach all business dealings, marketplace transactions and commitments with integrity.

Based on those standards . . . DiMeo Farms falls short on almost all of them. Though I believed I was dealing with a company that was built on trust, a closer scrutiny of the DiMeo Farms website yielded other surprises.

The first, was trying to find the company policy.  The link provided in the first email sends you to their home page . . . and there is nothing related to company policy on that.  On their link menu, there is a category for privacy policy. Privacy policy is not company policy, so I really never even looked at it. Perhaps it was designed that way. The link to their policy in their email should have put them on that page . . . not their home page.  A clear link to their company policy and shipping policy should be provided.

While I think what they charged as “fair” handling charges is more than a bit unfair. . . my beef is not really with that. I am more upset that they seem like they are hiding from their customers.  They certainly aren’t interested in building trust. That’s all I really wanted . . . to deal with reputable people who claimed to be helpful in establishing both a business relationship and nurturing my dream to grow a u-pick farm.  It’s upsetting that they showed absolutely no interest in getting to know me or provide the expert advice they claim over and over again on their website.

When you consider that no where on their website do they mention bare root plants . . . that is a misrepresentation. That they never made an honest attempt to contact me by email when they couldn’t reach me by phone indicates they really don’t care about their customers at all. No invoice was included in the package . . . nothing except instructions which differ from those provided on the website was in the box . . . no promotional material, such as info on the other plants they offer . . . which is really odd, if you want to sell more product. No invoice of the purchase for the buyers records was sent . . . nor was a confirmation of the order having  been received.

This unknown person’s statement “We would have been more than happy to work with you and also respond to all of your concerns.”  comes as a big surprise, as they really didn’t try to respond at all.  I’ve had 3 phones calls . . . 1 before placing the order, 1 about placing the order, 1 about shipping the order and the 2 emails I’ve posted above. One of which would never have happened if I hadn’t sent it through the Dave’s Garden forum.

In response to their last email . . . I sent this reply . . .
On Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 5:17 PM, Judy Miller  wrote:

“Well, then . . . explain the F rating at the Better Business Bureau. So many complaints and you won’t work with then. That really says it all, as I have a lot of respect for those who have A+ ratings with the BBB.  I just regret that I didn’t check with them before I ordered from you. I didn’t think I had to. I believed you to be a company, in business for over 100 years, that was honorable.  You have proved yourself to be anything but honorable. Successful businesses try very hard to keep every customer they have . . . I know I do. My experience with a large number of other companies has always been one where they are there to help their customers. You are not the same people you profess to be on your website. I was really an idiot to think that you are as good as you seemed to be. I trust too much. Please send me a link to your company policy regarding shipping. Your website is very confusing . . . I can’t find that policy anywhere.  I think $150 for bare root plants is excessive . . . and  all your videos show plants in containers. Other people I’ve spoken with says that no one charges that much for shipping bare root plants. A little research on the web has shown me the truth about your company. It is a shame, as I was caught up in thinking you were a family farm company carrying on the tradition of your grandfather . . . now I see you as just someone with no shame in exploiting his good name and reputation, with no understanding of the integrity I believe your grandfather had. A company that is in trouble sends emails such as the one you just sent. Your attitude certainly proves that.  When a company blames their customers for their own shortcomings and failures, its a sure sign of the end of a business. How sad that your grandfather’s business and good name has gone to ruin.   And the emails you sent to me will be posted as written in my blog and will be forwarded to the BBB and other business reporting agencies. I would have been most happy to have spoken with someone about this. I have had my phone by me yesterday and today, hoping to hear from you.  I have no desire to report this to anyone.  You do not return phone calls or emails as you say you do. In fact, they only reason, I believe,  you replied at all was that I sent it to you through the Dave’s Garden forum website. You didn’t respond at all to any of the emails I sent you personally. You have no interest in your customers except to cash their checks. I feel that I am obligated to tell others about his experience. I do feel sorry for you. Judy Miller”

That’s it.  While I could go on with additional details of their failure to provide good customer service, I’m done with it. 

If you’ve read this far, thanks . . . enough said . . . I’ll leave it for you to decide whether or not I’ve been treated with respect or reasonable consideration. Certainly I hope it helps others come to understand why it is important to learn more about these types of business people by doing research.  Don’t get sucked in . . . if they seem too good to be true . . . they probably are.

As for my dream of building my u-pick farm. . . that dream remains unchanged . . . I have the plants . . . hopefully they will survive and I will have a glorious blueberry garden.  This is just one hiccup along the way.

There is still much more to do to make my dreams come true. Determination I have plenty of . . .

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