Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pay-Per-Scan Is Madness!

“Archie, have you ever known me to show rancor? …vehement ill will, intense malignity… I have it now… it’s in the way!  I can’t think clearly!  Confound it!  Rancor…it’s a pimple on the brain!”
~Rex Stout via Nero Wolfe

Last year I read an article exposing the pay-per-scan agreements generally contracted between big-box-hardware/garden center stores (BBHGC) and the growers supplying the nursery plants. I think it bears further discussion. I groaned labored worked 21 years in the retail circus industry and in my opinion this kind of contract shows just how desperate plant growers are to stay in business and how greedy big-box stores can be.

According to the article, pay-per-scan means that the commercial nursery grower only gets paid for the plants that are purchased and kept by customers of the BBHGC. At the BBHGC, when we buy a plant, it gets scanned. That purchase goes into a database and at some point, long after the grower delivered the plants to the BBHGC, they get paid. If the plant dies, and we return it, it gets scanned and it gets removed from the database so the commercial grower never gets paid for it.

When we buy a plant from an independent nursery, in addition to having access to knowledgeable, helpful staff, they often give planting and care directions with the receipt as they want us to be successful with our purchase because the return of a dead plant will cost the nursery money and sometimes reputation. They paid the grower already for the plants they received in the shipment, so any returns go against the nursery’s profits not the grower's.

On the other hand, when we buy a plant from a BBHGC, the staff usually has no gardening expertise to guide us and no additional plant care information is given with our purchase. Our dead plant can be returned simply with a receipt…no questions asked. Since the garden dept staff is usually assigned to the garden dept and not experienced in plant care or gardening, the plant we bought could have been either: under watered, over watered, fried, frozen or otherwise abused depending on how long ago it was delivered to the big-box store. By the time we get it, it may look ok but is already beginning to die.

Case in point…you may know that Hostas are generally a species that needs shade or partial shade, with a small handful of varieties that can handle some sun. Last year, while at one of these large BBHGC I saw an entire 4 tier rack of Hostas parked in the full hot afternoon sun on an 80F+ (27C) degree day. They were all in various stages of wilt. Each tier holds 3 trays. Each tray holds 9 one gallon plants. That’s a whopping 108 plants, toasted by the store’s staff that the grower will never get paid for, because they were too damaged to ever be sold! Or if some poor unsuspecting customer did buy one, it was no doubt returned due to its demise as the damage progressed. Who looses? The grower, who grew and shipped in good faith but who will never receive a dime for those 108 plants. From my perspective, that’s appalling!

That was last year…a few days ago when I took the picture it was a 45F (7C) degree blustery day with a wind chill factor of brrr! and what did my little wandering eye spy? Approximately 90 Delphiniums whose flowering stems had been broken down by the wind and a cart of Gardenias whose leaves had all curled and withered from being displayed outside in the cold temps. What a waste!

Should you stop buying plants from these BBHGC? If you do you’ll also hurt the grower, but it’s definitely a buyer beware situation. If I buy plants at a BBHGC, which is rare, I only do so if it’s obvious the shipment is relatively fresh and newly arrived. I much prefer to support small, independent nurseries that truly have a love for gardening, want to help you succeed in your garden and employ knowledgeable staff that are gardeners too.

Thanks for putting up with this gardener’s rant…I feel better…a little…well only marginally. I need a cup of tea!

In bloom in my garden today: Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ (Yellow Fawn Lily),Wisteria, Tulipa ‘Gavota’, creeping phlox, Daffodil ‘Erlicheer’, Oxalis oregana ‘Wintergreen’, Anemone nemerosa ‘Robinsoniana’, Dodecatheon (Shooting Star), Alpine strawberry, Muscari (Grape Hyacinths), Fritillaria, Primrose, Hellebore, Skimmia, Mahonia repens (Oregon Grape), Heather, Rhododendrons, Clematis, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’, Wood Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides hispanica)

Author’s photo


Cindy said...

gosh this kind of stuff makes me NUTS.

thanks for the buyer beware!

enjoy that tea!

Joan said...

Hi Cindy,
You and me both... Thanks for reading!

Tracy Zhu said...

I agree with all of this. For similar reasons I try to support my local farmers' markets. Also, I got your seeds today, which reminds me that sharing seeds and cuttings is another nice way to cut down on the box store purchases. Thanks again! Last but not least, I like the fact that you actually use the word Rancor as a label on your posts.

Joan said...

Yay! I love garden sharing too!

Rancor just cracks me up! If you haven't experienced Nero Wolfe I highly recommend him, either in book form or A&E's DVD with Maury Chakin as Nero Wolfe. This particular quote is from DVD episode Eeny Meeny Murder Moe.

Glad you liked doubt there'll be more rancor to add to that label. :)

Kathy J said...

Joan- wonderful insights and perspective!
And, you are a wonderful writer! You got straight
A's in college, didn't you?!

Joan said...

Hi Kathy! Welcome, so glad you stopped by!

Thanks for the complements!

Why yes as a matter of fact I got a lot of A's in college...even made President's List in my Sr year...not that I'm BRAGGING or anything, haha :)! But not for writing...I was studying to be an arTIST! I think I misguided myself...had I known, I'd have gone into horticulture. Oh well...hindsight and all that.