Plant guarantees?

126_2645.JPG Went shopping yesterday and stopped at Best Buy electronics. After having to flag down an associate who was doing his best to ignore me I was turned over to another associate who couldn't or wouldn't look me in the eye. Frustrated I left for Circut City. Asking an associate where the I-pods we're he said they we're right behind me, without ever looking up from a video game he was playing. Then after asking if they had them in all the colors pictured behind the glass I was told they we're samples and had been out of them, and had been for a while. Finally I left for the Apple Store! I was immediately approached by one of their "geniuses", yes thats what they call them. I got quick service and even paid for it while the clerk used a hand held device to swipe my credit card. I never had to go to the counter. This is truly a method for facilitating faster service in the garden center. Imagine if we could go outside, write the customer up and give them a receipt without having to go to the cashier. I asked if I could bring the I-pod back if needed and was told sure, as long as it is withing fourteen days! Even if the package is not-opened you only get 14 days to return it, after that its yours. If you return the product with the package opened they charge a 10% return fee. Well, I bought it anyway since no one else had it. I use a PC, not a Mac. I imagine that Apple can get away with this return policy since 'Mac heads" are so loyal to the brand. If they don't except the return policy they will have to change their lives and use the dreaded PC. No silly return policy is going make them switch. Apple has a small, when compared to total computer users, group of very dedicated customers.

I think nurseries blew it when about twenty years ago they jumped on the one year guarantee for plants. They did this of course to respond to the box stores who were advertising this incredible new policy. We got so nervous about this that it seems everyone in the business started offering plant guarantees. Let me see, an un-open package of electronics can only be returned without penalty in 14 days yet we guarantee our living plants for a year or more. Forget to water them, bring them back. Suppose to be deer resistant but your deer ate them, bring them back. We may still have consumers who think there plants are under guarantee from the last century.

Do I think we should go back to not offering guarantees? No, its to late and besides I think Apple is screwing up with their policy. They should allow you to bring the electronics back in the un-opened box anytime for a exchange or full refund. Instead of guaranteeing plants for one year why not just offer customer satisfaction. When someone brings a plant back I ask them how we can insure their satisfaction. Sometimes they just want a new plant and some help figuring out what happened. Other times they have said they would take a new plant at half price, or just want information on how to care for the plant. If they say they would take a plant at half price I would give them the plant free. Lets offer customer satisfaction instead of a plant "guarantee".

Great nurseries and garden centers have a core customer base like Apple does. The customers will work with the nursery since they have vested interest in seeing the garden center stay open the next year. Let the box stores continue with their plant "guarantees" since the odds of their plants failing are a lot higher than a well run garden center. This only works for exceptional garden centers though! The rest will continue to think that plant "guarantees" are the way to customer loyalty.