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Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 22:05

I'm surprised to see how many "retail" mail order nurseries don't have any type of warranty except if there is a problem that you report immediately upon arrival. Even then some will get skidish or non responsive.

On the flip side local garden centers whether it be chains or small business owners give you anywhere between a 1 year and 5 year warranty and never ever give you a hard time about issues.

The pricing structures are typically the same, if not more for mail order.

Whats the deal here?

I've only come across a few mail order nurseries that will stand behind the plants they sell after its planted. I do understand why as they can't control moisture, root disturbance etc but why does local?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

Are you finding it is the cheaper ones that don't offer the warranty? In my line of work we don't make 3x mark up on our products so we can't offer the fancy sleep trials and all that.

Personally I would never warranty a 3ft plant which was yanked out of the ground and put in a UPS truck for a week. When they don't die it is amazing. (this coming from a guy who had 100 of 100 one dollar a piece metasequoias leaf out one year). Some of them just have to die naturally.

If I find out a dozen of them did not live through the year should I assume it was the supplier's fault or random luck? My life can not be better by expecting that company to mail me a new dozen trees at their expense if I ever want them to be in business for my next order.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 20:45

I see your point but talking container stock. No its actually the more expensive outlets that don't warranty the product.

Whats even more strange is that there are nurseries that offer their local customers a warranty but the stuff they ship doesn't have a warranty.

Not sure why...almost as if they can hide from the customer.

I understand places like Stanley and Sons who ship a 4" pot for $8. That would be silly to warranty them.

Talking a $70 cultivar that dies 3 months later even though it was planted at the correct time and cared for properly.

Then you have nurseries like Forest Farm who give you hard time when you communicate an issue upfront. My wife unannounced to me ordered from them and sure as shat the plant was 7" too deep in 9" root ball...huh? They told her to plant it and if it has issues they'll figure something out.

Then you have a Rarefind nusery that I emailed and showed pics of a major root issue and bam, automatic refund. The plant did have to go in the garbage though per the pic below.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

There are so many complexities to this, I wasn't going to address it, but I think I will bring up two things....

Mostly, warranties on nursery stock are just a marketing thing. The nursery finds it more profitable to take a gamble on whether you can properly care for a plant and whether the plant can survive the conditions given to most of its plants, than not to provide the assurance and loose a certain sector of their business (the customer's that want warranties). Warranties are more about an additional service (assurance that your plant will survive) than about backing up the product.

Also, many nurseries that don't provide a warranty will gladly make things right if a plant is found to be "defective". I've called nurseries that made it clear that they did not warranty their plants, discussed problems that were very likely present before the plants were sold, and been very well taken care of. Reputable nurseries will stand behind their stuff when the problem is their fault. If they don't (and it really is their fault), they don't deserve your business.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 22:16

What are some items you'd consider a nursery's fault?

The one I struggle the most with are pot bound plants.

If I tease the roots and it dies that season whose fault is it?

If I bareroot it and it dies that season whose fault is it?

Countless times I've brought up how pot bound a plant is and they (some nurseries) say just plant it. For now on I might just say I'll plant it but cover me for the growing season. I don't even want a 1 year warranty, I just want the thing to survive from May until fall.

But then I have crap like this to deal with. I go one right nwo with a Pine that was sent with burnt needles and it was already breaking bud in early March (from the east coast mind you). They told me to take extra care to protect from frost...ok. Well July closes out and the thing never fully candled and its now dead. No response after a couple emails and a couple weeks. I'm super busy during the week at work so I don't have time to be calling these businesses that are open from 9am until 4pm.

My true problem is that I'm a collector stuck in a horrible market for local offerings so I'm relegated to either going mail order or not collecting. Its a love hate relationship with mail order no doubt.

Yes that is snow in the background, place it came from had snow on the ground too.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

"What are some items you'd consider a nursery's fault?...The one I struggle the most with are pot bound plants."

That's maybe the best example. Others might be physical damage, even if it's not immediately noticeable/revealed, or a plant arriving with a disease/pest problem.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

Neat complicated post Whaas.

"Whats even more strange is that there are nurseries that offer their local customers a warranty but the stuff they ship doesn't have a warranty. "

I find trees I source locally have a higher success rate then those mailed across the country. This just HAS to be why there are fewer warranties offered on mail order stock. Imagine how much less stress they go through avoiding the hot UPS trucks and the few days of darkness. Overnighting a tree would be the obvious answer, but capitalism rules that out.

Also, I am going to ASSUME the folks who just show up and buy an 8 foot tall Bradford Pear from Lowe's Depot are probably less into gardening or tree collecting on the whole than those of us who bothered looking up what EVERY Viburnum cultivar Forest Farm offers does. So you and I are more likely to notice defects in our mail order stock and care for the trees properly so we will feel like we earned our warranty claim.

I had another reason but it escapes me. I will blame lack of sleep.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Fri, Aug 15, 14 at 10:21

I find trees I source locally have a higher success rate then those mailed across the country.

As I because I pick them out. Whats left? The runts? That is what is shipped mailorder. This is just a handful of nurseries though that do both retail and mailorder.

I don't think a plant should have a warranty if its shipping during certain months eitherway. I typically only get stuff during the dormant season or when its a cool week along the travel route.

So you and I are more likely to notice defects in our mail order stock and care for the trees properly so we will feel like we earned our warranty claim

That is the principal of my post.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

The advantages of local are simple - you can SEE what you get, and therefore, the higher success rate.

The advantages of mail order are - quite simply - selection.

While almos any cultivar of any tree that will grow in your area is probably available locally, SOMEWHERE, if you're willing to drive a couple hours, I've found that many nurseries to this day are technologically old-school (no website or a very archaic one) so to actually know what they do and do not have, you have to call or email, and this can be tedious.

If mail-order has it, it's often much faster to just "go with it" and order it online than do that much running around, warranty or not.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Aug 15, 14 at 15:42

Most shoppers direct the airing of their unhappiness with service and merchandise at third parties rather than the vendors that are the source of dismay. And deformed root systems are the fault of wholesale growers, not retailers that buy from them. Apparently since wholesale only growers do not deal with the retail public directly they are insulated from the doubtless still rare complaints of the surely small number of informed consumers who actually bark at retailers about being presented with terrible root systems. Of course, any retail employee that responds with "just plant it" is clueless. And some growers (both retail and wholesale) may be prone to coming up with excuses why they simply just can't grow truly good root systems even if ever challenged on the subject.

Carl E. Whitcomb said in one of his books the time to pot on is when the root tips are approaching the walls of the container. Doubtless most growers today would laugh at the idea of keeping up with this level of "perfection". They would laugh, and they would be wrong.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

bboy, it's bcause rootbound plants live "long enough" and by the time they fail, the house has often been sold to the next unsuspecting buyer, who is probably an arbophobe anyway.


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RE: Why doesn't mail order offer a warranty?

"...deformed root systems are the fault of wholesale growers, not retailers that buy from them."

If we extrapolate that to the stuff we buy at Wally-world, should we just keep the stuff we buy from there, that breaks, because they weren't the manufacturer? Yes, I understand the complexities and issues, but that doesn't mean that the retailers shouldn't be held accountable if they are selling junk, and especially if their bad buying habits and poor maintenance greatly add to, or even initiates, the problem. The more I think about it, the less I buy that excuse!


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