Today, I came back from shopping, and found a piece of mail for me–an envelope, hand addressed. Hello! I wasn’t expecting any letters. . .what’s the return address? Fedco! Oh, no!! I sent my order in when it was only a week till thier deadline, I hope they’re not telling me I’m too late for this year!! We’re not that far from Maine! I ordered as soon as I could, honest. It was my first year odering. I’ll do better next year!
The paper is folded, so when I take it out of the envelope I can only see the irrelevant header: “Fedco Seeds; Co-Op Seed Packers, Waterville, Maine 04903-0520; Feb. 27, 2005; Talitha Purdy. . . .” I already know all of that. The odd thing is that it’s still all in hand writing. (Blue ballpoint. Except for the Fedco Seed logo that looks poorly photo-copied.) That would seem to be an odd way to write a rejection “sorry-you-were-too-late” form letter.
Dear Talitha Purdy, (Yes?)
Wanted to thank you for your order (But I was too late and you can’t fill it? I knew it! Arrgghh!) and your nice letter (Letter? what letter?) with good suggestions. (Oh, that letter!).
You see, I happened to see the following in their catalog:
“We Love to Hear from You and often respond to your comments and letters. Your ideas and suggestions stimulate our thinking and help us to improve our catalogs, products and service. Here are more ways you can help us:
Suggest new varieties for us to carry. . . .(they go into more detail, but go look at the catalog yourself if you want the fine print.)
Share your ideas for how we can improve service. . .
Join our network of trial gardeners. . .We give preference to trialers from Maine and other cold climate states. . .
Send us seed of an heirloom variety which you think has commercial potential. . .
We are accepting inquiries for bid applications for our lot grow-out program. . .
Send us your old seed catalogs or old classic references. . .”
Anyway, I took them at face value about suggesting new varieties for them to carry, but I confess to say I didn’t believe them when they said they often responded. I did think they would read it, and that I would be entered into the computer as another statistic (though perhaps they keep their statistics in spiral-bound notebooks. . .), and maybe get a form letter back, thanking me for my interest. (Everybody thanks you for your interest.) I suppose I took it to mean something more like “we occasionally respond if you write a very witty and entertianing letter, and it is a slow, rainy day, and we have nothing better to do.” But I certainly did not think, by any stretch of the imagination, that I would receive a personal letter, handwritten, from the head-honcho (or whoever the C.R. Lawn guy is who writes the letter in the front of the magazine)!! And before my actual seed order arrived, no less. Jeepers, I’m usually thrilled just to get a live human on the phone, never mind hand-written letters!
So, I am sure you are all quite curious by now to know what on earth I wrote, and what C. R. Lawn wrote back. Alas, I did not write anything witty and charming. I didn’t even write it by hand. (I was afraid no one would be able to read my handwriting, but I am slightly comforted. C. R. Lawn appears to be left-handed; at anyrate, not overly critical of less than perfect [okay, in my case perhaps barely readable] handwriting.) I didn’t even address it to anyone, I just started talking, which is very poor etiqutte indeed! It was only a short list of seeds I would like them to carry. Oh, and my reasons why, since they said “The more specific your opinion, the more useful to us.”
I got quite specific with “Little Leaf” cucumber, which I love. I was quite a bit more vague with “Trinity” corn, because Rundy is the one who grows it, and I’m just bothered by putting in more than one seed order, so I’d like to consolidate. And I only said I like the flavor of “America” spinach, because as far as I know, it doesn’t have any remarkable qualities after that. Other than that, I don’t really remember what I said, and I didn’t save a draft, and I hardly think it matters. I banged it out in a few minutes and mailed it, maybe even without a spellcheck. (I’m really horrid, aren’t I?)
He responded in turn that “there has been quite a bit of interst in the little leaf cucumber, and we may want to consider adding it. It is very good for people who have little garden space.” As to Trinity corn, he said they had tried it and “weren’t that impressed” with it, but that “maybe we should put it out in the trials again.” In the meantime, he recommended “Fleet”, which I suppose I could try to talk Rundy into trying next year. (Not that it matters, since it’s his corn and his money, and if he’s happy with Trinity, that’s his business.)
It has been really interesting to compare seed companies this year. Johnny’s send a form letter confirmation email when I placed my order, a form letter email notifying that the “Fortex” green bean was on back order, and a form letter saying my order had shipped. (Tee-hee, their data-base is all screwed up. I couldn’t remember my log-in information, or even if I had one. So I created a new one, in my name, since I’ll be the one complaining if things go wrong. Despite this, the email letting me know of the back order was addressed to my Dad, the orginal Johnny’s orderer at this street address!) I did my ordering online from the Johnny’s site, except when I had a potato shipping question. I called their number, then, and got put on hold twice. (Please, please, please change your hold recording! They were short waits, but I almost hung up anyway because the recordings were so grating to listen too.) I ordered from Johnny’s later than Fedco’s, but recieved my order sooner.
In contrast, I could look at the catalog online for Fedco, but I could not order online, or even order by phone. I had to print out the order form myself, and fill in all the squares with a pencil (well, you could use a pen, if you weren’t paranoid about making mistakes), and mail it out with a stamp. (How odd, these days!) Not that I minded. Except maybe writing things in by hand, since I’m always afraid someone won’t be able to read my handwriting. The order hasn’t come yet, but I have already recieved a hand-written letter acknowledging my order (and he used my name, not my Dad’s!).
The end result is rather odd. One might think that I would be happier with Johnny’s which was much more instantaneous, efficient and convinient. Acctually, I feel like I have been reduced to 1’s and 0’s in Johnny’s computer, whereas I actually feel like a living, breathing person at Fedco’s. What difference does that make, as long as you get your order? None, I suppose. But it is quite pleasant; rather like walking into a local Mom-and-Pop store where they know your name and ask after the well-being of your family as opposed to walking into the super-center where no one knows your name or your family, and couldn’t care less about either.
To each their own, but I do like Fedco’s.
P.S. In trying to find out C.R. Lawn’s relation to Fedco (which I didn’t discover; founder? chairman?), I stumbled upon a picture of him. He has a similar hairstyle to my Dad, though Dad has started trimming his beard again. But Dad has the forehead of caveman (flat and slanted), where as C.R. Lawn’s is quite rounded. Ah, the amusing and pointless oddities of life. . .