If I ordered a toaster online, I’d be a bit surprised if I received a breadmaker. But it seems that when it comes to buying plants online, it’s commonplace to receive the wrong product – that’s if you get it at all.
What’s more, it can be pretty tricky to get a refund or a replacement.
When we asked you whether you’d had problems buying plants online here on Which? Conversation, we were surprised at the number of negative responses. It appears that many of you have had big problems. These problems included:
1. Dead, dying, poor quality or rotted plants – or plants that succumbed rapidly to disease. Janet Anderson shared her experiences of ordering butterfly orchid tubers:
‘Absolutely tiny and rotted before I found the required special compost. The same was true of some trailing petunias: five out of the twelve were no good.’
2. Battered plants – usually due to poor packaging. Giselle Hampton said:
‘Would never buy plants online again. Some were dried out, some damaged, some did not turn up. One box was pushed through my letter box resulting in squashed plants. Not for me thank you.
3. Wrongly-coloured plants – or the wrong plants altogether. Bob Hughes wasn’t impressed by the hardy geraniums he ordered:
‘Approximately 90% were the wrong colour, so they sent more and again some weren’t the right colour and then when they came out in May the whole batch of 18 red geraniums […] came out pink.’
4. Plants that arrived very late – or didn’t turn up at all. Robert Talbot’s partner had a nightmare with the miniature geraniums she bought:
‘Delivery date, according to the catalogue, was to be March or April. Nothing arrived. She telephoned the company and was told “sometime in May”. Nothing had arrived by the beginning of June, so she contacted them again to be told that the plants would be despatched by 15 June at latest. July arrived, but again the geraniums had failed to materialise. Since the flowering period of this particular plant was April-June, my partner insisted on cancellation but we are still waiting for the refund.’
All of these problems would be frustrating in themselves, but what really seems to be a bugbear for many is the customer service that they’ve received when an order has gone wrong. So when it comes to bad customer service, you’ve shared complaints about:
- Lack of communication – calls and emails have gone unanswered; customers are not informed early enough if a plant is out of stock.
- Lack of tracking or despatch details.
- Inadequate compensation and a lack of acknowledgement that there’s been a problem.
It’s not all negative
Ordering things online is second nature for many of us these days, and our recent online shopping satisfaction survey showed that, broadly speaking, people are happy with their experiences. In fact, 83% of members asked said they hadn’t had cause to complain about their recent online purchases.
However, your Conversation comments have shown that this isn’t always the same with buying plants. That’s not to say everyone is having bad experiences, many of your comments praised good service and plants in good condition, like Fred Sole:
‘Earlier this year I ordered four different hybrid tea roses. They arrived in about ten days, beautifully packed and in excellent condition. Just recently I ordered three more and the result was a repeat performance. All have been planted and even in this first year the display has been magnificent.’
Which? Gardening is taking a closer look at the problems you’ve raised with the aim of coming up with some solutions in the future. As living things, plants are inevitably more complicated than books, clothes or toasters, but that doesn’t mean that buying them online shouldn’t be as hassle-free as with anything else.
So, please keep sharing your online plant buying experiences – and especially, what you’d like retailers to do differently.