Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Looking for trees to block out neighbors? Look elsewhere

I have three fast-growing Leyland Cypress trees in my suburban yard to help reduce the noise and sights of a nearby roadway.  I ordered four more in April from Thuja Gardens -- five-gallon, 5-6-feet high.  I promptly received an order confirmation from one Roy Lawing.  I don't know any Roys, but I like Roy Clark and Roy Scheider, so what could go wrong?  Well, let me tell you everything that's wrong with ordering trees from Thuja Gardens and Roy Lawing.
     A few days after ordering, I wrote Roy asking for an estimate as to when I might expect receipt of the trees.  No response.  A few days later, I began wondering so I revisited the site at ThujaGardens.com.  I called the customer service line and was told by a recording it's best to contact sales via email.  So I emailed sales@thujagardens.com, which apparently also goes to Roy, and it appears Thuja Gardens is a one-man operation.  That's fine, and I understand people get very busy.  I know some produce farmers and the work is tough -- tree farming is probably equally hard.
    But still not hearing anything after a couple weeks, I wrote Roy@ and Sales@ ThujaGardens, asking that the order be cancelled due to not having received the trees or any response from the company.  I asked to have my account credited by Friday, April 29.
    On Monday, May 2, I contacted the card issuer to discuss the matter and initiate a dispute.  These disputes are winnable, generally, when you can provide the issuer evidence of the order and return of items purchased; it's harder to prove a lack of receipt of something, so a paper trail of email copies and a log of communication attempts helps.
    Later Monday, an odd email from "FedEx," not noting many details often found in such emails, arrived, indicating the shipment of a 63-pound box from Thuja to me.  Now, 20 gallons of soil and 20-plus feet of evergreen safely weigh a great deal more than 63 pounds.
    Wishing I could go back in time, I did some past-due diligence on Roy and Thuja Gardens.  I found reviews of his products and services.  What's more -- I found Roy's sarcastic responses to bad reviews, which he finds time to post although he's unwilling or unable to respond to questions from customers who've paid him.
    "I have ordered a tree within the last month with this company," wrote a reviewer from Milroy, Pa.  "We checked our credit card statement which indicates that the tree was paid for, but after many attempts of emails and phone calls have been unable to establish any type of contact with this company regarding our status on the tree. After reading these many posts from others and responses from the infamous 'Roy,' I must say that I truly am beginning to believe he is a scam artist and a thief ... I am very disappointed in Thuja Gardens and advise anyone [against] purchasing from this place again. As for the payment for a purchase, I plan to take action to the fullest to resolve this matter."
    A man from Ellettsville, Ind. wrote:  "[Roy] told me not to get my blood pressure up! I told him I was filing a dispute with [the card issuer], which I did and [received] a refund. He shipped them again, and again I tried repeatedly to get him on the phone ... If you deal with him-you will be sorry ... Judgement day will be hell for you mister!"  Two weeks later, Roy responded on the review site with:  "Jesus loves you."
    So, if that FedEx email is the least bit genuine, I expect to refuse to accept delivery tomorrow of 63 pounds of something; Roy writes about how some people just irritate him, an emotion I can identify with.  Because he is likely irritated with me for asking questions and then cancelling, stay tuned to learn if what I receive is 63 pounds of manure.

UPDATE:  Day of Delivery
    What arrived was one box with what may have been one properly sized tree (or four trees way smaller than those ordered).  I caught the FedEx guy (the email was real) before he unloaded and told him not to bother.  He wrote "rejected" on the box and pointed to the dirt coming out of the bottom (not uncommon with tree and plant shipments).  He entered the non-acceptance in his thing-a-ma-bob and had me sign it.  I photographed the box with his rejection label, for my card issuer in case Roy disputes my dispute.
    Here's the thing:  If Roy needed more time to produce four trees of the size ordered, I'm reasonable and would have understood.  If that was the case, I don't know, because I have heard nothing from him, even after asking him to cancel the order, even after I filed the merchant services dispute.
    Ironically, another of Roy's customers posted a negative experience today on the review site I mentioned, which you'll find at http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/c/5465/.

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