May 22, 2018
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Timely orders at holiday time

By Russ Van Arsdale,

Order by this date, and you’ll be sure to have your delivery in time for Christmas.

That will be the sellers’ battle cry between now and the time the Great Return rush begins Dec. 26.

Timely deliveries are an issue all year long, not just at this busiest of all shopping seasons.

What brought the topic to mind was a letter from a frustrated consumer in the northern part of the state. Back near the end of August, he had ordered a quantity of bulbs and plants from a supplier in the Midwest.

When a couple of months passed and his order had not arrived, he wrote to Northeast CONTACT. Our writer noted that his latest bank statement showed that his check had been cashed on Sept. 10. He also noted that he had written to the company two weeks before, asking where his order was, but had received no reply.

Clearly, he feared he had been ripped off. He had expected to wait a while, given the statement in the company’s catalog that it “will ship according to proper planting time and availability of the stock.” As he closed in on two months – and after three or four inches of snow had already fallen where he lives – he asked for our help.

The good news is that our writer’s order arrived soon after he mailed the letter to us. He’s been able to get about half of them in the ground and plans cold storage for the rest.

It’s worth noting that the company in question guarantees that everything it supplies will grow. If buyers are unhappy within one year, they can return unsatisfactory items along with the original shipping label for a replacement. To get a refund, they must make the request within 14 days of receipt.

While we did not contact the company on our writer’s behalf, we did some research. It seems other consumers have had very mixed results when dealing with this firm. Some were grateful for the exchange policy; others were frustrated by what they felt were unreasonable delays in getting their orders. Some were dismayed at the condition of packaging and contents on delivery; still others swallowed hard, planted the sorry looking twigs, only to be rewarded with healthy, robust plants.

The results are so mixed that we’re deliberately not naming the company. Rather, we’re urging what we always urge: Consumers should do their own research before buying anything online or by mail. We should mention that this and some other seed companies require payment up front, rather than when an order is shipped, which some consumers find off-putting.

The bottom line on buying any living thing for your garden or yard boils down to two variables: Where it was grown originally, and how it gets to you. To minimize risk on both counts, consider buying close to home before looking for bargains far afield.

Mother Earth News ranks Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Albion first, and Fedco Seeds of Waterville tenth, among reader favorites. We’ll leave the whole issue of genetically modified seeds to another column.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit or email

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