Spanish Sage and More
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Brian Stiller
Posted on: July 12, 2004

Please indicate that spanish sage is "unavailable" or sold out. This was one of the main reasons I ordered from your company -- you had all the different seeds that I was looking for, particularly spanish sage, which I was having a difficult time locating. If I had known you were out of spanish sage and were so "far behind", that I would not receive my merchandise for over a month after placing my order I would have ordered from someone who was not so backed up. This has been my worst online shopping experience. When I called to check up on my order, I was told that it had not shipped yet, but they would send it out the next day. Checking up again later, I was told it had just shipped, 10 days later than what I had been told it would be shipped. I didn’t appreciate being deceived in believing that my order had been shipped earlier. What a disappointment having to wait so long, then not receiving the spanish sage seeds. By the way, I could reorder them, since you have not yet indicated they are not available, please fix.

We acknowledge that our inventory and order management need improving. We are working on both of those problems, but it will take a few months before we are satisfied that we have fixed many of the problems that have irritated our customers over the past few years. A week ago we started with our plants, packs and plugs: the website now accurately reflects what we have available because we upload an "availability" file to our website once a week for those items. In due course we will be adding seeds, books and the rest of our products to the weekly "availability" file. I expect that by the end of the summer the entire website will be updated at least once a week. Beyond that, our goal is to have real time updates of availability on our website.

On the order processing side, we have a lot of work a head of us to improve this, not only to our customers’ satisfaction, but to our own satisfaction also. Our long range goal is ship all orders within 24 hours; our more immediate goal is to get that to within three business days. It may seem an easy thing to do, but it isn’t. We ship many different types of products and they can’t ship together: seeds, books, plants all have to ship separately, at different times and by different means. Books by parcel post, seeds by regular mail, plants by courier or Xpresspost, etc. If we could ship them all at one time in one box (we wish!) we would be easily be shipping within 24 to 48 hours just like most other mailorder companies. Still, we are determined to find a better way, and fortunately we have some good ideas how to do that with which we will be experimenting later this year.

As for spanish sage, this is one of our items that we get from a single supplier. If that supplier has a crop failure, or forgets to harvest seeds (it does happen!), then we are out of that item for the year. For most of the items we sell this isn’t a problem because we always try to have back up suppliers. But for approximately 20% of our seeds, we are at the mercy of a single supplier. It is those 20% of items that make Richters unique, so this will always be a problem. But when we provide accurate information about availability on our website, we will go a long way toward reducing customer frustration.

I thank you for taking the time to let us know how you feel about Richters’ service. It is important for us to hear that.

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