Taking the Proverbial

We set off to buy our Christmas tree today. For us, it’s always a real tree, I love the smell of fresh pine. Since we don’t have carpets, dropped needles aren’t a problem to clear up – although with two cats, keeping the decorations on the tree can be something of a challenge.

I’ve been buying my tree from our local greengrocer for some years now; their trees are always beautiful and have always been reasonably priced. However they don’t put prices on the trees any more. They used to, but these days you have to ask.

Last year we queried this, but also joked about it with the staff, something along the lines of asking if the price depended on how well off we looked. This year I wasn’t happy at all.

We picked out a nice looking tree: not too enormous, quite the opposite in fact – just the right size for our deceptively compact living room. It was much smaller than the one we ended up buying last year, for which we paid £35. That one was rather too big (but seemed a better option than the very dinky, much too small alternative choices). As a result we ended up doing some major pruning, which seemed a bit wasteful, but it looked beautiful in the end.

Our choice for this year was immediate and unanimous: a tree that was a good height for us, not too wide and a nice shape. As previously mentioned, no prices were displayed, so we asked.

The lad who came over to serve us barely glanced at our chosen tree, but did take the time to look appraisingly at us before stating “£45” ! (Frankly I am struggling to avoid succumbing to the temptation of multiple exclamation marks here.) Despite the apparently arbitary nature of the stated price, it appeared to be non-negotiable – in which case why weren’t prices displayed in the first place I wonder?

I know there’s a credit crunch on and all that, but that’s one heck of an increase for a much smaller tree. It’s also way more than I am prepared to pay for something that we will be shredding on January 1st.

If £45 is what it costs this year, then that would be fair enough, I can take it or leave it. The thing that has left me with a lingering feeling of annoyance is that the price seemed to be made up on the spot. If that was a misunderstanding, then it could easily have been avoided by some clear pricing.

We did not buy a tree. Actually we didn’t buy next week’s vegetables either. To be honest, I was so irritated by the whole experience that I was reluctant to purchase even the few items we needed for dinner today. Tomorrow I’ll go to the supermarket and do the weekly veg run there instead, something I’m inclined to continue to do from now on.

Supporting my local shops is one thing, being taken for a ride is quite another. The result of today’s experience is that after many years of being a happy customer, I don’t want to shop with my local greengrocer any more. This seems rather sad to me.

Part of me thinks that my imminent defection to the supermarket is an overreaction, but I feel really unhappy at the tactics used on me today.

Any thoughts?

8 comments to Taking the Proverbial

  • I agree.

    Moreover, I’d print out this blog post and put it through their door, to make the point more clearly.

  • Fatboyfat

    If you don’t tell them how you feel ( and the effect it’s had on their other sales) they’ll never know.

  • I agree, telling them would be a much better thing. Negative feedback is actually much better for the improvement of customer service than positive feedback. It gives them an opportunity to improve! Who knows how much business they lose this way? It’s terrible not to give them the opportunity to make up for it – or really disappoint you. Either way, you win.

  • You’re all quite right of course.

    Now all I have to do is catch the owner at a time when he’s actually there. Unfortunately, recently the place seems to be mostly staffed by an ever changing parade of young part-time workers.

    I wonder if that’s the problem?

  • Probably. He’s probably had to move out of the city, to Sinaloa, where there’s less violence.

    Oh, hang on, that’s not right. No, he’s probably just home, not knowing about how the staff are ruining his customer base.

  • Z

    I’d ask why the price had gone up so much, in the first place. It could be that his normal supplier has gone out of business, for example and he’s had to scout around for a new one. That happened last summer with my son’s strawberry grower and he had to buy all his strawberries from the wholesaler at an increased price. Everything has gone up shockingly this year in the greengrocery line, and there comes a point when you can’t squeeze your margins any more.

    For Christmas trees, Al sets up a blackboard stating how much each size of tree is (different coloured labels) and how many of each he has in stock. This year, the largest one – 7′, the biggest he can get in his van – is £33. He does buy them direct from a grower 8 miles away and picks them up himself, so doesn’t have to pay a middleman.

    It could be that your greengrocer is really struggling financially; in our town there used to be 5 greengrocers and now there’s 1. Some months, Al makes an operating loss and he has pretty small overheads.

    When you buy your veggies from the greengrocer, always check the price per kilo if you buy a small pack or a single item. Some things are way more expensive than a greengrocer.

  • Its a shame when doing something which should be a bit of fun turns into something with a bad taste.

    Our tree seller always puts a price on the little height tags (blue, red etc) and if is a special type like a non needle dropping norseman, he adds that as well – at least to the ones near the front so you know what you are in for.

  • You should put a complaint in. Any reasonable person will be able to see where you’re coming from, and they’ll learn the effect their tactics have had on regular customers.