Thursday, January 7, 2010

Please -- Complain to Me. Plus Winter Squash Curry Coconut Soup

I was delighted to find Renee's Garden has earned two Dave's Garden "Five Top Garden Badges". Besides many great gardening forums and excellent services, Dave's Garden encourages members to rate garden product websites. Renee's ranks high, but when I read through all the comments about us, I saw that while there were 44 positives, there were 3 negative ones (although not very current as one dated to 2003, because "anything that plays on the web stays on the web").

More to the point: when I read them, I felt so frustrated! One negative complaint was that we had sent the wrong packet with the comment that while she knew companies often substituted items, we had exceeded her tolerance for that. The truth is that our two seed packet order "pickers" had made a mistake and pulled the wrong item. We don't substitute items and would not do so, because if you order something from us, I assume that you want that item, not something else. Errors in orders don't occur very often, but our order pickers are human and, once in a great while, they may mix up packets or omit one.

It is my fervent wish that customers whose orders are incorrect would call us on our toll-free number (1-888-880-7228) or e-mail us ( as soon as they see the error, so we can properly apologize and replace the packet immediately.

One of the other complaints was of getting crushed seeds with a comment about quality control. We do ship in padded "jiffy packs", but the realities of the Post Office mean that once in a while a packet gets mashed in transit. Once again, if that person had called or e-mailed us, we would have sent them a replacement the same day.

What's hard for me to understand is: why do people with complaints make the time to post the complaint on the Internet without being willing to take the time to contact the company who made the error in the first place?  Very often the order can be corrected and they can get what they wanted and paid for. Moreover, why do people assume that if a mistake happens on their order, it's somehow an indication that as a company we don't care about quality or customer satisfaction?

My company's policy is that we treat our customers in the same way we would want to be treated as a customer -- an extension of the Golden Rule. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but unfortunately some customers just assume that even small companies like ours don't care about their customers and don't intend to do a good job. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Soup

Beautiful soup
So rich
 So green,
Waiting in a hot tureen
Who for such dainties would not stoop.

Soup of the evening
Beautiful Soup,
Soup of the evening,
Beautiful Soup
Lewis Carroll -- "Alice in Wonderland"

Lindsay's Winter Squash Curry Coconut Soup

Having lots of winter squash harvested last fall from our trial gardens, Trial Garden Manager Lindsay concocted this lovely soup. She's a very talented cook and often comes up with ways to incorporate her favorite Asian flavors into everyday meals. This is one of my favorites. I've made this recipe 3 different times now and can recommend it heartily. I have happily divided the soup into in lunch-size portions and then frozen it in individual containers. Then I take the individual portions to the office with me and microwave them into hot deliciousness to enjoy on cold afternoons. I particularly like to top each portion with fresh whole plain yogurt and chopped fresh cilantro. Yum.
What scraped out squash looks like

2 large leeks, each 1 1/2 inches in diameter, long white shank portions only
3 tablespoons canola or other mild cooking oil
1 tablespoon good-quality curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 cups cooked hard-shelled winter squash, seeds and skins removed, flesh mashed
1 13 1/2-ounce can “light” coconut milk
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided into1-cup portions
GARNISH: Seeds from one large pomegranate and cilantro

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise. Wash all the layers very well to remove grit, then thinly slice. Heat the oil in a large heavy soup pot. Add the sliced leeks and sauté over medium heat for 5 or 6 minutes until they are well caramelized and beginning to brown. Stir in curry powder, ground cayenne and salt and sauté slowly for another minute or two. Add the cooked squash and entire can of coconut milk and mix in well. Add the chicken stock slowly and then add 1 cup of fresh cilantro. Mix thoroughly to smoothly combine ingredients. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more salt if desired. If the soup seems too thick, add a little more chicken stock. Serve piping hot in large individual soup bowls. Sprinkle the top of each serving with the additional cup of cilantro and the pomegranate seeds.

Note: If you prefer a smoother texture, blend the soup in a food processor or blender before serving.

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Alexandra said...

Crazy-- this was one of the things I made last fall. 'Hmmm. I have a pumpkin, and a can of coconut milk. Sounds like soup!"

Great to see it here, and I can't believe it took me this long to find you! (via MrBrownThumb twitter)

Renee Shepherd said...

And we are SO glad you did find us.. and enjoy the yummy soup - it's easy and good for you too.

patricia said...

Last spring I had a small problem, called Renee's and the problem was resolved easily and with speed. Speed is important to the gardener because we often have a schedule we consider important.
Besides being well taken care of, I had a chat with the person, including weather and the result of that was mentioned in my blog. Altogether a pleasant exchange.

FranE said...

I received my seeds in a timely manner and in good order. I had known I would because I used to have a store that sold them. They are great seeds and I promote them to friends.
I am definitely going to have to make the soup. Will feed back how my teenage grandsons like it.

Sandy said...

I'm so glad I was steered to your company. How unfair of people to not let you make good on your seeds, peolple can be soooo rude. We are setting up our first garden as mother, daughter and 2 yr old granddaughter. I look forward to ordering from you. Have a Blesed day...

Anonymous said...

Interesting post you got here. I'd like to read more concerning this matter. Thanks for sharing this material.
Joan Stepsen
Cool geeks

Joe said...

Hey, I finally found the new company! -- was a Shepherds Seeds customer for a number of years and I'm delighted to once again find some of those European gourmet varieties to order.
My experiences with the old company was always very positive -- I always love doing business with small, customer-focused companies -- and I expect to be a continuing customer of Renee's Garden -- Captain Zucchini

Renee Shepherd said...

Glad you found us too, Joe. Since Shepherd's seeds are no longer available, I have a list of the Renee's Seeds equivalents on our website, so you can still buy those excellent varieties. Here's the direct link to that list:

Happy Gardening!

Susan said...

I purchased a bunch of seeds at the end of last year for this spring and was thrilled with my order. Your packets of multiple varieties can't be beat!

Anonymous said...

I share your frustration! I, too, have had similar experiences with customers taking the time to complain (fortunately, rarely) online, but not taking the time to contact me first for a quick and easy fix. Thank you for making me feel less alone! :P
Anyways, I just ordered some seeds from your delightful catalog, and I can't wait for Spring! Thanks so much for all you do!

Unknown said...

I am in the customer service business and I constantly tell customers that "I can't fix something if I don't know it is broken" so please tell me if there is a problem.

I certainly understand your frustration and am appreciative of your desire to assist every customer with their issues.

Many companies do not take that same approach and it is refreshing to see that there is someone else that believes as I do about customer service.

Thank you for your prompt attention to the seeds that I previously ordered from your company. I will certainly be ordering more.

Kelly said...

I really like what I just read here, especially after just ordering a birthday gift for my mother from your seed site. The container garden packet looks both adorable and practical, it will make the perfect gift... I am happy to found yet another seed company and blog to follow along with, I and I will be sure to share any rave reviews I hear from my Mom over at Dave's!

Renee Shepherd said...

Thank you Kelly!


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