The Idiot Gardener

WARNING: This site contains information on gardening, brewing, curing meat,

building shit and hunting, all done in a piss-poor manner. It is not suitable for the

feeble-minded, the weak and lame, those of a nervous disposition, vegans and

vegetarians (and those other ones that only eat fish and the occasional bacon

sandwich - I think they're called 'hypocrites'), those who practice any

manner of folk singing or dancing, people named Colin or fans of Barry Gibb.

You’re just a bunch of amateurs! (Jiffy 7 response)


For those of you that read this drivel on occasions, you might have seen my correspondence with Jiffy over the Jiffy 7 mould explosion. If you didn’t, it’s here. I did receive a reply by email. It was cold and hard. It stated that I needed to supply my address and telephone number, the place I purchased the pellets and the price paid, and a photograph. On receipt, they would assess what action to take. That was all it said. It was from Jeremy Howarth, UK sales manager.

As a matter of course, I sent a brief email to Scot Plants Direct, from whom I had purchased the pellets. Now, remember that my original messages did not seek to lay blame, nor demand a refund or any other compensation. I merely asked what the hell was going on and why my Jiffy 7s were a mould factory while my Gardman pellets, kept in exactly the same environment, were not.

I received a swift reply from Scot Plants Direct’s proprietor, P Kean (no, I don’t know if it is a man or a lady). He/she immediately pointed out that in three years they had never encountered this problem. He/she also stated that the pellets were ‘devoid of mould’. Now, I personally would shy away from such a statement, because I’d want a chemist to certify that before making such a categorical declaration. However, obviously P Kean has some sort of test result pertaining to every batch of pellets he/she ships.

Interestingly, neither P Kean or Jeremy Howarth expressed any concern that a customer was experiencing difficulties. Maybe just a ‘sorry to hear you are having problems’ was just too nice and too customer-friendly for them to bear. Perhaps they feared that a shred of politeness may be construed as accepting liability. Funny that, because when my friend’s Mother died, I told him I was sorry, and I didn’t kill her! I just said it because it shows that I understand. They obviously don’t care about customers enough to pass on a basic drop of civility (or maybe they just don’t like me, which I can’t fault them for if the truth be told).

Still, back to the tale. This morning I received a phone call from Jeremy Howarth, UK Sales Manager for Jiffy. He opened by stating that he was selling pellets in quantities from 1 to 5 million, and had never heard about this problem, so maybe it was something I had done.

I am a customer, and as a customer, I can be free with my money. I’m what most people call a good customer. I do expect service, and I also accept that things can go wrong. If it is me causing the issue, then help me sort it out, and I’ll buy more stuff. If it is you causing the issue, put your hands up and sort it out. I’ll buy more stuff from honest suppliers. Make excuses without really investigating the facts, and I’ll turn on you like a she-wolf protecting her cubs from a rather large cub-eating badger-like beast.

I decided to try and explain to Jeremy Howarth that if he wanted to start off by making excuses without delving into the circumstances, he might be faced with a very disgruntled customer. I didn’t get to the end because the phone went off. A few minutes later he rang back. I asked him if he had put the phone down because he hadn’t liked what I was saying. He said it was because he lost signal. I did mention that if a company cares about its customers, then they would at least show them the respect of ensuring a conversation could be held without interruption. The point wasn’t accepted well.

Jeremy Howarth then went on to explain that mould was not an issue with Jiffy 7s. I asked why, if that was the case, that many people seemed to have experienced the problem.

Then he told me why.


There’s two points here. Firstly, Jiffy obviously think that many of their customers are beneath them, as Mr Jeremy Howarth has pointed out so succinctly. Secondly, if Jeremy Howarth has NEVER heard of the mould problem, then why didn’t he state that he’d never heard similar complaints. No, he told me that we (the people who complain about mould, I can only presume, as that was what he was specifically referring to) are amateurs and bring the problem on ourselves, because we don’t know how to grow plants. So, either Jeremy Howarth is in contempt of those who buy his products for home usage, or he’s not being open when he says he’s never had a complaint about mould.

Okay, maybe we ARE amateurs, but then why does Jiffy want to sell its products to us through garden centres? Why take our money if their product is only for the commercial sector? Surely selling us a product that Jiffy believes we cannot use is at best ill-informed, and at worst deliberately misleading? I, for one, do feel that if I have been sold something without being informed that it is not for the average dufus in the street (despite being openly sold to the average dufus in the street), then I have been misled and maybe even cheated.

This was important, so I asked Jeremy Howarth, UK Sales Manager of Jiffy, what instructions Jiffy gave to consumers regarding the use of Jiffy 7 pellets. He said he didn’t want to discuss this further, that it was going nowhere, and I could have a refund. I repeated my question, and he repeated that he would not discuss it. He seemed very annoyed that I had dared ask about my legal rights. I pointed out that this was a potentially legal issue under consumer law, and asked him why he wouldn’t answer the question.

‘Why won’t you answer the question?’ I asked.

He put the phone down.

He didn’t ring back!

I am caught in three minds. The first mind is that I take my refund, chuck the pellets in the bin, and put the whole sorry episode behind me. It’s the easy option. The second mind is that I pass on a complaint to Trading Standards and agitate for punitive action to be taken. It’s the sensible option. The third mind is that I spend some time circulating my tale of woe to every Jiffy employee I can track down, to every competitor of Jiffy that I can find, to every stockist of Jiffy products that is worth their salt, and to every celebrity that endorses their products. It’s the irritating option.

One thing is for sure; if I chose the latter option, Jeremy Howarth might think I’m an amateur that doesn’t know how to grow plants now, but in the future he’ll think I’m a right bastard!


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17 thoughts on “You’re just a bunch of amateurs! (Jiffy 7 response)

  1. The Mom

    Oh my, that is really awful. I’ve never had a company be so nasty when a customer complains. Usually they want to do anything to make you happy. Whatever you decide to do, it will be interesting.

  2. Jo

    When I asked you to keep us informed of the reply you received I certainly didn’t expect it to be this. The man’s without basic common manners, and if I were him I would have passed on the complaint to someone else in the business who has more people skills than himself, to handle. Do let us know what you decide to do.

  3. Kyna

    Oh, I would be so pissed off if that happened to me. I’ve mentioned before that I’m the manager of a music and DVD department in a huge chain bookstore. My department does the best sales in the district. Part of this is that if there is a problem with a product or a customer isn’t happy about something, I apologize and try to sympathize, even if it’s something I can’t make better. Customer service is everything. Customers are everything. Without them buying stuff, there is no business! A little apology goes a long way. I don’t understand how someone can do that to you (and I’m sure others) and be in business. This probably happens a lot, and he’s tired of dealing with it. What a jerkface. I think you should shout about it from the mountaintops.

  4. Sylvia (England)

    I am sure that these companies rely on us not having the time or energy to complain more! One idea is to send a short letter and picture to all the gardening magazines – they may come up with some ideas on how to use them ‘professionally’ or why you had this problem. Do try another one, just to see if it happens again!

    I am enjoying your blog, thank you for the time and effort it takes to write. Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  5. Meredith

    Oh, my Lord, what abysmal customer service! I can say that because I was once responsible for creating and running the Customer Service Department at a large company, and if ever one of our employees had spoken to a customer like that, they probably would have been disciplined severely. As for hanging up on you, they would have been fired. Period.

    I understand your three minds issue. Understanding that we all lack the time to really become a pain in the butt for these people, I’d probably go for the second option. (I assume the Trading Standards is something like our Better Business Bureau.)

    But I do love Sylvia’s idea of sending a form letter to the mags with pictures, and seeing if you get some coverage. (Of course, remembering that the gardening mags get ad money from these people and thus might not be unbiased.)

  6. jeansgarden

    Are these really mutually exclusive alternatives? How about taking the refund, lodging a complaint with the standards board, writing to garden mags to see if they can help you figure out what went wrong, and make sure to label this post “Jiffy 7” so that it will pop up whenever a potential customer googles the product. (Oh yeah, you’ve already done that :-)) A final thought: Is this product sold through a web site that has a place for “customer reviews”? I can’t tell you how many dubious products I’ve been saved from wasting my money on by the customer reviews posted right there on the website that was trying to sell me the product! Good luck with it — and with germinating your seeds by other means. -Jean

  7. Is the Wiz

    Dear Id, Peat products such as Jiffy 7’s are going the way of the dinosaurs. The only reason they’re still in business in these eco-friendly days is that alternatives are still unreliable, but this is being worked on. Mr. Howarth, I imagine, is suffering from anxiety concerning his future, especially as the government’s targets on peat reduction are meant to be achieved this year. I agree with jeansgarden about tactics, take the refund and and treat yourself. Better still, treat that saintly woman, Mrs IG.

  8. Curbstone Valley Farm

    What ever happened to the ‘customer is always right’? Today it seems commercial enterprise is all about taking money from the customer…customer service be damned! I’d be livid. It’s unacceptable. I’m so sorry you have to deal with these people. These days I’d probably want to go with option one, chuck ’em, move on…but there’s also a large part of me that can’t STAND to be ripped off. Oh, you forgot option four…the power of blogging, also known as word of mouth.

    As for Jiffy, these pellets are not ‘professional use’ products. They are marketed to the home consumer. The pros make their own soil blocks where they can control soil composition. I used Jiffy 7s once, quite a few years ago, and noticed that the membrane that holds the pellet together actually restricted root growth on a number of the plants. The membrane simply didn’t break down quickly enough, and the plants suffered for it. I complained, and received a similar response, that ‘I must have done something wrong’. I’ve never purchased from them again, and never recommend them to anyone. I hope Mr. Howarth has an attack of conscience and calls you back!

  9. Rob

    Welcome to the world of horticulture!

    Unfortunately horticulture as an industry, doesn’t seem to have evolved much over time. By all means make your story known, but for your Jiffy 7s there are dozens of nurseries, pot companies, potting media suppliers etc.. that are not so hot with their customer service.

    Best to avoid them, and stick with the tried and tested brands and companies. So much of what is available these days is just a gimmick.

    As people get wise, the revenue of the crap companies will take a tumble. Better companies will take their places.

  10. Damo

    That’s incredible he doesn’t know the basics of customer service. I deal with customers regularly and the very least they expect is empathy for what has happened to them. I’ve never used these products but I’d just take the refund and spend it on something more worthy.

  11. The Idiot Gardener

    I have contacted the board of Jiffy International AS, and I have also offered a link to this piece to several intersted parties. For that reason, I’m glad to have you lot say your piece.

    I’m really interested to see whether Jiffy really do dislike their customer base and think we’re idiots, or, dare I suggest it, that Jeremy is a bastard who thinks we’re below him!

    For legal reasons, I can’t say which is true, although I can say that I think Jeremy is a proper ignorant cock!

  12. debsgarden

    Wow, I am sorry you are having these problems. Nothing spoils a day like having to be on the phone with someone who talks down at you and makes no effort to help you. Telling your woes on the internet is one way of getting some satisfaction. Getting a refund is another. But I wouldn’t hang on to the issue too long, as it will make you miserable!

  13. Ceara

    Good for you in fighting back. But now that you’ve made the matter public, perhaps they’ve been embarrassed enough. Though make sure they know this is online for the world to see.
    How dare he make a comment about “amateurs.” That was downright rude. If he had any sense, he should have said “sorry about your problem, here’s a refund” right away before going on and on about how they never saw that problem before and it couldn’t possibly be their fault. The nerve of some companies!

  14. jodi (bloomingwriter)

    The mind absolutely boggles at the rudeness of these people you were dealing with. I have a solution (on my part). I’ll never buy Jiffy products again. I have done so, and was planning to do so again. But there are other options. What a bunch of wankers.

  15. paull

    What was the response you had from Scot Plants Direct? I have a couple of hundred of badly failed plants from them and I’m not impressed with their response so far


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