Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Small, but perfectly formed

Last Saturday afternoon I spent an hour on the website of a company called MoreVeg who sell smaller quantities of seeds for lower prices for those of us who don't want to grow 3,000 carrots in one season. The web site was simple and easy to navigate, the ordering process simple and on Tuesday morning my 18 packet order arrived, postage free, with a little handwritten personal note wishing me kind regards and happy gardening. 'How nice,' I thought, so I sent an e-mail to MoreVeg and thanked them for a friendly, quick and efficient service. I also enquired if they were planning to stock seeds for plum tomatoes as I'm keen to grow some this year as I am appalled that Sainsbugs has more than doubled the price of their tins of plum tomatoes in the last 6 months. Now, I know that plum tomatoes aren't the most expensive item to purchase, but there is a point of principle here which I intend to do something about.

By lunchtime I had received an e-mail back from MoreVeg saying that they did indeed do seeds for plum tomatoes. They were on the website already. The nice lady recommended a variety she had found to be especially good for making sauces. She also asked if I thought the website labelling needed to be clearer as it appeared from my enquiry that it wasn't obvious that plum tomatoes were already on the site. They were keen to improve their service so any feedback would be welcome.

Well, I felt a bit of a numpty because when I checked the site again, there they were, although to be fair to me and my poor banged head, it wasn't wholly obvious they were plum tomato varieties. So I e-mailed MoreVeg back and explained that I had clearly had a mush-for-brains moment but perhaps a big title - 'PLUM TOMATOES'- written in luminous letters with accompanying bells and whistles might help me in the future when I was having trouble with grasping the bleedin' obvious.

It was all very cheerful banter and I shall use in the future as they are a small but perfectly formed, efficient and helpful group of people who care about customer service.

And then, on Monday, I had cause to ring the GoodLife Press in order to renew our subscription to 'The Home Farmer' magazine. This quirky monthly publication is just about to celebrate its first birthday. Andy and I have been devotees since Issue 1. It's the ideal read for people like us who want to do more fending for themselves in life but maybe don't have the luxury of masses of land and/or money. It's got a good on-line community where people can swap ideas and share experiences. It encourages people to try new things and 'have-a-go.' It cares about the values and ethos of self-sufficiency and has been responsible for us starting chicken keeping and sausage making and imminent bee-keeping.

So I called and spoke to a very nice man who sounded unnervingly like Andy's dad. He thanked us for our support over the last year and continued support in renewing our subscription. I thanked him for producing a lovely, if slightly bonkers magazine and told him about the chickens, sausages and bees. We had quite a conversation about bees. And windmills. And the Home Farmer Forum. And once again, it was very pleasant to be able to deal with a small but perfectly formed company who care about good customer service. So have a look at I am sure you'll be informed and entertained.

And I think it just goes to show that when companies stay small and perfectly formed, the world is a better place. The big boys in the retail and utility sectors should take note. Big isn't always best.

'We've earned another £2 this week from selling our eggs,' says Mrs Miggins. 'That makes a profit of £3 so far this year.'
'Yes,'I say. 'But I don't think you qualify as a multi-national business concern just yet.'
'When we do,' says Miggins, 'I'm going to buy a power dressing business suit in fuschia pink with huge shoulder pads.'
I sigh. 'Mrs Miggins, we've had this discussion before about chickens and their lack of shoulders. Why do you want a suit with shoulder pads?'
'Oh, I shan't keep them in the suit,' says Miggins. 'I shall take them out. I've heard they make wonderful kneeling pads for when one is weeding one's borders.'

I think, shall I tell Mrs M about a chicken's lack of knees? No. If she's willing to weed the borders for us, she can have as many knees as she likes.

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