I deposited a check today from the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD). That action closed a chapter for me that, at its heart, threatened to ruin my gardening for the summer.
My vegetable garden is one of the highlights of summer and fall–from first planting to tending the young plants and weeding, tying up the tomatoes, harvesting the first lettuce, picking beans, thinning beets and carrots, and picking tiny two-inch pickling cucumbers to turn into cornichons.
Only this year I was in for a rude surprise. I planted beans, thin small delicious haricot verts. But, not much happened. A few plants came up and then withered away but most never broke ground. So, I replanted and tried again. Tried a third time. I also noticed the peas doing the same thing. And the cucumbers I use to make those fabulous cornichons grew to about one inch and then stopped.
On June 27 the cause of these anomalies was reported on WCAX news–compost from CSWD was contaminated with pesticides. On July 7, The Burlington Free Press reported that tests confirmed herbicides had been found in the compost samples from the CSWD and warned that certain vegetables would likely be affected including beans, peas, and tomatoes: They wouldn’t grow at all, or they might germinate but not produce vegetables, or the yield could be severely diminished.
Quickly, the CSWD had information on their website and asked people who might be affected to contact them, preferably with photos showing the symptoms. By August they were doing site visits to the affected gardens. The young woman who showed up at my place could not have been nicer. She took pictures and made notes on her iPad. It turned out that only two of my four raised beds had been affected—the ones with the peas, beans and cukes—and fortunately my tomatoes weren’t in either of those beds. But they were showing signs of late blight, and she took photos and notes of that as well.
Next I heard from the CSWD asking when specifically I bought the affected compost. Miracle of miracles I found the receipt, scanned it and sent it in. Soon after, I received a letter with a description of my situation and their offer to reimburse me for the cost of the compost plus an additional $100 for seeds and lost produce.
Now, $130 doesn’t cover my cost, certainly not when you factor in my time. But that mattered not a whit. Right from the start CSWD took responsibility, kept me informed, followed through on each promise made, took responsibility for the problem, and showed genuine concern. Their customer service was exemplary.
Sure, they had a problem – a huge one. But they also showed compassion for the difficulties they caused, and they were honorable in their dealing with me. That is great customer service. Thank you, CSWD.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."