One of the first trees I purchased for my new yard ten years ago was a fruitless Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua). I wasn’t actually planning to buy this variety of tree but decided when I saw it at a garden center that a Sweet Gum tree that had all the good attributes of a Sweet Gum, but no fruiting, would be a good tree.
Without going into all the details, it turned out that this sweet gum was far from fruitless and in fact is very heavily fruiting most years.
I still have the receipt and the tag, both of which say “fruitless”.
About six years ago, I decided to go back to this garden center with pictures of all the sweet gum balls hanging on the tree and copies of the receipt and tag. I wanted them to know the tree was mis-labeled and I was disappointed. I wasn’t going to ask them to remove the tree so I could plant a tree that I really wanted or anything like that. I just wanted them to do something to show they cared and were sorry about it.
Oh those lucky garden center employees! I made their day. I don’t think anyone had every come back with proof that a tree they sold was mis-labeled. And by the way, it seems to have been mis-labeled by the wholesale nursery first.
They looked at my picture, copies of the tag and receipt, and me and deferred the whole problem to “the manager” who was conveniently not in. But they assured me, promised me, that he would call me!
Six years later, I’m still waiting for that call and I’ve only gone to that garden center once or twice since then. That hasn’t been as hard to do as it sounds because this garden center is not on my side of town.
But when people ask me where to go to buy trees, I tell them about the mis-labeled tree that I got at this garden center, because they should be aware that such a thing can happen to anyone.
What would you have done? What should the garden center manager have done?