Monday, January 16, 2012

The Brick Joke

Mr. Subjunctive's Bucket List

1. Go to Siberia and play with the tame foxes.
2. Hang out and drink with Jo "Supernanny" Frost until she starts swearing.1
3. Get self kicked out of a garden center. DONE!

There is a type of gag that comedy writers call a "brick joke." The basic form of a brick joke is that you tell one (sometimes deliberately unfunny) joke at the beginning of the set, episode, season, or whatever, and then an incidental and/or unresolved detail from the first joke returns long after everybody's forgotten it, at the end of the set/episode/etc., to pay off the last joke. TV Tropes uses these as an example:
First joke:
Once upon a time, there was a man who wanted to build a house. But, being a little eccentric, he wanted to build the house using only 99 bricks. So he went to the hardware store and said, "Hello, I'd like to buy 99 bricks."
The owner of the store told him, "I'm sorry, we only sell bricks in quantities of 100."
"Can't you cut me a deal or something?" the man asked.
"Nope, sorry," replied the owner. So the guy bought 100 bricks.
He took the bricks back to his lot, and he built a house using 99 bricks. Now, if you do the math, 100 minus 99 is 1, so he had one brick left. And he took that brick, and he just chucked it, way up in the air!

Second joke:
A guy was riding on an airplane, and he decided to smoke a cigar. Unfortunately, he was sitting next to a woman with a dog. The dog began coughing, so the lady said, "Excuse me, sir, but could you please put out your cigar? It's really bothering my dog."
He angrily replied, "No, I won't! You shouldn't have a dog on this flight anyways!"
"This is a non-smoking flight! You need to put that cigar out!" she said. They argued back and forth... get rid of the dog, put out the cigar, and so on.
Finally, the man said, "Look, I'll compromise with you. If you get rid of your dog, I'll get rid of the cigar." HE was thinking, "She'll never want to give up her dog." But much to his surprise, she agreed to the deal!
The lady opened the window (amazingly, without causing the air pressure inside the plane to drop) and threw her dog out. The man, thinking that he had another cigar anyways, threw his cigar out the window, thinking that he had won.
However, the woman suddenly reached out the window, and grabbed her dog's leash! As she pulled the dog back in, she was thinking that she'd won, but do you know what the dog had in its mouth? A brick!
I apologize for neither joke being especially funny, but that's the general shape of a brick joke: the punchline for one joke comes from a mostly-forgotten detail in the other.

Aglaonema NOID, thought to be 'King of Siam.' Purchased January 16, 2008; photo is from July 2011. For reasons to be explained, photos for this post are plants I bought from Pierson's, and still have.

Why do I bring it up? Well, do y'all remember a post I wrote in October 2010 about Pierson's Flower Shop and Greenhouses, in Cedar Rapids, and how I was going to stop going there for a year or two because I was so disgusted with how crappily-maintained the plants were?2 Well, that was a brick I threw fifteen months ago. I never forgot about the post, but it also wasn't something I thought about a lot, either. Whenever Pierson's came to mind, my thought process usually didn't go any further than calculating how long it had been since I was last there, and whether or not it was time to go back. Last Monday, I decided that enough time had passed, I wasn't upset with them anymore, and I was ready to go back and see if things were any different now. (I'd assumed no one at Pierson's would see the post in the first place, and if someone did, they wouldn't take it seriously. But I figured there would be some kind of changes after more than a year and was curious about what they'd be.)

So we went. And I was surprised: one of the very first things I saw in the store was a sign they'd printed up listing their plant prices. This was a big deal to me. Previously, they never had anything priced, and it used to drive me nuts. I mean, sure, I could hunt someone down and ask. When I saw something I found especially interesting, of course I did hunt someone down and ask. But it was still irritating to have to go to the extra trouble. This was one of the things I'd griped about in the Open Letter post in 2010, so I was like, holy crap, they finally did that, good for them.

And then I wandered around a bit in the greenhouses, and saw that they had separated the small plants from one another, so you could pick one up without spending half an hour untangling it from all its neighbors. That had been another one of my complaints. The cacti were on tables in the brighter greenhouse, instead of drowning in no-drain trays in the dark greenhouse. There weren't any weed-filled pots lying around taking up space, the place was noticeably cleaner than it had been before3 -- basically everything I'd critiqued before was much better than it had been.4 I didn't even spot any bugs, on anything, which if you're in the business, you know that's awfully close to miraculous.

So it wasn't all perfect, but noticeable changes had been made, the place looked a lot better, the price signs alone made me nearly giddy, and a lot of things seemed to track my specific critiques kind of suspiciously well.

Chamaedorea metallica. Purchased February 16, 2007. Photo from January 2011.

They even had a plant I wanted to buy (Pellionia repens), which seemed to be in decent shape, and that never happens to me anymore.5 But first there were plants to photograph, and there was at least one other garden center to visit before going home, so I basically decided that I'd get pictures at Pierson's, then we'd get in the car and go to Frontier, the other garden center I like in Cedar Rapids,6 and if Frontier didn't have anything I was interested in -- which seemed probable -- then I'd go back to Pierson's and buy a Pellionia repens on our way out of town. This would also slightly reduce the amount of time the plant would have to sit out in the car in the cold. (Pellionias dislike cold.) So I was in a fairly good mood. I found an exceptionally large Polyscias crispata and was snapping pictures of it when two employees came in the greenhouse. And we had this conversation:7

Employee 1: You getting some good pictures?
Me: Maybe; I never know until I get 'em uploaded.
Employee 1 or 2:8 Is this for a blog?
Me: Yeah.
Employee 1 or 2: Is your name [my actual name]?
Me: Yeah.
Employee 1 or 2: You can't be in here, then.
Me: [stops taking pictures, looks at Employee 2]
Employee 2: I'm supposed to ask you to leave. No pictures.9
Me: Oh. Okay.

And then, WHAM! I get hit smack in the mouth by this brick! It just came flying out of nowhere!

Aglaonema 'Gold Dust.' Purchased March 2, 2009. Photo is as of April 2010.

Well, no. Not really. Actually I just went to the parking lot, and the husband and I drove off. Then began a whole afternoon of trying to get my brain around what had just happened, because this seemed pretty extreme. The Open Letter post was the only one I've ever done that could conceivably have gotten this sort of reaction, and it's also more than a year old. Even when it was new, it didn't attract a lot of traffic, and I'd never noticed it getting many hits, so I'd never had any reason to think anybody much had ever read it. So this didn't quite add up.

Once we got home and I started working on writing a post about this -- because of course I'm going to blog about this; how could I not blog about this -- I looked for Pierson's with Google. Maybe my post showed up really prominently in searches, and I'd just not noticed people coming to the blog to read it. But it wasn't in the top three pages of Google results for "Pierson's Flower Shop" or "Pierson's Flower Shop and Greenhouses." So this was probably not a Google problem. I checked the Google reviews page: nothing there either. I clicked on, which was low on the first page of one of the Google searches, and . . . there was my blog post.

Or at least most of it. Someone had copied and pasted about 2/3 of my post to Yelp, the day after I put it up on PATSP. They included a link to the original PATSP post, and gave Pierson's a one-star (out of five) rating. But it gets worse, because this "review" also happened to be the first one for Pierson's on Yelp, and stayed the only one they had from October 2010, when the Open Letter was posted, until May 2011, when someone else gave them a five-star review, bringing the average up to three stars. So for seven months, they had the lowest possible rating in Yelp, and another eight months had only brought them up to average.

So then my banishment made a lot more sense. I don't know if a lot of people actually use Yelp when shopping around for services, or if that's how Pierson's became aware of my post -- Yelp is still relatively new, and there are lots of competing websites -- but Yelp is big enough that I've heard of it, so maybe having a one-star rating could hurt.

So. Gentle readers, we should probably talk.

Abutilon 'Bella Red.' Purchased May 20, 2010. Photo is also from May 2010 because, frankly, this one's not doing so well for me indoors. But it is still alive.

This is not something that should have happened. I didn't post this to Yelp; I don't know who did; I didn't recognize the name or location attached to the review; I wasn't asked for permission; I wouldn't have granted permission had I been asked. Furthermore, I actually have a policy about people re-using my text, which is spelled out down toward the bottom of the sidebar and has been the same for virtually the whole lifetime of PATSP:
all rights reserved. Text may not be duplicated by any means without permission of its author, who is actually pretty easygoing under most circumstances and will probably say okey-dokey if you ask to reproduce something (but you still have to ask, and credit mr_subjunctive as the author of the excerpted part).
Now. I understand why someone might have thought that this was okay -- I put the original post on the internet, in public, so what could be wrong with making it more public, by copying it and posting it somewhere else? I mean, we'll get to why it's wrong in a bit, but I do understand how a person could not see the problem. So I'm not exactly mad at the person who did this (and if you're reading this, please, do not under any circumstances apologize to me about it, 'cause then I'll know who you are, and I Don't. Want. To Know.), but I did have a guideline about this, which should have prevented what happened here.10 It's all fun and games until somebody can't buy a Pellionia.

I went ahead and did the obvious thing, and sent a message to Yelp explaining that the review in question used my words without my approval, asking if that was good enough, legally, to have the review pulled, and within about 36 hours,11 I had a message back saying that the review had been removed. So that much has been dealt with, and I'm really sorry that I couldn't have done that sooner.12

I realize I'm still probably not Pierson's favorite person. That's okay. I'm not really trying to be. I don't necessarily want to be allowed back -- I stayed away for fifteen months voluntarily and didn't really miss it, so staying away involuntarily probably won't tear me all up inside either. Plus, even in the best-case scenario, I can't imagine a way to go to Pierson's again that wouldn't feel incredibly awkward. On the other hand, if they're to hate me, I'd prefer they at least hate me for the asshole I meant to be, not the asshole I accidentally became.

Pelargonium x hortorum 'Vancouver Centennial.' Bought March 2, 2009; photo from August 2011.

This whole story sort of begs for a concluding moral of some kind, like and that's why you should never write anything mean about anybody on the internet. I'm not sure any moral is available, though, since the results are so mixed. I mean, in one sense, saying mean things about people on the internet worked out great for me: I got what I wanted, plus quite a bit more than I expected. The price signs are up, the cacti are getting better treatment, the 3- and 4-inch plants are more accessible, the greenhouse is cleaner, etc. I'm not the one to ask about whether it's good for Pierson's, but I figure it's probably not harming them significantly. On the other hand, I lost unexpected things as well: I don't get to go there anymore, and now there's all this new bad blood between us.

So maybe not a moral. Perhaps a lesson?

Ennh. Probably not that either: given the chance to go back in time and do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I'd probably write more or less the same post (though I would maybe call special attention to the text-reuse policy, and skip the Pedilanthus). I don't apologize for, you know, noticing things. Especially noticing things about retail establishments that are open to the public. And I figure, also, the way you know you can trust me when I say Pierson's has improved is because I didn't pull punches saying they sucked.

So I guess let's go with cautionary tale. Words left on the internet can travel to other places, can go wandering around in bad neighborhoods, can stay out too late, can come home at 3 AM via police escort, stinking of booze, with a big infected-looking gash across their cheek that they don't remember getting and a misspelled tattoo just above their butt ("Momm"). And it's all the more likely when they're not nice, wholesome, milk-drinking words to begin with.

It could happen to you.


P.S. I have every reason to believe that representatives of Pierson's will read this post, since they started checking PATSP several times a day right after the whole throwing-out incident happened and I assume this is what they've been waiting to read. I mention this for two reasons:
1) Regular PATSP readers should be aware that Pierson's will probably see your comments. I don't foresee any problems, and probably don't need to say anything anyway, 'cause you guys are nice people, but, you know, just a reminder that this is public. (In case the post itself wasn't reminder enough.)
2) If someone representing Pierson's wishes to respond to any of this (and you don't have to, obviously -- it's just if you want to), it's possible to leave a comment anonymously, without being signed in to Google/Facebook/Wordpress/etc. Scroll past the footnotes and you'll see something like this:

Click on the word "comments." A new page will open, with all the comments so far on the left and a blank white box on the right. Below the blank white box will be radio buttons for "OpenID," "Name/URL," and "Anonymous;" select Anonymous, write your comment in the white box (if you're writing as a representative of Pierson's, please say so somewhere in the comment), and click the orange "Publish Your Comment" button when finished. You should see the same page come up again, with a note at the top saying "Your comment has been saved and will be visible after blog owner approval." I'll approve pretty much anything that 1) isn't spam, 2) doesn't reveal personal information about me, and 3) isn't abusive towards another commenter. Comments left during the day are almost always approved within an hour; it may take longer before 7 AM or after 4 PM.


1 C'mon, there's no way anybody who spends that much time around that many children doesn't swear.
2 No? Well here's the link: Open Letter to Pierson's Flower Shop and Greenhouses
3 Still not clean in any kind of absolute sense: I think we arrived while they were in mid-clean, because I saw piles of dead leaves on some of the tables, and an employee was going around picking them up. Clearly they were being dealt with, though, so this also counts as an improvement over the last visit.
4 One exception: they still have the fungusy Pedilanthus that pushed me over the edge in the first place. They get a pass on the Pedilanthus, though, because 1) everything else was so much better, and 2) I've seen the same Pedilanthus varieties in other stores since then, and they are apparently just enormously susceptible to fungus. One place has managed to keep one specimen looking nice (the ex-job, though they also have two or three other specimens that look less nice), but Pierson's probably did me a favor by scaring me away from them. This still doesn't excuse setting them under hanging baskets (and they still were, as of last Monday), but fungus-free Pedilanthus was possibly an unattainable goal in any circumstances, so . . . Whoops. Sorry about that.
5 It was overpriced ($7.99 for 4-inch pot), and not terribly full, but I've never seen one for sale anywhere else around here, it appeared to be in good shape, and Pellionias fill in quick and propagate easily, so it was probably worth it anyway.
6 There's also Peck's, which is, like Pierson's, both a flower shop and garden center. I don't hate Peck's, but they're not a must-visit destination like Pierson's was and Frontier still is. I'm vaguely aware of another place, Culver's, but I don't think they deal in indoor plants at all, so I've never been there.
7 I wrote the conversation down about thirty minutes after it happened, while it was still relatively fresh in my mind, so although the dialogue may not be entirely exact quotes, I think most of it is.
8 I was looking at the plant and/or camera for the middle part of the conversation, so I don't know which employee was talking.
9 Which is why I'm not using any of the pictures I'd already taken in this post; I'm not sure how to interpret "no pictures," after I'd taken some already.
10 Copying to a review site is, admittedly, not a form of text-copying I'd anticipated. It's not even a form of text-copying I could have imagined before this month. So the all-rights-reserved policy wasn't really built for this kind of situation, but it still ought to have worked.
I also feel like possibly I should explain why it makes a difference where the words are posted, since they're the same words in both cases and it may not be obvious how the two situations differ.
My view is that blogs are an ongoing conversation about specific things; review sites like Yelp are one-time advice about an entire business. If I'm exasperated with a particular person, I can go to the husband and rant about how frustrating said person is, and we both understand that although I'm ranting, the person hasn't always been doing the annoying things I'm complaining about, and won't necessarily do the annoying things in the future. I've mentioned Pierson's on the blog several times, sometimes positively, sometimes not, but the point with the Open Letter post was not Pierson's sucks and all their plants are crap so much as Pierson's sucks and it's driving me crazy because all this sucking is so totally unnecessary and avoidable.
On a review site, though, that progression of time is lost. Yelp does permit a person to re-review places they've already covered: the star ratings of the new review replace the star ratings of the old one (I think), but both reviews remain visible, so in theory it was possible that the person who'd put the Open Letter on Yelp might add a more favorable review afterward, if I put up a more favorable post later. But of course I couldn't rely on them to maintain a Yelp account, and they wouldn't automatically add a new post of mine to Pierson's Yelp page even if they were maintaining an account (they could have stopped reading PATSP, or stopped reviewing things at Yelp, etc.). And even if they were still on Yelp and did add a new post to their review page, the old post would still be visible and capable of doing damage.
So as far as some random person looking through Yelp -- or any other business review site -- is concerned, the message of the Open Letter post is not Pierson's, you don't have to suck so much but instead everything about Pierson's sucks. And if you're looking for a florist, whether there are more positive evaluations of Pierson's at Yelp or not, you're probably going to steer clear of any business where everything sucks, especially since there are other choices available.
I'd also like to note, for the record, that even at the time I wrote the previous post, when I was maximally frustrated with them, I wouldn't have rated Pierson's one star. Two, probably, but not one.
I have a feeling that I'm still not explaining this well, and it's possible that my logic is faulty besides, but this is as good as I can do for right now: the Open Letter wasn't meant to describe the business as a whole, as a review would do; it was intended to compare the business to older versions of itself.
11 (I contacted Yelp late on Monday night; they replied at 1:22 PM Wednesday afternoon.)
12 As far as it goes -- I looked at other sites to see if the same thing might have happened anywhere else, and didn't see anything like that, but if anybody happens to run across anything similar, about Pierson's or anything else, of course I want to know about it. Just for future reference.
I also wish that Pierson's had contacted me about Yelp when they first encountered it, or had contacted me about the post, period. I mean, I know I don't sound particularly interested in a conversation, in the post, and I don't blame them for not doing so or consider it necessarily their responsibility to do so, but nevertheless, I wish they had.


El Gaucho said...

I'm not from your neck of the woods and have never been to any of the establishments you mention, so I don't have a ferret in this wrestling match. My only issue with a Yelp review that co-opts someone else's writing is that Yelp is supposed to be your personal experience - "I went to place X and this happened, good or bad". To copy the complaint or praise of someone else seems a bit disingenuous.

But regardless of how or why it happened, the bottom line is that the web (through its unique brand of journalistic vigilantism) helped to improve a place you like. Even if you're banned from Pierson's for eternity, you can still rest easy knowing that you helped make something least that's my attempt at some positive spin.

CelticRose said...

Wow. Someone copied & pasted your blog to a review site? That is so not cool. That makes it look like you posted the review.

As for writing posts complaining about a business, don't be afraid to do that. I always appreciate it when I see posts like that because then I know that the blogger isn't afraid to tell it like it is, and if they praise something I'll know they're being honest.

I'm kind of surprised and impressed that Pierson's actually fixed the problems you mentioned in your post. Too many businesses ignore customer feedback.

Ginny Burton said...

A couple of questions spring to mind:

1. Why didn't Pierson's contact you immediately? I reply (with thanks) to everyone who has ever reviewed my business. When I posted a negative review of a hardware store, the manager emailed me within a few hours, apologized, and asked for clarification about the employe. It turned out that I had named the wrong person and the apology was so heartfelt that I removed the entire post.

2. Why didn't you mail your Open Letter to Pierson's -- to Pierson's? I can see that venting is a personal relief, but a letter in the mail has amazing clout. The changes probably would have been made and you'd have been welcome at Pierson's. In fact, if they were smart business people, you might have been given a gift certificate. Which brings me to

3. What would happen if someone gave you a gift certificate to Pierson's?

Pat said...

Business consultancy can pay $1000s for less good advice than they got for free. The post at Yelp clearly did not come from you.

mr_subjunctive said...

El Gaucho:

Which is pretty much how I see it, though obviously the seven months with a one-star rating offsets the making-it-better angle somewhat.


I was impressed too. Getting the pricing signs posted, even if nothing else had changed, would have made the whole thing worth it, as far as I'm concerned.

Ginny Burton:

Well, the reason why I didn't send it to them is mostly because I couldn't believe anyone running a greenhouse could need to have these things pointed out. If the problems were obvious to me, and ongoing, I assumed they were also obvious to Pierson's, and that a decision had been made that those things weren't important enough to deal with. And I'd rather rage impotently than say something and not be taken seriously, apparently.

I have no idea why they didn't contact me immediately. I know I occasionally miss out on e-mails due to people not reading the instructions for how to get my actual e-mail address from the one posted in the sidebar -- it's there so I don't have to post my actual address and get deluged with spam, but it foils more than spambots. It's also possible that they had the same reaction I did and figured anybody who was so obviously angry at them would ignore anything they had to say, so there was no point. But really you'd have to ask them.

The gift certificate question is a little too hypothetical for me to be able to answer.


The thought had crossed my mind. Though, again, the seven months with a one-star rating does cancel that out a bit.

Liza said...

What I don't understand is the decision to not let you back. It sounds like it was made in anger, which is a shame.

What they ought to do is welcome you and your camera back with open arms. Prove to you they've changed, and in turn, let you show the world. They should strut not act like a pissed off six-year-old.

It's awesomely incredible that they took your advice - why wouldn't they want you to see that? You helped them, now they're punishing you? That's childish.

mr_subjunctive said...


Well, but they couldn't have known from the Open Letter post that I didn't just hate them, particularly once the Yelp review was up and it looked like I was just deliberately trying to lose them business. I mean, if somebody publishes a blog post full of unflattering photos of your establishment, and you see them in your place with a camera again a year later, you're not necessarily going to be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that no, this time they're taking good pictures, especially if you've never talked to one another about the original blog post. I mean, my banishment makes total sense to me, given how much of the story they had at the time. And there wasn't really a way to talk about it in the moment. It's maybe sort of ironic (in the Alanis sense) that they didn't want me taking pictures of how things had changed, but I can't blame them for leaping to the conclusions they leapt to: that would have been my reaction as well.

Paul said...

On the one hand, that was actually rather amusing irony. Definitely the type of situation that seems funnier as time passes.

I agree that you absolutely have the right to be irked with whomever used your words without first asking permission. Furthermore, I agree with EG that reviews are to be based on one's personal experiences -- not on something someone read elsewhere.

Now as far as complaining about substandard businesses or business dealings, there is NO reason for you to feel bad about doing so nor to cease doing so when experienced. The whole "don't say anything mean although true" BS is taking political correctness crap to a moronic extreme. You have no reason profer an apology to Pierson's nor any reason to feel as though you should.

If Pierson's wishes to have a hissy cow over the fact that their deficiencies were exposed for all to see, let them. If you own a business, you have to accept the fact that word of shoddy products or services IS going to get around -- just as word of exemplary products or services does. A good business will look at customer complaints and -- if those complaints have merit -- makes the necessary changes.

I, too, give credit to Pierson's for making significant changes to their store based upon your evaluation. However (assuming the review is at the heart of this), it would seem that it hasn't occurred to them that the reason they later received such a glowing review from another customer was BECAUSE of the changes they made based on your critique.

If the owner/manager of Pierson's had had any common sense, instead of asking you to leave they should have asked you if you had noticed the improvements to the store since your last visit and what your impression was now.

mr_subjunctive said...

El Gaucho:

Wait. Did you say ferret-wrestling?


I don't remember for certain, but I think the other Yelp review referred to a flower shop delivery order, so the customer who left it wouldn't necessarily have ever been in the store. And we don't know when they found Yelp or PATSP and decided to make the changes, either.

Otherwise, yeah. I guess. I don't think we should necessarily assume Pierson's are idiots who don't understand these things; they did make the changes to the store, and they didn't retaliate except for the (really pretty polite) banishment, which I think was probably reasonable from what information they had at the time.

Kenneth Moore said...

Several comments here:

1. Wow! Congrats, I think. That seems like quite an experience.

2. In the food industry (which I learned while working on opening a fine-dining restaurant here in DC), Yelp is looked at with disdain by those in the industry. I'd imagine it's probably like that for a lot of businesses--but I can also imagine that some places may look at it as their only access to online customer feedback. The restaurant industry has OpenTable as a more acceptable, verifiable alternative--users have records of where they've made reservations and dined, the frequency, and their comments/reviews, so you get a better feel about how the restaurants they've visited are. Yelp, however, has a lot of bloviating hecklers.

3. During my job searches, I've seen paid positions for Yelp reviewers (not sure if they're actually by Yelp or some sort of business district, but the jobs exist). That review might have been one of those folks just trying to say they had knocked one off of their review quota. It seems stupid, because, hey, a quick Google would have found the plagiarism--but how often do people actually check that?

mr_subjunctive said...

Kenneth Moore:

1. It was . . . new, anyway.

2. I can't imagine many types of business that would actually like Yelp, especially if it's semi-anonymous. (The person who quoted my post was listed as a name and last initial; I don't know that's typical for Yelp or not.) It seems like it might be useful for businesses in areas above a certain population threshold -- if everybody gets hecklers, then the hecklers would more or less cancel one another out, right? -- but you really can't tell anything about a place from one or two reviews. (The florist in Cedar Rapids with the most Yelp reviews only has three; the situation is even more vague for "garden center," "plants," or "greenhouse.")

3. I strongly doubt this was a paid Yelper trying to make a quota, because all their other reviews were for establishments in a completely different part of the country. It was like, DC, DC, MD, DC, DC, DC, VA, VA, DC -- and Cedar Rapids. Not only that, but they linked to my post and gave me credit for it, which would have been a dumb thing to do if you were trying to claim it as your own work so you could get paid. Even if you knew they didn't check up on you very often.

El Gaucho said...

Yes, yes I did say ferret wrestling. There are very few topics or discussions that don't warrant a higher degree of levity, or at least a ferret joke. And even though it may have not been funny to you at the time, the idea of someone being escorted or thrown out of a greenhouse by surly plant bouncers (who are on the lookout for you) is pretty funny to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree, if the managers had any sense at all they would have contacted you, thanked you (for pointing out something they should have known and addressed if they were doing their job), informed you that it would be taken care of (probably blaming their lazy employees, even if it wasn't the employees fault) and INVITED you back.
I'm sorry, but it is kinda funny (plant bouncers :D)

sigonee said...

Sad. A bad review wouldn't necessarily keep me out of a store, but hearing that they throw out (previously) unhappy customers definitely would. What, only people who make acceptable statements about the establishment are allowed to shop there? That's not a place I'd want to support.

Jordan in Oregon said...

But what we're all wondering is ...
Did you get any good pictures ;) ?

Anna dlC from Toronto said...

Now I REALLY can't wait to see in anyone from Pierson's actually responds to this one directly. So far I agree with what you and everyone else has said about this matter. Thanks for taking the high road -- I probably would have been fuming!

mr_subjunctive said...


Me either, though they couldn't have known that I didn't grant permission for the Yelp review. If you assume that I did endorse what was posted to Yelp -- not a big stretch, since I wrote it -- then I think their response is extreme but not necessarily unreasonable.

Jordan in Oregon:

Well, no great pictures, but a few serviceable yearbook pictures, and one interesting random-plant-event sort of thing.

Anna dlC from Toronto:

Well, one could argue that I wouldn't have to be taking the high road if I hadn't previously taken the low road, depending on how underhanded one feels the Open Letter was to begin with.

Also, removing the Yelp review serves my purposes as much as, or more than, it does Pierson's, so I don't get high-road credit for that.

Anonymous said...

Listen: I've reread your original post several times. And every time, I've taken it to heart. I've left cacti sitting in water (because the trays don't drain) but it's because I'm one person trying to deal with customers, deliveries, paperwork bullshit and watering. And every time I read that post, it hits home. And I think 'I could do better'. And I try. If you were to visit my greenhouse, I hope to fuck you overlook the occasional mealybug (I know goddamn well the coffee plant in the corner has a 'problem') and instead notice the custom work I've created and the variety of plants I've tried to bring in, over the objections of Head Office. It ain't easy.

But still - your post inspires me, and shames me, and I clean like a demon because of you. but I'm still just one person doing the best I can.


mr_subjunctive said...


This was a lot more than just me being fussy, though. I went back and looked for references to Pierson's in my journal, for something I was going to say in a different comment, and the number of times I talk in the journal about almost buying something at Pierson's, but stopping myself because it was unreasonably expensive, had bugs, looked ragged, or etc., surprised even me. This wasn't a case of people trying as hard as they could and still disappointing me; this was a situation where, for whatever reason, long-term care and grooming of the plants wasn't a high priority but they still felt entitled to charge more for the plants than anyone else (save for semi-regular 50%-off sales, which still didn't bring the prices as low as Frontier's).

I overlook all kinds of things in other stores, including price, bugs, clueless employees, yellow leaves, and dirt. I've had this job (or something like it, anyway); I'm painfully aware that some level of problems will always be present. I didn't write the Open Letter because Pierson's was failing to be perfect: I wrote it because they failed to give the appearance of even trying. And it's certainly not intended to shame anybody beyond Pierson's themselves.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. The very few stories I have heard about Yelp's services has depicted them the same way - a very unreliable way to find out about good or bad stores.

So I don't go to Yelp at all, though as a business owner I would, just to make sure I wasn't being blindsided.

Heh. In a way, I just Yelp'ed Yelp.

Noni Mausa

phantom_tiger said...

First, it wasn't me! I am not actually familiar with Yelp. I also do not have a ferret.

Second, from a customer service point of view, if they realized it was you, they should have tried to get good publicity by showing how they've improved, and not shown you the door. This is BASIC. Plus they could have sold you a plant, the ultimate revenge.

I kind of wonder: if you said no I'm not that blogger, do you get to stay?

Kind of silly of them not to ask you about the review directly at the time, instead of it being up for everyone to see for a yr or whatever. Also silly that they needed a bad blog review before they improved their establishment.

I sympathize with Jenny, btw, because I've worked for places that kept cutting staff back and there is no way to maintain the right level of customer service and tidiness without a proper system.

MrBrownThumb said...

This is hilarious.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Someone, somewhere, will always get their undies in a bunch about something, somehow. It's how it is. People are irrational. I sure am. I just tossed my cat out the window and bricked my house in odd solidarity. We all sure do think the internet is a black hole, but it's more like a searchable billboard. Can't live with the internet (spouse), can't live without the internet (spouse).

lisa said...

I'm glad Mr. Brown Thumb linked this on Facebook. I just had an honest product review "rejected" after the merchant emailed me requesting it (I was too honest, apparently). Ah well, can't please all of the people all of the time.

allan becker said...

Benjamin's comment includes a phrase that is translated from another language [British English]. It's more vivid and humorous in the original: "Don't get your knickers in a twist!"

aseedisapromise said...

This is in reference to how you didn't find anything in the top results on google to connect to your blog post about Pierson's. Google works in mysterious ways such that different people will get different results when searching even if they use the same words, depending on what they have looked up in the past. So really to get a true picture of what the Pierson's person found on Google, you would have to have used their computer to do the search. Maybe they use the ratings sites more than you do!

mr_subjunctive said...


True. I'd like to be able to turn the customized personal search results feature off. I did try using Scroogle, a search anonymizer, though Scroogle has apparently been killed in the last month.

I also, I think, tried using Bing at one point, when trying to figure out what had happened.

wendy said...

Just wanted to say thanks for the little red brick joke. My dad was a great joke teller and used to throw that one in a few times a year. It didn't matter how many times I heard it, I could never retell it. Dad passed away last year, and I didn't think I'd ever figure out the little red brick joke. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You should not be taking apologetic stance about this. This Pierson's place is obviously run by cretins. They didn't even achieve the bare minimum necessary to be a worthwhile retail nursery. Both you and the Yelp poster felt that way and made public announcements to consumers that deserved to be informed. Whether the information was posted on Yelp or PATSP is irrelevant.

Pierson's should have credited and thanked you for inspiring them to at least achieve mere adequacy! Since they did not. They deserved and STILL deserve a rating of 1 star.

Furthermore, I would go back and challenge the legality of them being able to exclude you from going into their store, not that they deseve any patronage, nice Pellionia or not.

mr_subjunctive said...


I'm pretty sure businesses have the right to refuse service to whomever, as long as it's not over gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. Which those things are pretty clearly not why they're wanting to refuse me, so I doubt I'd have any legal ground to stand on. It's still legal to be an asshole.

That said, after 2 1/2 years to think about it, I do kind of agree with you that they deserved the 1-star rating. (Or if they didn't at the time, they surely do now.)

I'd been in the store a couple times before when the owner/manager/whoever didn't know I was there, and heard him yelling at employees twice, once at someone who worked in the store, about something to do with bugs (and we're talking like actual yelling, outside of what should be acceptable tone for employers, even upset employers), and once on the phone with a delivery driver who was apparently lost or something (which was quieter but also more mean). Which makes me think that my banishment is exactly the vindictive angry thing it appears to be. I didn't include these things in the original post, because 1) it would muddy the discussion of the whole open letter / Yelp / banishment thing that I wanted to focus on, and 2) it would have looked like I was making up stuff to make them look bad because I was mad about being banished.