Why I Love Bachman’s

Back in February I had the opportunity to give a talk on a new book that I put together with a friend of mine, Meleah Maynard, who is a Master Gardener and garden writer here in Minnesota (you can see our promotional video here  — this is the video our administration let us run — you should have seen the one they didn’t!).  We conducted this talk at Bachman’s — a very well known garden center here in Minnesota.  For this talk we took products off the shelves and talked about them — some we trashed, like high phosphorus fertilizers.  Some we raved about, like cotton seed meal.

Anyway, Bachman’s got word of what we’d done.  How could they not?  some of their employees were there –and they loved it.  In fact, they brought me, as well as some internal people and John Lloyd — a well known and well respected tree guy in the area — back to talk to their sales force about the good and bad products they carry.  No holds barred.

This is the kind of thing I love, and here’s why.  I’m pretty difficult to pin down politically.  On some topics there’s no doubt I’m a liberal, on some a right winger.  Sometimes to the point of being a libertarian.  When it comes to garden centers I’m a libertarian.  Companies needs to make money, so they should have a diverse inventory, if that’s what brings consumers in, and let the buyer beware.  Part of Bachman’s success comes from the huge variety of products it carries, and I think it would be a shame for them to reduce this variety in any way — it could hurt business.  HOWEVER, Bachman’s knows that this freedom doesn’t mean that Bachman’s employees should be ignorant of the environmental consequences of some of the products they carry, or that they should recommend these products to their customers when asked.  So they have the best of both worlds — If you want some nutty product, hey, Bachman’s has it, and if you really want to know which products are good or bad?  Hey, just ask their knowledgeable sales force.  Nice!

7 thoughts on “Why I Love Bachman’s”

  1. If a store wants to carry a product that is essentially worthless, that’s between them and their conscience.

    However, there’s a point at which the negative health and environmental consequences of a product means that it just shouldn’t be sold. Period.

    The impact of the product is not limited to the purchaser, after all.

    And it’s certainly good to have informed staff, but that will not make up for the many people who buy a product due to a misleading ad or slick packaging.

  2. I agree about the professionalism found in Home Centers which anymore are Jack-of All-trades – master of none businesses. If you look in any Job Ads and find those posts for new hires for workers in the garden centers, it should give a clue as to who you are getting advice from. Sweden is no different. This winter the seasonal job Ads went out and Hornbach, BauHaus and one other were heavily advertising for new gardening center employees. The main description was helping in the customer service department.
    It’s spooky when you think that there is only so much time to educate these new hirees (almost all young people) to advise Sven, Lars and Ingrid on what to be using in the garden. The fortunately thing is that because of the climate, the customers can only screw up the environment for only 4 or 5 months. Not like San diego where they can do it year round. Hey maybe because of that Sweden is more eco green after all ? NOT!

  3. I don’t agree that a store should carry any and all items and buyer beware. T
    he employees are supposed to tell the customer, “No, don’t buy that because it is worthless or harmful to the environment?” The garden center should carry products it believes have good value for their customers. The free market is that the products are out there but the garden center knows more than the customers and should choose and stand behind the products it carries. If the store carries something, the customer assumes the store thinks it is good. And not all customers ask for assistance. Sorry but this was one of the strangest posts I have seen and that it is here in this blog makes it even stranger to me.

  4. As long as a product is legal, a store has full right to stock and sell it. Just because french fries and soft drinks are empty calories doesn’t mean the local fast food place should be forbidden to sell them. Nor should they be *required* to tell their customers that the apple slices and yogurt are a better choice. Just because a garden product doesn’t do the plants any good doesn’t mean the stores shouldn’t carry them if they choose to do so. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is good advice whenever we don’t know anything about a product except what the advertising tells us. The goal of most companies is to make a profit and there will ALWAYS be someone willing to sell us snake oil if we’re willing to buy it.The moral to this is to educate ourselves. There is an enormous amount of research available online and from the Cooperative Extension offices giving us the latest information on what works. Unfortunately, what doesn’t work is not always as easy to find. If we stick with the proven methods and products, we will save money, the stores won’t make much off the snake oil products, and it will help the stores realize they should carry only those things that work.

  5. I agree, Jeff, that garden centers should sell whatever products are out there, and buyer beware. Consumers, in my opinion, have gotten lazy about educating themselves. Assuming that that store that stocks a product knows best could be risky–there is a huge spectrum of garden centers out there, and not all of them (unfortunately) have well-informed employees like those at Bachman’s. Not all garden centers have an environmentally friendly agenda, either. Sometimes I might want to try a product out myself because a friend said it worked for her–or to see for myself how it works/does not work. Sometimes I might want to use a small amount of Roundup on the weeds growing through my gravel path. I don’t want someone else making that judgment for me.

  6. The comments have opened my eyes and helped me realize that because I have worked at retail nurseries and am a grower of plants I sell locally to retail nurseries and at plant sales, I have a certain point of view. It is a given that stores can sell what they want as long as the product is legal but some stores consider the effects of the production and application of the products they sell and that part of their responsibility is to educate their customers. Probably the reason a lot of us make so little money is that we forget that our number one goal according to conventional thinking is to make a profit. We think differently. I do see the situation with new eyes now, even though I don’t agree or rather I could never operate a business the way suggested here.

  7. “I agree, Jeff, that garden centers should sell whatever products are out there, and buyer beware. Consumers, in my opinion, have gotten lazy about educating themselves.”

    Indeed. The law of unintended consequences at work. The more you treat people like children whom big brother must constantly look out for, the more they will act like children.

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