How to let a customer down

  • Opinion
  • April 10, 2017
  • Sarah Dunn
How to let a customer down

Since The Australian’s smashed-avocado column, no conversation about avocados is complete without a side of generational conflict and a sprinkle of horror at the housing crisis. Sarah Dunn tried to beat the system by buying an avocado tree, but her plan didn’t go as expected.

Columnist Bernard Salt last year linked Millennials’ consumption of fancy avocado on toast with their inability to own homes in an opinion piece about “the evils of hipster cafes”.

“I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more,” marvelled Salt. “I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn't they be economising by eating at home?”

He now claims his words were intended in parody.

So, when I set out to buy an avocado tree over the weekend, I felt really clever. Not only was I rorting the lucrative avocado-on-toast industry, I was supporting the rights of Millennials everywhere to eat avocados until we’re the size of the houses we’re supposed to be buying.

The first plant centre I visited, a Palmers branch, was newly out of avocado trees. I held no grudge – the more avocado trees in the world, the better – and moved on to a Kings Plant Barn, which had a large display of them. I joyfully took my time picking out the healthiest-looking specimen, and threw a couple of passionfruit vines and a tamarillo plant into my trolley for good measure.

I ran into the centre manager on my way to the till. “Hello, scruffy!” he said, addressing my dog. She did what she always does to new friends, and rolled over for a belly scratch.

While he was detained, I took the opportunity to ask whether I could get away with planting the tamarillo plant in the off-season. He frowned, and asked: “Where do you live?”

The Kings Plant Barn centre manager then delivered the devastating news that nothing in the trolley would grow in my city-fringe neighbourhood. Not the tamarillo, not the passionfruit vines, and definitely not the avocado tree I’d already developed an attachment to. These plants were so doomed in my garden that he couldn’t, in good conscience, allow me to buy them.

I explained that all the rumours about Millennials and avocados were true, and I really needed that avocado tree. My financial future depended on it.

The centre manager came up with a compromise. In a month, he’ll receive the first shipment of dwarf avocado trees from a supplier. If I get a big pot, knock the bottom out, partially bury it in my inferior clay soil and fill it with something more suitable, he’ll sell me one. I put my name down on the waiting list immediately.

Walking away from the garden centre without an avocado tree should have felt pretty disappointing, but on balance, watching my trolley-load of unsuitable plants slowly die over a period of weeks would have been worse. By offering advice and coming up with a solution, the centre manager prevented an unpleasant outcome, and secured my loyalty as a customer. I can’t wait to return for that dwarf avocado tree.

Now, I just need to find a steady toast supplier.

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