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Re: CAT: Remember that Bonus Irises are FREE

  • Subject: Re: [iris-talk] CAT: Remember that Bonus Irises are FREE
  • From: arilbredbreeder@cs.com
  • Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2001 05:05:21 EDT

In a message dated 8/28/2001 11:14:39 AM Mountain Daylight Time, 
wshear@hsc.edu writes:

 I would have to assume that bonus rhizomes are included in their costs by
 the canny businessmen and women who run iris nurseries.  So are they REALLY
 free?  If no bonus plants were distributed, would the costs of iris rhizomes
 go down?
 Not looking a gift rhizome down the fan, you understand, just curious about
 the economics of it all...... >>

I don't pretend to speak for everyone, but in my experience with both 
societal and commercial sales the distribution of bonus plants had no 
significant economic impact beyond that of satisfied customers and repeat 
business.  I realize that sounds strange to anyone who hasn't been on the 
supply-side of the operationm -- so I'll elaborate:

For some years, I was co-chair of the ASI Plant Sale.  Societal sales such as 
this depend on member donors.  Some donors sent extras but others could't 
even send what was pledged.  Inevitably, we had to dig substitute/bonus 
rhizomes from our own gardens to make up the shortage.   

We coped by asking for substititution/bonus suggestions.  If we HAD to 
substitute, we'd try to do so from that list but if we didn't have to 
substitiute we'd try to select the bonus iris from it.  Of course, we honored 
requests for refunds rather than substitutions, but there was period when 
supplies were so short that anyone who opted for a refund was automatically 
eliminated from consideration for bonuses.

In short -- prices were based on what was pledged, adjusted for age & 
scarcity, while bonuses were based on what was contributed above & beyond the 
material that had been pledged.  Eliminating bonuses would NOT have meant 
that we could lower prices.

My experience with a commercial operation was QUITE different.  Instead of 
one massive effort of receiving, sorting, and repackaging there was an 
extended period of digging-to-order.  

To take a typical weekend:

Saturday -- digging, cleaning, labeling, and sorting into flats all cultivars 
on all orders scheduled for Monday's shipping.  If there was even one order 
for a recent introduction, this meant digging a clump -- which in turn meant 
that there were extra bloom-size rhizomes.  These extras would first be used 
to make up Surprise Packages, then any that were left would go into the Bonus 
pool. By the end of the day, even if it came in the wee hours of the morning, 
I'd have another digging list for the things needed to [horrors!] subtitute, 
round out the Surprise Packages, or provide the promised level of Bonuses.

Sunday -- usually a blessedly short digging list for completion of Surprise 
Packages, which would automatically provide more bonus material.  

Monday -- shipping by Priority Mail, which typically ensured Wed-Fri delivery 
anywhere in the U.S. because most customers wanted to be able to plant on a 

Obviously, a much larger Bonus Pool to work with, but:

1.  Could catalog prices have been lower if the percentage of bonuses had 
been lower? 

No -- so many items sold out completely at the listed price that I believe 
lower prices would simply have meant overselling and, therefore, a number of 
disappointed customers

2.  Could catalog prices have been lower in subsequent years, if material 
sent as bonuses had been replanted for increase?

Not likely, because of space limitations.  If those rhizomes had not gone 
into the bonus pool, they would have been replanted  -- but instead of rather 
than in addition to the lower-quality ones. Thinking of all the times 
something oversold and had to be withheld for increase, I can see that 
lowering the percentage of bonus material MIGHT have produced a wider catalog 
selection in later years -- but in that case the customer's cost-per-rhizome 
would actually have gone up.

Sharon McAllister  

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