This article has received the most comments we’ve ever had on any one article. As you’ve probably seen below. I reviewed the catalogs, as I’ve done with a handful of others, hit the ‘publish’ button, and watched a small firestorm erupt. I wasn’t sure exactly what to think about it. So I decided to find out for myself.
Like any human, I have preferences and I am also persuadable. So I kept an open mind. And here’s what I have concluded, after hours of research and observation.
For some reason, I think there are people who don’t like Penny’s Tomatoes (PT’s) and Pepper Joe’s (PJ’s). I don’t exactly know why.
It could be as simple as a personality clash. I’m not an intense personality, and I think Joe is a much stronger personality (judging from videos, comments, writings, etc.). But I have been around many people with great passion and zeal, especially for what they do. And when someone criticizes them unfairly, they (naturally) defend it. So even if you think Joe is a strong personality, I can also tell you that he happens to be very nice and open personality as well. Besides, some of the best business men (Henry Ford comes to mind) have been called strong and dominant personalities. Given Joe’s history as a businessman, that really shouldn’t be surprising.
Or the problem could have arisen simply from prejudices. For whatever reasonable or unreasonable reasons. (Read that sentence 3 times fast.) ;)
My official opinion is that Penny’s Tomatoes and Pepper Joe’s are both reliable, honest companies. They fulfill on their orders, interact with their customers in an agreeable way, and they care about their customers.
I came to this final conclusion after noticing some interesting things on Dave’s Garden and the BBB website.
When I first started doing research on PJ’s and PT’s, I noticed that on Dave’s Garden had a handful of good ratings about them, and several neutral ratings. Dave’s Garden noted that they had changed several positive ratings to neutral because they believed many of them had come from the same source, and Dave’s Garden didn’t want someone trying to amp up PJ’s and PT’s ratings dishonestly.
After writing back and forth with Penny and Joe several times, I finally got on the phone with Joe. And he told me what he believed had happened.
Joe said that someone had logged into Dave’s Garden and posted several negative ratings about PJ’s and PT’s. Joe contacted Dave’s Garden, noted that the ratings came from people who weren’t even customers and had never been customers, and Dave’s Garden took the negative ratings down.
Well, whoever had written them apparently wasn’t happy that the ratings were taken down. So they found a tricky way to work the system. They posted several good ratings, waited a bit, then notified Dave’s Garden that they thought that the ratings were falsely positive, having all come from the same source. (See the example below.)
From what I understand, Dave’s Garden doesn’t monitor the ratings system, and unless they’re alerted by one of their users, they don’t know that there’s a problem. So someone notified them that several ratings were falsely positive, and Dave’s Garden changed them to neutral which brought down the overall ratings of PJ’s an PT’s. Then, apparently the news was sounded on the Tomatoville forum (of which I am not a member and have little experience… I wasn’t very tempted to join, being a part of other forums I prefer more) as soon as Dave’s Garden took action. How else would they have immediately known.
I did keep in mind that it was Joe who was telling me what had happened, as we chatted over the phone.
But then, I noticed something for myself.
Shortly after I first published this article, I mentioned that, though there was so much controversy (apparently) going on over PJ’s and PT’s, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating for PT’s was an A-, having had only one complaint, and there were no complaints at all for Pepper Joe’s. For the complaint made for PT’s, the BBB stated that PT’s had made a good faith effort to resolve the complaint. A week or two later, after my comment, another complaint was submitted to the BBB which instantly dropped PT’s ratings to an F.
A few days ago, I checked it again. It is now an A+ rating, and that second comment has been removed by the BBB. Likely for being dishonest and fraudulent.
For whatever reasons, someone seems to be a huge dis-liker of PJ’s and PT’s, without ever having been a customer. I don’t know why. I’ve heard of people like that… I think they’re called “Trolls” on the Internet. It brings to mind the Far Side comic….
So, I agree with Joe when he says that their company is misrepresented by a handful of people. Unfortunately, a handful of smart trolls on the Internet is all it takes these days to drive down ratings. And that really can be a problem. (I know that I am much more likely to buy a highly-rated book on Amazon than a lower-rated book, for example.)
Business and consumerism is moving more and more to the Internet. People also seem to trust the opinion of other “average citizens” more than they do an official book reviewer or a company spokesperson. Which means that reviews by average people n websites like Dave’s Garden or the BBB website or Yahoo! can do a lot of good or a lot of damage, whether fairly or unfairly. The damage done to PJ’s and PT’s seems to have been intentionally done by a handful of people. And like I said, I just don’t see why. I can’t see a reason behind it at all.
Also, Joe has just informed me that they’ve received the “Member Approved” seal on two of their products: the “Volcano in a Box” with the world’s hottest pepper seeds from PJ’s and the “Garden in a Box” from PT’s with 100% positive feedback for both (at the time of his email). Which, according to a National Home Gardening Club Gardening Magazine staff member, is not very common (to have 100% positive). See below.
There you go. I think that PJ’s and PT’s are both good, honest companies, and I hope you give them a try this year.
P.S. Just for your interest, if you care to read that far, at the bottom are a handful of the notes I took.
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Original article (a review of PT’s and PJ’s 2013 seed catalogs)
Penny’s Tomatoes and Pepper Joe’s are related companies. The two, small catalogs are nearly identical in form and layout; and the two websites are very similar, and each has a link to the other site. BUT they have different addresses, though both are located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
- Website: http://www.pepperjoe.com/
- Phone number: 1-843-742-5116
The Pepper Joe catalog offers 39 hot peppers, including different varieties of habeneros, cayennes, jalapenos, and others. Most of the hot peppers are listed in the front, but the jalapenos are listed in the back, after the sweet peppers. There are only 8 sweet pepper varieties listed… apparently he’s a bigger fan of hot than sweet. But there are definitely some interesting varieties of hot peppers listed, such as the Yatzy, the Bolivian Rainbow Pepper, and the Italian Pepperoncini (which is apparently a good pickling hot pepper). On the order form on the back of the catalog, customers are informed that they will receive 2 free packets of “special variety” seeds. That sounds like the “mystery” wrapper on dum dum suckers… it might be fun to see what you randomly get.
On the Pepper Joe website he has not only lists of the pepper seed varieties he sells, but also a smattering of recipes, and some information on peppers, such as how to de-seed the peppers, and ‘how to grow’ articles.
I found no listings (by name) in the Pepper Joe catalog in common with the Seminis/Monsanto seed list (see the article HERE for more info on this project), but one tomato that he lists is the same, in name at least, as one listed on the Seminis seed list (the Floradade tomato). On his website he has a pledge that states “No genetically altered seeds, Open Pollinated, No Hybrid, 100% Organic seeds, clearly marked”. (Are they ALL open pollinated? He says “Open Pollinated” but doesn’t say that they ALL are open pollinated.) It also has a guarantee that states, “Our seeds DO Germinate. We guarantee that fact 100%. If not, we’ll gladly replace them. Once they sprout it’s up to you and Mother nature to take it from there.” Naturally. He also states that “Pod shapes, sizes and colors may vary from our pictures. Especially with the Superhots.”
I also found it interesting that he lists several Pepper Joe and Penny’s Tomatoes sauces (wing sauce, steak sauce, tomato salsa, hot sauces, etc.) on his website. I’ve never tried any of them, though I’d be willing to give them a try… someday. I’ll let you know what I think when I get the chance to try them.
I am disappointed that their seed plots/test plots aren’t open to visitors. I know a lot of other seed companies have farms, greenhouses, etc. that are open for public viewing. (I think to help build people’s trust in their businesses.) He says, “We are a Internet business and Catalog business only. This [725 Carolina Farms Blvd, Myrtle Beach, SC] is our shipping address only and NOT a store or farm. We cannot accept visitors for proprietary reasons. THANK YOU.”
- Website: http://www.pennystomatoes.com/
- Phone number: 843-626-4507
The Penny’s Tomatoes catalog lists 46 tomato varieties, including an “Penny’s Exclusive Giant Tomato Tree” which is her ‘signature tomato’, apparently. I’ve never grown it myself, but she says it grows 12 feet tall or more. The only thing with that, though, is that I’d rather nip off the tops when it reaches 7 or 8 feet tall and have it put its energy into tomato production and not into growing taller. Taste, flavor, and nutrition rate the highest on my scale of “must haves” when it comes to vegetables and fruits… not necessarily in that order.
The other 45 varieties of tomatoes come in all colors: red, yellow, black, green, and orange. On the order form on the back of the catalog, customers are informed that they will receive 3 free packets of “special variety” seeds, similar to Pepper Joe’s above.
I found 2 varieties of tomatoes in common with the Seminis/Monsanto seed list, but both of them were varieties that were NOT listed on the Seminis site, but were listed by other sites as being owned by Seminis. I cannot say whether or not they’re Seminis varieties, but I would hazard a guess at not. Penny states that she believes heirloom tomatoes are the way to go, but she doesn’t say whether or not all her seeds are heirloom varieties. She also states that 40% of her “Tomato Seed Matrix” is Organic Tomatoes seed.
On the Penny’s Tomatoes website, she also has recipes for salsas and other things, and a few articles on tomato topics. She also has a freebies tab which states that there are monthly drawings. I have to admit, though, that I didn’t much appreciate the graphic that appears after you’ve submitted your email address in the freebies slot.
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- A- rating of Penny’s Tomatoes on BBB, one complaint, made good faith attempt to resolve it; No complaints for Pepper Joe’s
- On the Pepper Joe website, on the “About” page, there are several highlighted things under the title “Pepper Joe is Big News”, but they aren’t hyperlinked to any articles. I found an article on the Philadelphia Inquirer and found one article on Pepper Joe (http://articles.philly.com/1994-05-04/food/25830345_1_hot-peppers-wild-peppers-carolina-cayenne/2, from 1994) but it didn’t have the quotes referenced. And I couldn’t find any of the other articles from the other newspapers, presumably because they were from before the Internet existed. Link to when Pepper Joe’s was featured on Martha Stewart Today?…
- On the ‘hot pepper newspaper articles’ page, it says “Nominated for ‘Worlds most Influential Pepper Grower’ by PepperSeed.com at the top. (It’s www.ThePepperSeed.com.)
- “Chile News & Views” Newsletter that ran monthly from January 2010 to January 2011, through Constant Contact, and there aren’t any newsletter updates after January 2011? (They put up a whole year’s worth at the end of the year. 2012 should be put up soon… when the busy season is over.)
- Tomato Tree an indeterminate tomato or a big determinate? (I might have to grow it for myself…)
- Someone from Tomatoville claimed that Penny’s used a picture of “Red Star” tomato from totallytomato.com and listed it on her site as “Shooting Star” tomato. I went to www.totallytomato.com and they don’t even have a red star tomato. I went to Penny’s site and she has a red star tomato, but no shooting star. Weird. ?? I guess someone else needs to do their research first.