Buyer Beware: Cactuskingdom.ca

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Nobody likes being ripped off by an online retailer, least of all me. Most vendors I deal with are very professional, but every once in awhile you run into an absolute nightmare. In order to prevent any other innocent plant lovers from having the experience I have recently had, this is the complete rundown of that nightmare…

I have been growing cacti from seed for over a decade, and I recently decided I wanted to try my hand at grafting. The kind of grafting I wanted to do required a specific type of tropical cacti that I hadn’t been able to find locally: Pereskiopsis Spathulata. I looked around a little and found a site that looked ok. Cactuskingdom.ca located in Toronto, Ontario with a virtual office in Etobicoke, Ontario. They had photos of healthy-looking cacti, and a decent-looking warranty that implied that orders would arrive in good condition or money would be refunded. Here’s the link to the page I ordered from:

http://www.cactuskingdom.ca/store/p163/Pereskipsis_Spathulata.html

Looking back now, I should have been tipped off by the many spelling errors and lack of credible online reviews… Anyway.

I placed my order for ten 5″-6″ unrooted cuttings for $50.00 CAD, including shipping. A bit expensive for what it was, since I know Pereskiopsis grow like weeds, but I figured for that price, my order would arrive safely in a little box and I would be on my way to grafting cacti very soon. I made sure it would ship to my personal PO Box so the cuttings wouldn’t risk being left out in the cold. My order was placed on March 9th, 2018.

At first, things seemed fine. My order shipped promptly, and on March 20th I received an email from the post office saying I had a delivery. Since the email came after they had closed for the day, I went in the following day to pick up my “package”. So far so good. Then the moment came when the postal agent went to retrieve my delivery… From the envelope drawer.

No. Please no. Please tell me these were not shipped across Canada in an envelope.

Pereskiopsis are a prehistoric cacti that resemble a succulent. They have fleshy stems and leaves. There was absolutely no way that ten cuttings would survive any kind of processing in an envelope. The worker lifted a small, plastic bubble envelope out of the drawer and brought it to me. It was flat, limp, had a foul odor, and was stained with green juice. When I picked it up, green goo dripped out of one corner.

I didn’t have to open the envelope to know what the condition was inside. I returned home, peeled back the flap and was greeted with this:

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A crushed, gooey sticky mess of very sad cactus cuttings. They had been shipped for $1.80 via lettermail from Ontario to British Columbia. You can imagine how happy I was when I had been expecting to receive this:

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I immediately emailed the company expressing my displeasure and asked for a refund. I was shocked that anyone could imagine that sending fragile plants in a bubble envelope with zero protection would spell anything other than a complete disaster. The email exchange that followed was nothing short of excruciating.

The first thing I noticed upon emailing was that the person responding to my email was not the person named on the return address. It was a strange name: Grunsii Echino. The accompanying gmail photo icon looked like a professional shot of a distinguished mature gentleman kneeling near a bed of large barrel cactus. In fact, this was that exact shot:

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Something seemed fishy. The name Grunsii Echino came up with zero results in Google. The photo looked a little too professional… I decided to do an image search for it and came up with this page:

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Do you notice the latin name of the cacti on this page? Echinocactus E. Grusonii. So that’s where the fake name Grunsii Echino was from. And the photo? A picture of professional horticulturist and multi-award winning gardener Simon Eade.

Very fishy indeed. How long had this person been emailing customers representing himself as Mr. Eade? I contacted Simon Eade to let him know his likeness was being used this way. He was not impressed.

Now, I completely understand that shipping accidents happen. I’ve been running my own online business since 2006 and have shipped out tens of thousands of orders. I always try to pack items carefully but every once in awhile something gets damaged. When a customer emails me about a damaged item, I apologize to them and send them either a complete refund or a replacement, depending on their preference. This is my interpretation of how honest business is done. It may not have been my fault that the order was damaged but it sure wasn’t the customer’s fault. Cactus Kingdom however does not subscribe to this philosophy…

Here is my first email to Cactus Kingdom:

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Here is the response:

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Apparently leaving factual negative reviews is now considered spamming people with hate propaganda. Truth is, I did contact him first before leaving a few reviews. I admit I was upset and didn’t wait very long for a reply. Regardless of how he was going to deal with the issue, I felt people should know about their shipping practices. My reviews were factual, if stern. I was fully prepared to amend them after the fact if the company responded appropriately and made things right, as I would hope anyone would do for me. My review:

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Anyway, many more emails ensued where I was told repeatedly the cuttings were “fine”, “not damaged” and I was just “inexperienced” with this type of cactus. They were simply “a little shocked” from shipping. My continued demands for a refund went unaddressed. Not once did they acknowledge that the shipping method had been insufficient. I will spare you the painful dialogue.

Interestingly, this company which had four Google reviews on the day I left mine, the next day had nine. All the reviews from the second day were suspiciously lacking in detail and contained similar wording. For example:

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Compared to:

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Or:

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Anything you’re looking for huh? The entire site has a grand total of ten products for sale. Highly suspicious. The third day they had fifteen reviews, which coincidentally all had a bit more detail added.

Strangely though, these new reviewers (who all seemed to have suddenly jumped from having one review to 3 or 4 in the same day, were all reviewing the same places. “Perfect Collision” in Brooklyn, NY, “Recycle for Life” in Mission Viejo, “Auto Turbo CHRA” in Spain,  “Parkstone Equities Management” in Flushing, NY, and “Petah Tikva” in Israel:

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How truly amazing that these ten people have all visited and left reviews for the exact same businesses all over the USA and the world! And all within the very same four days? Why, it borders on unbelievable.

(I mean, really. If you’re going to leave a plethora of fake reviews for yourself, you might try being a little more sophisticated.)

The owner of Cactus Kingdom also has another business in Toronto: TorontoDogRunner.ca.

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I found this by searching the phone number on his business card. The dog pictured in the image above is his Dutch Shepherd, Roscoe. You can find many pictures of this pampered pooch by clicking on the Instagram button, which leads you to Instagram.com/fitcanine.

Here we can find many posts liked and commented on by an “relgner”, who refers to Roscoe as “her baby” and herself as “Mom”:

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How interesting it is then, that one of our newest Cactus Kingdom online reviewers happens to be “Rita Elgner”:

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Looks like good old Rita ordered twice in the last month! I don’t know about you, but when I give a present to my close family member, I generally just hand deliver it. They also usually doesn’t leave me an online review… Maybe they should start? Mom?

Well, at least he doesn’t have his dog writing fake reviews for him. Oh wait:

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Hmm, the photo in that icon looks a whole lot like this one:

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Sigh. Who knew dogs even cared about horticulture? Oh wait, they don’t.

Not to mention that the Google business profile for Cactus Kingdom contains dozens of “borrowed” images of cacti and well-stocked commercial nurseries and he goes by at least three different names on his website registration and business profiles. So now, for my $50 I am left with this:

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Lovely yes? If you saw those in a shop I bet you’d be happy to pay $50 for them. Moral of the story: For the love of all that contains chlorophyll do not order plants from Cactuskingdom.ca unless you need an expensive addition to your compost pile and untold aggravation. Shame on you Shaun from Cactus Kingdom, if that IS your real name.

Two Male Peregrine Falcons, a Juvenile and an Adult

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Just wanted to share some shots of two birds I worked with today. Above you can see a superb little male peregrine falcon, who is still young and sporting his rusty brown juvenile plumage.

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Compare him to this adult male peregrine, with his much different creamy beige and pale blue plumage. Stunning, isn’t he?

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Two undeniably gorgeous boys.

Rat’s Nest and Cooper’s Hawk

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Yesterday while I was working outside, my dog was also hard at work. We have a couple of rats that have dug some burrows near the chicken coop, and she has been diligently trying to excavate them. She was extra intense about her task yesterday and it wasn’t long before I heard the telltale squeaks of baby rats. I went over to see that she had uncovered a rat’s nest containing seven baby rats, about a week or two old.

She pulled them out one by one, dispatched them each with a quick bite, and continued her search for the adults. I am very pleased that there are now seven less potential rats living here and I hope mom and dad rat have been reminded yet again that this is not a safe place to set up house.

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The baby rats were tossed onto the compost pile, and the next morning I awoke to see what I think is a large female Cooper’s hawk perched on the edge of the bin. She is a young (passage) bird as you can tell by her juvenile plumage. This is the first time I’ve seen a hawk of any kind in my yard and I quickly grabbed my camera and got the best shots I could, which are unfortunately not very good. I’ve definitely been spoiled by being able to photograph raptors up close at the Raptor Centre. Anyway, at least I have some evidence of her visit!

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When I went outside a little bit later I noticed that all seven baby rats were gone from the pile and I assume she ate them. I’m glad she was able to get such a good meal here and I’m once again happy I do not use poison as rodent control.

If you’d like a more up-close shot of a passage female Cooper’s hawk, I just happen to have one here for you:

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First Big Chicken Hatch – Day 1

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Last year I incubated a dozen blue-green eggs I bought from the poultry swap. I had to turn them manually because my turner couldn’t accommodate both quail and chicken egg sized racks at the same time (boo!). Only three hatched, two were roos, and I was left with a single Ameraucana hen who is now the White Chicken.

This time we are doing things properly and using the egg turner. Somehow, I have coordinated three types of fertile eggs for this hatch, and we have a completely full tray of 42 eggs.

First I have black Old English Game bantams which are the small white eggs. There are ten of these and they were from the same person who I got Tiny Chicken from. They were free, but there will be trades happening in return for them later on. Considering the size of the birds these eggs came from, they’re pretty big! We all know how much I love Tiny Chicken and I wouldn’t mind a couple more like her. She is small enough to be allowed to free range without damaging plants,  and she has an awesome personality.

Then we have the light brown eggs, which are from a mixed flock of Cochin and Light Brahma that I met at the farm I was getting my new Standard Rex breeders from. They were $10 per dozen and I’m only setting 20 of them because of space constraints. They are a beautiful mix of colors and should be interesting birds. Cochins are the large breed from China that spurred “Hen Fever”, the chicken fad that swept across America and Britain in the 1850’s, inspired by Queen Victoria’s own aviaries.

The gorgeous dark brown eggs in the middle are Welsummer or Welsumer eggs. They were purchased from a nearby breeder and cost $30 per dozen. Yes I know. The eggs are rather small and from young birds, so that may be an issue. When I was picking them up the seller also mentioned that her birds are quite small, and I’m not sure if that’s standard for the breed. The Welsummers that I had last year seemed around the same size as my other large fowl, so we’ll see how it turns out. I do like those dark brown eggs!

Of course, there’s no way I can keep all these chickens. My plan is to sell or trade off almost all of them and only keep a few of the nicest hens to refresh my stock. The Welsummers can be sexed by color and I’m hoping to successfully feather sex the Cochins at hatch. The females should have longer wing and tail feathers than the males. This may work with the bantams too, I’m not sure. I’m also not sure what I’ll do with all the males. I’ll have to keep some for at least a little while to know if my feather-sexing technique has worked. Nobody will want to buy them, that’s for sure. And if they start to crow, they have to go.

I did try to find more Ameraucana hatching eggs, but the only person who responded to my ad was selling them for $40 per dozen. For that, I can buy a pair of ready to lay Ameraucana pullets at the poultry swap. No thanks.

 

 

 

 

Broken Rex Kits at 7 Weeks

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This first photo is of the one solid castor Rex kit who has turned out to be a doe, and will be staying at the rabbitry as a new breeder. Isn’t she lovely? Look at those little fat rolls already developing!

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There is also a darling broken castor doe, a broken black otter doe, and an opal doe. Pictured below:

Of course there are also boys!  A nice broken blue otter buck, a broken opal buck, a broken black otter buck, as well as some false opals and some mismarked black otters. I don’t have photos of these guys because my camera ran out of juice! Rest assured they are as cute as the buns pictured.