An Open Letter to the President
by Jan Baughman

The President
NK Lawn & Garden Co.
Chattanooga, TN 37422

Dear Mr./Mrs. President,

I recently purchased your "GIANT BUY" California Poppy seed packet ("packed for 1998, Lot 5") from Orchard Hardware Supply in Redwood City, California. The cost was for $2.59 plus tax for a total of $2.80. Upon preparing to plant the seeds, I was shocked and dismayed to find a mere 17 seeds enclosed. Granted, the packet may have originally included about 20 seeds, as there were a few remnants of crushed seeds stuck to the paper.

According to my calculations, I paid 16 cents per seed, and feeling a bit foolish, I decided to do a little research (I can't help it - I have a degree in biostatistics). I designed a study in which I randomly selected three poppy plants from my neighbor's yard. In this cross-section of time, the plants had produced 10, 15 and 19 pods, respectively for an average of 14.6 pods per plant. I then randomly selected one pod from each plant, and in an effort to reduce bias, I selected different size pods. The number of seeds in each pod was 185, 150 and 172, for an average of 169 seeds per pod. Therefore, I concluded that the average plant produces 2,467.4 seeds, which, at 16 cents per seed grosses $394.78. If all of the seeds from one poppy were planted, and 50% resulted in viable plants, the net result would be additional 3,044,031.38 plants worth $487,045.08. Obviously, there is overhead to consider, but poppies are drought-tolerant plants. The majority of the expense can only come from the wages paid to the person who painstakingly counts out the 17 seeds.

So, having just concluded that poppy seeds are worth their weight in gold, I decided to explore the cost of food items which contain them to determine if the mark-up continues. A 1.25-ounce (35.44-gram) jar (net weight) of Schilling poppy seeds sells for $3.69, or approximately 11 cents per gram. The net weight of your GIANT BUY packet is 0.3 grams at $2.59, approximately $8.63 per gram. According to your pricing scheme, the jar of Schilling poppy seeds should cost $305.85. How can anyone afford to bake with poppy seeds??? I continued my survey; 75 cents for a poppy-seed bagel, 60 cents for a poppy seed muffin, both of which contain many other ingredients and packaging, to boot. It just doesn't square.

I finalized my study by noting that 18 days have passed and none of the 17 seeds I planted have produced seedlings. According to your packet, germination occurs in 10 to 12 days.

I made three conclusions from my research:
1) I am clearly in the wrong business.
2) I want my money back.
3) It is no wonder that the poppy is the California State Flower.

Sincerely yours,
Jan Baughman


Cc: Mr./Mrs. President, Orchard Supply Hardware

Published May 20, 1998
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