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The Twenty Seven Cent Melon Seed

I think that I have tried to grow just about every variety of every garden vegetable commonly on the market. Yes, I try new ones now and then, but I have been doing that for fifty years and by now I know what I want and want what I know. This is particularly true of muskmelons. I have tried the old heirloom varieties. I have tried the very latest varieties. I like them all but my very favorite is Burpee Hybrid and I aim to keep on eating this variety as long as I can afford to. And that’s the point.

Time was when mail order garden seeds were rather inexpensive. Not so anymore. One of my favorite tooth-grinders is the way economists tell us that we have inflation in check. Economists must not garden. Garden seeds have been going up steadily even during recessions. I suppose there is some sense to that since in a recession, there’s often more demand for garden seeds. Nevertheless seeds, and among the companies I order from, especially Burpee seeds, seem to go up all the time but in small increments so that hopefully, the customer hardly notices. Twenty cents a packet becomes two dollars in ten years while the number of seeds per packet keeps going down. $en$ational new varieties of course cost more.

I’m not really meaning to find fault with seed prices, as this story will show. What bothers me is the way seed companies charge for handling. I open my trusty Burpee catalog this year and decide the only thing I really want from it is Burpee Hybrid muskmelon. Price: $2.95 a packet, plus my 44 cent stamp to send in the order, or $3.39. For 30 seeds.

Then I get out the order form and find that the shipping and handling charge for orders under ten dollars is $4.95. To get those 30 seeds by mail, it is going to cost me $8.34, that is, a little over 27 cents per seed. Before I can blow a fuse, my wife says there is an alternative. Our “local” Wal-Mart carries Burpee seed, she says. Everything is cheaper at Wal-Mart, right?

So out to the store we go, and sure enough there’s a huge display of Burpee seeds there. I am gloating as I run my eye over the hundreds of packets priced about the same as in the catalog. I have found a way to beat the system. Hmmmm. I run my eye over the seed display again. And then again. I begin to get a pain deep in my gut. Sure enough. Hundreds of Burpee seeds but not one confounded packet of Burpee Hybrid muskmelon. I stage a scene. My wife says she will never go into any store with me again. Once more, the great Wal-Mart, which has everything, did not have what I wanted and at the top of my voice, I let everyone in the store know it.

I am now convinced of a theory that’s been in my mind for about a year. Modern technology has made it simplicity itself to buy stuff. Catalogs by the zillions. Online with a computer by the gadzillions. Noooooooooooo problem.

Well, there is a problem. Someone has to cart all that stuff to your door.

I predict that the big box stores and the little box stores are going to survive just fine in the years ahead. It will always be cheaper to drive a truck load of seeds or whatever to a neighborhood store rather than drive a truck to each and every customer in that neighborhood.

Burpee will probably still know that there are people as looney as I am who want Burpee Hybrid muskmelon enough to pay a dollar a seed if necessary to get it through the mail. At least until this richest country in the world can no longer afford a postal service.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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