A garden centre was blasted in an online complaint for allowing their staff to ‘smoke cannabis at work’ – only for the sheepish moaner to have to backtrack when the boss revealed the culprit is a ‘stinky’ spring plant. Urban Jungle owner Liz Browne was horrified when she spotted the Google review slamming her innocent staff for toking on the job and making them ‘look like a drug den’.
After wracking her brains for what could be the source of the mystery pong at the branch in Norfolk, Liz realised that an exotic-looking perennial called Fritillaria Imperialis was the culprit. The yellow plant, native to mountainous regions in Turkey, western Iran and eastwards to Kashmir, is famous for its bell-shaped flowers.
But it’s also known for its strong musky scent that has been likened to a ‘fox-like’ smell or cannabis – apparently sparking the misunderstanding from the unhappy shopper. The stunned 57-year-old replied to the one-star review stating that the writer is the ‘first to accuse our innocent staff of taking drugs’ – with the reviewer deleting it.
Liz, from Loddon, Norfolk, said: “The culprit is a plant that’s in flower at the moment called Fritillaria Imperialis. They’re amazing exotic-looking flowers (and) they’re hardy. They come up every year and then they disintegrate back into the ground. They do their thing, stink the place out and then they’re gone again.
“We have people walking around and a lot of people say ‘what’s that strange smell?’. Other customers have said to us ‘I can smell cannabis’. Personally I think it smells ‘foxy’. It’s not really pleasant, if you’ve ever been anywhere where a fox has left its scent mark that’s what it smells like to me, but everybody smells things differently.
“I’m not a cannabis expert but lots of people say it really smells like weed. We just say ‘yes it’s the fritillarias’ and that’s it. I’ve had customers comment about this over the past 20 years but when people have remarked, I’ve explained and that’s been it. I’ve never had anybody outraged.”
Liz shared her response on Facebook where it went viral racking up nearly 900 likes, shares and comments. She wrote: “Every year without fail they trick our customers. First time they’ve caused us a one-star review though.”
The since-deleted complaint reads: “Lovely garden centre but I really don’t expect to smell cannabis coming from the staff area. We arrived early so the smoke smell was not from other customers visiting.”
In response, Liz wrote: “I would be grateful if you would remove this review. You did not smell cannabis at Urban Jungle. We can’t comment on what staff do when they’re not at work but it is against our policy to consume alcohol and drugs at work, and not one of our extremely hard-working staff would dream of breaking this policy.
“They’re too busy working to make the place lovely, as you say. What you were smelling was Fritillaria imperialis which are in bloom at the nursery and are well known for their strong cannabis odour. You’re not the first customer to mention it, but you are the first to accuse our innocent staff of taking drugs in a review. Shame.”
Despite being initially shocked by the review, Liz said social media users’ supportive comments were an unexpected ‘silver lining’ to the situation. Liz said: “It took a few moments (to work out what it was). Inside sometimes we have joss sticks and incense and I thought ‘ah maybe someone set off a patchouli oil joss stick’ and then after a while I thought ‘oh yeah it’s the Fritillaria’.
“I was really, really shocked when I read it (the review). Our reputation is everything to us so it can be really damaging for people to see something like that – it makes us look like we’re some kind of drug den. I was also really concerned for the staff, they are really hard-working, professional and they wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that.
“I straight away contacted them as well. I didn’t want them to be concerned that they were going to be in trouble. I knew, I trust them 100%, they wouldn’t even smoke a cigarette in the staff area let alone anything else. On the whole, we get good reviews but every cloud has a silver lining, we felt a bit down about it but reading all the lovely comments on Facebook it buoyed us up – it made us realise that people really do love us.”
Liz is urging anyone considering making complaints to businesses to first speak to a manager or someone on duty to solve the issue before taking to social media. She said: “I would say the same thing [to this reviewer] as I would say to anybody who leaves a bad review, first of all just speak to the manager or someone on duty at the time.
“Remember they’re (the complainants) sitting there anonymously behind their keyboard but it’s real people who are reading these reviews and they have feelings and they can be hurt by it and you’re not given the chance there and then to put things right or explain. You might get lots of really good five-star reviews but people always read the bad reviews first and they’re the ones that stick in people’s minds. I’ve not heard anything else since the review was deleted.”
Urban Jungle fans flooded the Facebook post with supportive comments praising the garden centre. One wrote: “It must have been the same day I was there, they were sooo pungent! I knew it was the fritillary as the smell followed me all the way home (I’m looking forward to it flowering!)”
Another commented: “The review is pretty petty and small-minded. And as you say, the staff are far too busy for any of that nonsense. Although it made me chuckle. I work at a plant nursery and the thought of me and my colleagues getting stoned in our lunch break is hilarious. The closest we get is the occasional pot noodle.”