I was anxious on Friday evening a week ago. The next morning the gates to the Christmas Tree plantation would be thrown open and tree hunters would fan out to tag their tree.
It was my responsibility to have organised systems including trained staffed and technology (remote eftpos) to deliver smooth transactions and secure tagging of trees.
At 7:45am my staff and I arrived at the paddock. Cars were already there. At 8:00am we started. Systems worked fine. My staff quickly grasped their roles. A priority was ensuring that the positions of tagged trees were logged. It’s a nightmare when a tree gets double tagged, or a tag mysteriously gets separated from its tree.
By 8:15am there were cars lined up, and a queue of tree hunters was approaching thirty. At 8:25 I realised that logging each tree location would have to happen later. New people were joining the queue faster than we were processing payments. At 9:30am we started issuing tags at the shop as well. They were mobbed.
At 10:30 the queue at the paddock was little changed, and grumblings were coming to my ears. We pressed on, but seemed not to be making inroads into the queue. By 11:00 we were beginning to see progress, but there was no opportunity to rest as we pressed on for the goal of a zero-wait time. By midday we were serving people who had waited less than ten minutes. At 12:30 the battery powered eftpos terminal ran out of juice. Fortunately, we had the option of payment at the shop, and a few people had cash.
I totally empathise with those who visualised a fun, exciting time selecting their tree, and ended up anxiously waiting in a queue as others tagged their trees.
Apologies are, however, hollow without a plan in place to address the problem.
The changes that will be in place next year will be:
Ability to buy your tag up to a week before plantation opening.
Tag buying at both the shop and paddock.
An army of staff to log the position of your selected tree.
What about their not being small?
I take responsibility for this, although in fairness I had two years of droughts working against me. At the Eyebright property we have irrigation, though our water allocation is limited like every other farmer. Restrictions are applied when it’s really dry. That said, it come to priorities, and I need to be faster out of the starting blocks with watering when starts getting dry.
The size of your tree is the product of the conditions over the whole two and half years that it is growing.