Hello Bee Source,
I am writing today because I have had a very negative experience with a bee supplier who has a sterling reputation, and I believe that, in light of his refusal to refund my money, I should let the community know about this.
I ordered three queens from Don the fat bee man, after asking some beeks I know and doing some research. They had nothing but stellar things about his queens and bees in general. I ordered them for myself and one was to be a gift to my mentor, as a thank you for helping me so much. I asked when they would be shipped and he responded very promptly that they would not be mailed till the end of April. "Perfect" I thought. I was scheduled to get my packages on the 13th of April, so the timing was perfect. Imagine my surprise when I received them in mid march. I had no hive to put them in, so they were useless to me. I quickly emailed Don asking what happened and why hadn't they called or emailed me to tell me they were coming so early. While waiting for a reply, I examined the queens themselves. Upon closer inspection, I noticed there were three cages but only two of them had queens in them. So not only were they almost a month early, but the order wasn't even complete. I asked my mentor if he would take them, and he said he would, so I drove over.
When he got a look at them, he said "Tom, these queens are half dead." I looked down, and they were all moving sluggishly and some were barely moving at all. This just kept getting better.
I got an email back from Don saying I should mail them back, and that he did not contact me because he does not keep emails and he never had my phone number. In response I emailed him a picture of the box he shipped the queens in, on which was a sticker with my phone number. So not only did he have my number, but he was too lazy to check. His excuse was "I am busy in the bee yard all day, and don't check my email." I found this statement odd since he always emailed back so promptly when I was in the ordering process.
When I complained about the queens numbering only two (which I backed up with close up photos) and them being almost half dead, he completely ignored the fact there were only two, and told me to go to the post office and file am insurance claim. I don't feel like committing fraud, so I mailed them back to him and asked for a refund or new queens at the end of April, saying he dropped the ball and needed to right his error. I felt this was not an unfair thing to ask, due to the situation. He has since stopped responding to my emails.
One of the last things he stated was that "I don't like shipping to California because this kind of thing (meaning they arrive half dead) can happen." I asked him in an email before I ordered if he had ever shipped to California and he said yes he had, and had done so successfully.
All in all, a very disappointing experience. I am sure many people have purchased bees from him successfully, but this was my experience. I paid $90 for three queens to be shipped to me, and I currently have nothing to show for it. If any one would like, I am happy to forward the 20+emails we exchanged which includes photos and runs the entire interaction. From initial questions to the last email I sent him after he started ignoring me.
I hope you all had better luck getting queens and packages this year. I was very excited to start this year, and I am sad to say this has dampened my enthusiasm.
Best luck to you all this fine spring season. I hope your hives are going strong.