I think the comment on trees vs. hashes was meant to consider an apples-to-apples comparison at the next level up. For example, if you were to replace Perl's "hash" implementation with an automatically balanced tree representation--eg. AVL tree or RB tree or the like--under the hood, almost nobody would notice, but the time complexity would change from "nearly constant time for non-pathological data" to "logarithmic time for all data." Perl programmers don't change a line of Perl, they just see different performance characteristics.
Now, the details of other languages container types is a different story. I realize that the comment you replied to mentions C++, and your complaint seems C++ specific. But if you compare a hash_map to a map where your keys are strings, there really isn't a lot of difference between using either. You either provide an equals operator or a less-than operator. Ooooh.
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