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Floral Industry Informative - Consumer concerns about floral orders.

Review by Doc J on 2006-05-25
My wife has been a florist for over 30 years. In that time, her industry underwent many changes...many are detrimental.
Among the worst has been the entry of non-florists as flower retailers. One can buy flowers at lumber yards, office supply stores, discount stores, groceries, etc. And, of course, via the Internet.
Buying from non-florists is fine, provided you have limited expectations. Most are merely bulk, pre-packaged flowers. Some have "designers" on site. Unfortunately, few of them have formal training in design (I know, it hardly seems necessary to those of us who have no appreciation for a florist's required skills.) As a result, you often get a "cookie-cutter" design. This is fine, so long as you realize it. Don't expect excellence from "cheap".
The Internet or by phone service...worst of all. Your order goes to an "order gatherer" who doesn't know a daisy from a dishpan. Worse is the "value" offered by these services. You may pay $50 for an arrangement. Most of this goes to "fees" garnered by the order gatherer. They also collect upwards of 20% as their "take" for handling the order. By the time the "$50" order reaches the florist, they often have only $30 to work with. There is usually a delivery fee of $8-10 (gas, driver, van, etc.) that seldom covers the florists delivery expense. Your "$50" order now amounts to about $20 worth of flowers. Raw flowers are expensive, labor, and other overhead needs to be paid. The margin for Internet and similar orders is a few bucks...at best. Worse, some of the order gatherers "guarantee" delivery for an additional $15-20 (kept by the order gatherer, the delivering florist sees none of this). They have no idea as to stock availability for the florist, weather, or road conditions. Such fees are wasted money. Also, the florist may want to fill an order "as pictured" on the Internet. It depends on stock. A flower shop simply cannot stock every vase, flower, do-dad, etc. as pictured. Read the fine print...substitutions and "filling to value" (the remaining $20 of your $50) is permitted.
Consumers lose a great amount of value by going through the order gatherers! But, they are "convenient" for folks, sitting at their computer, who remember Valentine's Day is "tomorrow" and it's already 3am on Feb 14th. Oddly, it is these folks who expect their floral order to be treated like a pizza...delivered in 30 minutes or less...and then vent at the unlucky florist who took the order when it fails to arrive "promptly at 9am".
Buy shop-to-shop. Go to, or call, a local florist. Watch out! Some "local florists" are actually distant order gatherers who simply bought a closed shop's phone number.
Ask your local florist to contact an independent florist in the location where you want your oder to go. Often the receiving shop gives a discount to the calling shop amounting to the 20% usually collected by the wire service or order gatherer. Your $50 order goes in with a "value" of about $60, less the delivery charge, and you get almost all of your $50 in flowers! WOW, what a concept. Now, you also have accountability for the order. Something goes wrong...you know where to go! (I mean that in a good way.)
Finally, delivery issues...
Flowers are not like pizza. Your order is not made and put, alone, in the van and delivered. Orders are delivered considering specific routes. Hospitals often set fixed times flowers will be accepted (and may charge $2-3 for the nice "pink lady" volunteer to take the flowers to the patient). Patients are discharged, die, change rooms or campuses, etc. Privacy law prohibits hospitals from telling the florist whether the patient is there. In "most" cases (excluding the really wild flower holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, etc) an order in by noon will be delivered on the same day. DON'T call your order in at 3:45pm and expect the florist to deliver it to rural, Spyderbreath, Texas by 5pm when the recipient is to leave work at the ranch on a holiday weekend. About 50% of Internet orderers actually do this and complain about the "incompetence" of the florist.
Give precise delivery instructions. Some cities are undergoing rapid development. Give a phone number for the recipient (you'd be amazed how many customers give their own-???). My wife regularly handles funeral orders where the name of the deceased is "not known" and the location of the body is "some big funeral home in Detroit". Oy!
When things go wrong. Be patient. Calling on the morning of February 14th at 10am demanding "where's my %^#$%^#% flowers, they were ordered at 5pm last night" will not go far. As the profit margin for florists has been eroded, staffing is often an issue. On busy "flower days" everyone is working like mad. It's unreasonable to expect the entire staff to suddenly drop all to track down an order, missing information, for $20. I assure you, a good shop will thoroughly research your concern ASAP. The sooner you let them get back to work, the sooner you'll have an answer to your concern. They will need to contact the driver, consult the delivery logs, double check the order, etc. It is not an instant process that can be done while you continue to complain on the phone...often about unrelated issues; stated simply to make the employee as uncomfortable and unhappy as you may be with your order.
Summing up...order early. Research an independent shop before you need them (every time I move I look into repair shops, markets, etc before I need them). Order directly from an independent florist, it's your best value. Have reasonable expectations, you will not receive 200 roses for $20 (some exotics cost the florist $10-15 EACH). Most of all, try kindness. The person on the other end of the phone is a human being. If they are rude, remind them of their need for manners, but understand that they are stressed too. If an employee is very rude, speak to the owner/manager. A good shop will fire such people immediately (provided your complaint is reasonable). There are bad florists, some. Most (independents) are truly artists who take deep pride in their work and enjoy being part of your attempt to express sentiments to a loved one.
This is far from complete...but don't want to write a floral version of "War and Peace". It is a complex issue.
Comments:5 Replies - Latest reply on 2006-10-18
Posted by Sparticus on 2006-05-25:
I've given up on ordering flowers over the web. I never get the quality the picture shows. I found it best to just go to a local shop and hand pick the flowers if it is an important occassion.
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-05-25:
Sparticus - I agree.. Last time I ordered flowers over the internet for a loved one it was delivered as individual components with assembly instructions like a computer hutch from wal-mart. I don’t think giving somebody a shop project for Valentines Day is a good idea. Lesson learned.
Posted by Doc J on 2006-05-25:
Stew-Ah yes, another "Pro-Flowers victim". I understand they're being sued for deceptive advertising. Despite ads to the contrary, the flowers are pre-picked, warehoused, and shipped in Fed-Ex trucks (non-refridgerated). Then, the recipient assembles the remains...I suppose it takes one's mind off of grieving.
Posted by spiderman2 on 2006-05-25:
This is very good advice! I actually have an account with the florist in my hometown and it has worked out well for me.
Posted by cattle dog on 2006-10-18:
did you know that these flowergathers charge between 25.00 35.00 then ftd & teleflora take another 50% before the real florist ever see's the order why would anybody not just go to real florist get full amount of the order for placing a phone call 0f 1.50 or making certain that web site is really a florist stop being ripped off folks.

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