Avoid florist fiascos as complaints grow

When Pamela Garnick ordered a flower arrangement to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover, she was surprised when an Easter basket showed up at her aunt's door. "The basket had white lilies and shiny blue eggs," says Garnick, a Philadelphia area member. "Thank goodness we have a sense of humor!" She didn't ask for a refund, but was chagrined when the florist delivered a blase apology upon learning of the error.

Garnick says the Easter arrangement became a bit of a family joke, but other Angie's List members aren't laughing about their negative florist experiences. Last year, florists made the list of the top 10 most complained about categories on Angie's List for the first time.

A recent online poll found 85 percent of respondents had hired a florist to send flowers, create an arrangement for a special event or for other services. Forty-three percent reported having had more bad experiences than good or at least a few problems, such as late deliveries or wilted flowers.

Professionalism, responsiveness and quality were among the top things members rated poorly. Many of the reports involve members who ordered flowers online and discovered the bouquets or arrangements that arrived had fewer or different flowers than they expected.

Faulty flowers

Lorraine Fitzsimmons ordered a Christmas-themed arrangement with a Thomas Kinkade keepsake cottage through Teleflora for a friend's birthday last December. Los Angeles-based Teleflora subcontracts with local florists across the U.S. to fill orders and is highly rated on Angie's List based on two reports. The Potomac, Md., member says she was "horrified" when she stopped by her friend's house and saw the gift delivered by a local company, Magellan's Florist. "You could see the green Styrofoam that the house was stuck into," Fitzsimmons says. "It was supposed to have three large roses and it had none." She says Magellan's hung up on her when she tried to complain.

A Magellan's manager who asked to be identified only as Sophia C. says the shop merged with Flowers World Wide in February and is under new management. She says consumers ordering off the Teleflora website should expect some variation from the pictures online. "Their approximate height and width is usually wrong," she says, adding that a better bet is to call a florist directly, though her shop continues to fill orders from Teleflora.

Missy Miller, a Teleflora spokeswoman, said in a statement that florists are expected to fill orders at full value, though substitutions are permitted. "We're absolutely committed to quality products and service at Teleflora and apologize the bouquet your member ordered did not meet our high standards," Miller says. "With 16,000 independent member florists throughout the U.S. and Canada, we're typically able to offer excellent service, but sometimes mistakes happen." Fitzsimmons convinced Teleflora to send a replacement through another florist. "It took a lot of time and effort," she says. "Unless I argued for it, I'd have gotten nothing.">

Steve Trahms was enticed by an advertisement for $30 roses from ProFlowers, which is based in San Diego. The online company specializes in individual arrangements and describe their flowers as "fresh-from-the-field." Trahms, a Dickinson, N.D., oil worker, was embarrassed when the ProFlowers arrangement arrived on Valentine's Day looking partially frozen, with stems that were cut too short for an overly large vase. "She's my dear wife of 34 years - I wanted to give her something nice," he says. "Instead she got a box of crap."

ProFlowers declined an interview request but company spokeswoman Grace Lee emailed this response: "ProFlowers guarantees our flowers will last at least seven days. If for any reason our valued customers are not satisfied with the freshness or quality of the flowers they ordered, we encourage them to call or email us and we will gladly replace the bouquet." Trahms asked ProFlowers to take him off the company's mailing list, but didn't request a refund.

Consumers should steer away from big online flower delivery companies, especially those that subcontract with florists, says Pat Hutchins, owner of the highly rated Flowers in Flight in Portland, Ore. "Those are not florists, those are what we call 'order-gatherers,'" Hutchins says. "They send the orders out to a florist. They take a cut, then the florist gets something. In the end, the sender doesn't get the value they're looking for."

Hutchins says she used to fill orders from several of these companies, but estimated she was losing money by copying the arrangements pictured online. Subcontracted florists might be tempted to skimp on flowers to make money filling orders from these companies, she says.

Carla Buckner was hoping to cheer up her sister with a delivery of flowers from the website of Greensleeves Florist in Fairfax, Va., but the bouquet didn't arrive on the arranged date. Greensleeves offered a free upgrade, but when the Reston, Va., member received a cellphone photo of the flowers from her sister, she wilted. "The arrangement I ordered was 95 percent pink and white flowers and what was delivered was mostly greenery," Buckner says. "It wasn't even in the same ballpark in the same city." She says she's still trying to get a refund and vowed never to buy flowers online again. Greensleeves, which has an F rating based on Buckner's report, didn't respond to Angie's List messages seeking comment.

Better blooms

For customers who want to send flowers to another city, a local trusted florist may be able to help. Flowers in Flight works with a network of good local florists they've identified in other markets for clients who want to send flowers out of town for a $10 fee. Another option is to research and contact a florist in the area you plan to send the arrangement yourself.>

Marietta, Ga., member Pam Roberts added another city to her Angie's List account so she could order a corsage and boutonniere for her niece's first prom. Roberts had highly rated Imagine Flowers in Winston-Salem, N.C., create a wrist corsage that complemented her niece's unusual dress. "My niece was thrilled because she is an artsy person and very fashion forward, and everyone else's flowers were ordinary," says Roberts, who says the floral designer at Imagine spent a half hour gathering details.

Members with positive florist experiences praised florists who showed creativity, flexibility and took time to assess their needs. When the floral designer at highly rated Hepatica Florist in Pittsburgh found out Carol Mangel's late mother loved butterflies, she offered to add butterfly decorations to her funeral arrangement. "Everyone said they couldn't believe how pretty they were," she says.

Cindy Sullivan of Austin, Texas, praised the personal touches recommended by highly rated Prive Floral for her daughter Emily's wedding, including arrangements with herb plants to evoke a "welcoming, fresh, farm-to-table" theme and flowers displayed in antique milk glass containers that Sullivan purchased at estate sales and online auctions in advance. "She captured Emily's style very well," Sullivan says. "She stayed under the budget and produced a beautiful effect."

Hallie Krechevsky, owner of the highly rated Hallie's Flower Garden in Cambridge, Mass., says giving your florist creative leeway instead of asking for specifics can result in a better experience. "We don't have cookie cutter arrangements," says Krechevsky, who suggests giving general guidelines like "pale colors versus bright" or "tall versus short," and allowing the florist to choose the freshest blooms available that day. "The best arrangements come out of collaborations."


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Comments

I agree that calling a local florist is the best and most economical way to get a nice bouquet delivered. I usually ask around if I'm ordering in a nearby town, usually somebody can suggest someone. If not, I'll poke around online, looking at websites and reviews. Then I'll call them direct, and tell the florist the occasion, the price point I'd like to stay at and a bit about the receiver. I'll let them tell me what they can do, and we work together to come up with a good plan. Most florists have gone over the top to please me & the receiver, plus, the delivery fees are sometimes completely waived, but they are ALWAYS much less than even the least expensive online site. If you are willing to be understanding about when they can make the delivery, and what product they have on-hand, the look of the bouquet, etc, most florists are happy & grateful to work with you. I think they are pleased when someone entrusts them with making a decision like that, they know that people talk, especially angry people, and that everyone loves to complain on social.networking sites, so they better step up! Lol., so, the recipient gets a lovely bouquet (probably better and larger than if you had ordered through an 'order taker' because the money you spend is going towards the actual flowers & not all sorts of fees!, plus it's nice to,'buy local' and support small businesses.

I have been reading some of the remarks on Angie list. In defence I must say that our company will do everything we can to make a customer happy but some have unrealistic expectations. When a person orders a flower arrangement on line, from a picture we try to make it like the picture. Flowers are seasonal so if someone orders something that is out of season we either reject the order or fill the order with flowers similar to the picture. Ordering flowers on line people think its like ordering from amazon and you get exactly what you order, that is not possible with flowers. The best thing to do is call the florist or come in the shop. We are happy to talk to our customers.

Thank you for addressing this issue. I have owned a flower shop in Salt Lake City for over 25 years. I fill my job is to educate all our customers on using a Local Flower Shop in there area for all orders. With the rise of the internet and online shopping, customers find it easy to make their purchases there. Sad, but the small, Mom and Pop shops can't compete with the order gatherers. I find it's our job to educate everyone that I can to buy local, be aware of who you are buying from and always, always buy from a local reputable shop. Reputable is a key word here. Whether it's a Florist, a gift shop, Amazon, anything you may buy online, we must continue to educate for consumers to look for the "hidden fees", shop wisely and always BUY LOCAL if at all possible. Teleflora, FTD Pro Flowers and 1800 flowers Avas, Flowers for You all are Order Gatherers. Yes, some have shops in local cities. But they charge you, 15.00 or more for using them. Save your money, Buy Direct and talk to the florist that will be delivering your flowers.

Mistake happen, but most of the time the security of ordering flowers from a local flower shop is the best way to insure you are getting what you pay for. The fact that teleflora, ftd, 1800flowers, proflowers, etc., is listed on Angie's List is surprising because none of these is a LOCAL business. By picking up the phone and speaking with a florist, or vising their website, your chances of a successful and pleasant experience increase tremendously. A florist that fills orders for teleflora, ftd and 1800flowers gives back a huge percentage (27%), and you still pay full price plus a service fee. Save your money, protect your purchase, increase your changes of happiness, and contact a local florist. Can't find one on Angie's list? Let Angie know you wish her site were only LOCAL businesses.

I have been a florist for 25 years for other owners, and well Teleflora and FTD are ruining it for flower shops and 1800 flowers, they want you to purchase there containers and they give you a list of flowers to put in that container, and well buy the time you take off labor and delivery there is usually not enough left money to put the correct flowers in the vase or there not in correct season , I do know that there are alot of flowers that are available year round, but the whole seller might not have them, and alot of times the certain arrangements only give you a few hours to make the arrangements to there spects, now what happened to trained florist that have knowledge in design and are self creative, and the delivery part of it alot of people don't know the correct address, or have no clue if they are going to be at home that day, and the cost of gas, puts delivery charges through the roof, 12 miles one way on a van that may get 10 miles to the gallon, and the people are not home or will not return a simple phone call or they do not talk to there neighbors,bullshit!!! you cry babies that would rather send flowers to an elderly person then go visit them and the big thing water the darn things and they would last longer.I would rather not deal with the people that get bent over the color of a vase that was not in the picture. there are so many options out there, and the cheaper the better for the bottom line, thats how business is run in any industry as long as its appealing to the eye oh yea!! the days of 20.00 arrangements are out( thanks to china trade agreement)

If you add up the cost of the arrangement, then figure that 27-29% in fees. What sort of product could you possibly expect to receive? When you order from the website of an order gatherer, you are ordering from someone who has NO clue what a local florist may have in stock or be capable of providing. The fact is, not every florist is perfect. We all make mistakes. Our shop is working diligently to educate our floral customers and potential customers. I would bet my life that 99% of every local florist shop genuinely DOES desire to give EVERY customer great service and a superior product for a reasonable price. I have yet to see ANY real florist tack on ANY fee in addition to the product you order, delivery fee, and tax. Additionally, when you order from a website, where does sales tax collected go? And in some cases, it may not generate tax revenue for ANY locale. We are working diligently at our shop to discontinue filling orders for ALL order gatherers. I'm sorry this post was so long, and there is even more that I did not include. But, I believe people who feels that they have been treated poorly by ANYone in the floral community deserves a thorough explanation.

As a florist and shop owner, I'm so glad this has hit Angie's List. Whenever I see any media write and publish such information, I seriously wish there was a bit more detail. In our business, we have several components. The key, the local florist, is THE one who can serve you best. Wire Services charge membership fees to the local florist simply to belong. Long story short, the standard for all WIRE services, is to take from 7-9% of each order transmitted through their service. The company who originates the order, typically gets 20% of the ARRANGEMENT value. The florist who fills and delivers the order gets the remaining 71-73% of the order. Of that remaining percentage, the florist pays for all cost of goods, shop overhead, utilities, designer labor, and the cost of delivery. The wire-services allow 7.99 to 10$ of the arrangement value to be applied as a delivery fee. Some of the wire services even direct ship in a box from their warehouse to your door, bypassing local florists altogether. Teleflora does not. Where people really get into trouble is by using order gatherers. Order gatherers show discounted pricing, ambiguous stock photos, sometimes discontinued/outdated product. Many of their call centers are off-shore, either in India, Phillipines, or even Malaysia(etc). When you place orders with them, you order the arrangement, then are asked a series of questions and charged a shipping/handling fee, same day delivery fee, early delivery fee, guaranteed delivery fee etc. Most of these websites do not show your total until AFTER you have completely filled out your online order. I have heard recently, that some are also "requiring" you to join their "rewards" program for monthly fee in order to take the discounted price upon ordering. As an example, we had a complaint today of an order being sent from our shop that was sent undervalue. The customer had ordered online from an order gatherer and paid them over $71.00. However, when the order was sent to our shop, the order value was only $54.00. Apply a $10 delivery fee. Cost of a basket, $5.00, cost of "goodies and treats" $18 and cost of a balloon $2.00 and shops supplies of $1.50.

The delivery of a fresh cut bouquet of flowers is a thrill! A thoughtful gesture of sending flowers is always appreciated. As a 5 star florist I suggest that you never order on line. Call a well reviewed local florist. We are worth the extra few minutes of your time. We will take care of your order with pride. Many of the on line sites taking your credit card number are not florists. They take part of what you spend and then try to find someone to send flowers for you for far less than what you paid. This hurts the entire industry. Flowers are wonderful, and we all love them.

I ordered flowers from my local grocery store who is part of a National Flower (Tele-Chain). Being out of the country, I thought the local store could handle getting the flowers to my wife for her Birthday. I checked and my wife said that the Florist called and told her they did not have any fresh flowers and that they expected a delivery in 2 days. Two days later (after my wife's BD, the store called and said they could deliver the flowers, but my wife had to work that day and asked if they could be brought the following day. The next day the flowers did not arrive. I emailed the store on their email (customer site). and they never emailed me back. NOW I get ALL MY FLOWERS from PRO FLOWERS. I order maybe 10 deliveries per year. They always arrive on time, perfect and very fresh. I will NEVER go back to _TD or the TELE company again.

Using the local florist doesn't always work either - especially if you're ordering from out of town. A couple of years ago I ordered a $65.00 bouquet from an independent florist in the town where my mother lives that's about 100 miles away. As a matter of coincidence, I happened to be at her house two days after the flowers were to have been delivered. She had received no flowers, but got a call from the florist announcing that he was going to then deliver her flowers. I got on the phone and declined the delivery, as it was two days late. About three hours later the florist phoned again, saying that the flowers were ready and that he was going to deliver them. Again I declined the order. When my credit card statement arrived later in the month, not only had I been charged the $65.00, but also a delivery charge running the bill up to $90.00 - for flowers my mother never received. The florist's excuse was that he had tried to deliver the flowers on the specified date but no one was home. This just wasn't true since my mother is 80 years old and rarely leaves her house. I protested to the credit card company and got the entire charge credited to my account. I do think, however, that the florist fully intended to deliver the flowers two days late and overcharge me for them.

We own a flower shop in Exeter California and this article is right on the money. Exeter Flower Company has been in business for over 12 years and specializes in friendly and high quality, not necessarily high end, products. We treat our neighbors like our own family and know what their needs are, if not before they arrive, soon after. In a small community like ours, you can be as friendly as youu like, but quality and service will keep your clientele coming back. If ANY issues arise, they are handled quickly and with the customer in mind. Poor quality and/or service will eventually catch up with you and when you hit the street wondering what happened, it is likely to be those issues that put you there. This is a good article for both the public and florists to read and understand. Thanks so much for posting it.

Great article,, I was a floral designer as well as part of family owned flower shops. Prior to the internet and email we actually talked to our customers, took time to find out what they wanted, since the internet everyone wants a cookie cutter arrangement,,, the key is to give the florist some credit for creativity,,, when you go to a meal, you probably ask what is fresh, what is good... why not do the same with flowers! Most varities are available year around but that does not guarantee they are fresh and good quality. It is hard to use an ugly orange rose in an arrangement when you have a very pretty yellow one... but have to fill an order to defined specifications! Finally TALK TO YOUR FLORIST ! If they did a bad job,, tell them... maybe it was something out of thier control! If they did a good job TELL them!

I want to publicly thank Rachel of Flowers by Rachel, in Lubbock Texas, for her amazing kindnesses which go far beyond customer service. My elderly mother (97) is in assisted living in Lubbock and family is all several hours away. On the first time I called Rachel, it was late in the day and Mama been sent to the hospital and would be there for some hours while we were getting to her. I ordered flowers from Rachel, explained that we were coming and thought flowers would cheer up the patient. Believe it or not, Rachel delivered the flowers and waited and visited with my mother for some time while waitinng for a family member to arrive. That was a couple of years ago and I have used Rachel exclusively since then when I send flowers in Lubbock. More recently, I ordered flowers on July 1, asking for a patriotic theme, also mentioned it would have been my parents' anniversary (dad deceased) so if it could be delivered on July 1 that would be great. Not only did Rachel deliver the flowers herself, she took her own young daughter with her, and they visited and chatted with my mother in her room on that anniversary day. Rachel is a kind and empathetic person and I deeply appreciate her. And so does my mom!

Thank you to Angie's List. I own a single location florist who does our best to always make one of a kind arrangements for all our customers. We are NOT affiliated with any wire services as they are a middle-man who take a large portion of the $$, yet ask the florist to provide an arrangement for full value even though we only received a small amount. Please read our article on our discussion page on our facebook page. Again - Thank you for educating the public!

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