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.
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.
Louisiana is the only state that requires florists to be licensed. All retail florists must pass a written exam by the state's Department of Agriculture and Forestry to obtain a license.
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.
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."