Essential Marketing for Florists

Valentine’s Day BBB Florist Warning: Top Source of Complaints

Valentine’s Day flower shopping advice abounds. Yesterday, Chicago’s BBB reported that complaints filed against florists were up 47% from 2010 to 2011 and urged sweethearts to shop wisely for the best blooms.

A 47% complaint increase? Quite an alarming statistic – one that really begged for a closer look.

So I dug through their numbers to discover the details of the source of that huge jump in BBB complaints:

Total 2011 Chicago BBB Florist Complaints : 588
FTD.com complaints: 558
Local Chicago florist complaints: 30

FTD.com’s business practices were the source of 95% of all complaints about ‘florists’ made to the Chicago BBB.

I called the Chicago office of the Better Business Bureau to ask a few questions and to express my dismay with the way their press release seemed to create a negative portrait of Chicago florists as a group.  In reality, the overwhelming majority (all but 5%) of complaints processed were about a single business – FTD.com – and the BBB still rates that company with an A+.

So in effect, by urging consumers to view florist ratings on the BBB site, the BBB is heartily ‘endorsing’ their single biggest source of consumer flower dissatisfaction.

Many local florists believe the Better Business Bureau should put national floral marketing firms like FTD, Teleflora, 1800Flowers.com, Blooms Today, Just Flowers and others in a category separate from local flower shops. These businesses don’t stock fresh floral inventory and don’t actually make the deliveries themselves. They primarily broker orders to local florists for fulfillment or use third-party fulfillment houses to drop-ship orders via parcel services.

Please, call them Floral Relay Services, Floral Marketing Agencies, Online Floral Services or some other name that reflects the true nature of their businesses, but don’t classify them as ‘florists’.

Lumping local stores in the same category as national call center/affiliate marketers is akin to categorizing Expedia or Travelocity (travel agents) as hotels or airlines.

Before anyone gets the idea that weak local florists cause most of the complaints about FTD.com, it might be helpful to know:

– Valentine’s Day 2011 was the scene of a major marketing fiasco with FTD.com and Groupon where FTD’s  discount offers through the group buying site were called bait and switch  scams  across national media.
–  Approximately 75% of the products featured on FTD.com for Valentine’s Day and other floral holidays are not delivered by local flower shops.  They’re drop-shipped in boxes via UPS and FedEx.
–  FTD created a program which severely fines local florists 100% of the value of each flower order if the shops fail to deliver the items on time. The down-side for accepting their orders is now much greater than the up-side during busy major holidays. Many stores simply shut off their FTD communications software and refuse to accept FTD orders before and on high-demand days like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

As a business owner whose company is a member of the BBB, it’s disheartening to read such an incendiary, misleading headline as the one released by the Chicago BBB about florists this Valentine’s Day.

A more helpful headline could have read: “Local Chicago Florists Blossom in 2011: Just 30 consumer complaints for the entire year.”

Hey, Chicago BBB, how about a do-over?  And if you’re going to send out a press release cautioning flower buyers for Valentine’s Day, think twice about who you award those A+ ratings.

Comments

comments

8 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day BBB Florist Warning: Top Source of Complaints”

  1. I am so disgusted with this BBB article!!! In addition to lumping local florists in with order gathering agencies like FTD, they forgot to put as tip#4 and most important, buy from a local florist to cut out the middleman!

  2. Here we go again. Todays Groupon was $40 worth of flowers for the low price of $20 on FTD.com. Read the small print & see the service fee to place the order ranges from $19.99 to $29.99 depending on delivery date. Doesn’t the service fee negate any savings on this so called half price offer? We need to educate the consumers to read the fine print, you pay for it one way or another. There is no such thing as a free lunch! I am tempted to turn off my FTD machine as they are just stealing orders from the local florist. Rather than trying to work with us they are trying to make us work for them.

  3. Isn’t the BBB supposed to stand for integrity and to be a go-to for the consumer to find the truth? Are they not trusted by these same consumers to be the voice that guides them to a safe purchase? Why then would the BBB make such a horrendous and potentially damaging statement regarding an ENTIRE INDUSTRY when in fact, the overwhelming majority of complaints stem from one company? That leads to another big question ~ why, WHY? would that one company that has furnished 95% of those complaints have an A+ rating? It just does not make any sense if this is such an alarming thing that the BBB feels it necessary to put out a consumer alert that they would not at the very least give that company a lower rating. It makes even less sense that the BBB would instead paint a picture that is reckless and damaging. Did the researcher of the article not do their research?

    Sign me Disgusted

  4. Jeanne Heinemann

    I had the opposite problem from the one described. Wanting to send flowers to an out of state friend diagnosed with cancer but not knowing which florist to trust, I ordered from an online service. I paid extra for same day service and chose the largest and most expensive arrangement from the same day choices. The flowers were not delivered. I complained to the online service whose follow-up was impeccable. The customer service rep put me on hold to call the florist a second time after the flowers were listed as delivered TWO HOURS before the order was even placed. Caught in a lie, the florist then gave three more lies: 1) They were out of those flowers yet they called the online company who asked me for permission to substitute. 2) Their truck was broken so they couldn’t deliver the same day yet they accepted the order and didn’t tell the online company during the flower substitution call. 3) Six bright carnations in a gaudy vase instead of the three dozen pale pink roses in a white ceramic pitcher (the “Breast Cancer” arrangement) were delivered because “it was an equal value”. I had also sent a table top tree arrangement. The local florist delivered a red plastic base like a margarine container. It had few flowers, little greenery and stood about 8″ high. The replacement tree had no visible base and stood 24″ tall. It was lush with greenery, loaded with roses, had a garland, glass ball ornaments, and real candy canes. I would use this company again. The irony is that my friend volunteers for a thrift store charity. She said the local florist brags that he buys used vases from the store which he then uses for all his orders yet he charges the full price. This isn’t the first local florist with whom I’ve had problems which is why I ALWAYS ask the recipient to e-mail me pictures of the orders.

  5. It will be difficult to erase the Brand Loyalty companies like FTD and the BBB have generated over the decades. But, people need to know that FTD is not the same trusted company it once was, After changing hands several times in the past 2 decades, it has become a nightmare of greed and deception. People should use the same caution buying online from a floral order relay company as they should when they buy anything from a company they do not know. Shop Local, be safe, use a company in your community you are familiar with!
    The Better Business Bureau also no longer operates as an impartial business watchdog. If the ratings are for sale how can the company be impartial?
    Buyer Beware!!

  6. To Jeanne Heinemann –

    I’m so sorry to hear of your bad experience with a local florist. Any shop that would substitute 6 carnations for an arrangement that was to include 3 dozen pink roses deserves to go out of business.

    The real problem lies with the wire services (FTD, Teleflora, 1-800-Flowers) which allow companies like the one you describe into their membership. Wire services used to have strict standards and would terminate memberships of unprofessional local florists. They now have much more lax enforcement as a substantial amount of their incomes are derived for fees paid by flower shops.

    Use Yelp, Google reviews or another trusted review site to find a good local florist in the area where you need to send flowers. You’ll save $15-$25 in service charges and won’t be dinged with that ‘extra for same day service’ fee mentioned in your comment.

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