When I first became a weekly columnist, an editor told me that if I wasn’t getting both love and hate messages from readers, I wasn’t doing my job. Well, judging from my inbox, I exceeded my goals for the past couple of weeks. Readers have buried me with responses to my columns on the floral industry. I have heard of vilified (some florists) and justified (burnt consumers).
While I never want to hurt small business owners, I am first and foremost pro-consumer. I know there are many florists who do a wonderful job, come up with exquisite arrangements, and are a pleasure to work with. May you live long. However, my reader’s mail and my experience tell me that not all of them are such a pleasure. This is what I propose to help correct by informing you, and, along the way, me.
Last week, I offered tips on what consumers can do to increase their chances of getting the flowers they hoped for and paid for. The week before, I had given some less welcome advice to florists. This week I’m knocking over some more soil than I dug up behind the greenhouse. After lengthy talks with a few industry veterans, here’s what I learned about an area that isn’t always so rosy.
Dirty secret n ° 1. The installers.
Online businesses posing as local florists threaten the good reputation of legitimate businesses. Sally Kobylinski, owner of In Bloom, in Orlando, Fla., A flower shop with two stores, was burnt down by these “posers,” who actually co-opted the name of her online store. “They are not stores at all. They are call centers, people sitting in front of computers,” she said.
“When I hear customers disappointed with their arrangements, who think they are from my store, I ask to see their receipt and I have to tell them, ‘We haven’t placed the order’,” she said. declared.
These order pickers pass themselves off as real florists. They take the order, pocket 20% of the payment without ever touching a flower, then use a wire service, which takes another 7%, before sending the order to a local florist. So if you order an arrangement for $ 100, the florist only has $ 73 to work with, she said. Then the installer often adds an additional service charge of $ 20 to $ 30, leaving you with a bill of $ 130.
No wonder customers are disappointed.
The people who fall victim to these order collectors are experiencing “tremendous value destruction,” said Farbod Shoraka, CEO and co-founder of BloomNation, a company that connects customers directly with florists so they can work. together. “They basically process orders through their website, then tap into a press office’s network of florists to fill the orders.”
Consumer Tip: Do your research and make sure you are working with a flower shop that you can actually walk into.
Dirty secret # 2. Grocers are ahead of florists for quality.
Not so long ago, flower farms recognized two levels of flowers: florist quality and grocer quality. “Now it’s reversed,” Kobylinski said. “The farms are growing for Costco, Trader Joe’s and Sam’s Club, and selling the better quality flowers directly to them. They prefer to go to five big customers rather than 5,000 small ones.”
Because farms sell directly to grocers, avoiding the wholesaler, grocery store flowers are also a steal. So much so that today some small florists often go to these retailers to buy flowers, where they can buy good quality for less than from their wholesaler.
Consumer tip: Don’t neglect your grocery store when buying flowers for your convenience. But look to professional florists when you want the eye and talent of a designer to combine flowers and create arrangements better than you can do on your own.
Dirty secret n ° 3. The numbers game.
“Many florists are playing the numbers game,” said Juan Palacio, owner of BloomsyBox, a subscription flower service. “They bet on who counts and who doesn’t, and who’s going to complain.”
If they fulfill an electronic service order, they will create a counterfeit that is cheaper than what was promised. Even though florists sign agreements promising to meet a certain standard, they don’t always do so, he said. “They think it will stay under the radar, and that Teleflora or FTD will never know.” Those who receive flowers rarely complain, and those who send them often do not see what is being delivered.
“During busy seasons,” Kobylinski added, “some stores are rolling the dice and accepting all orders, knowing they can’t fill all of them. They just plan to reimburse the ones they don’t fill after customers have finished. complained. “
Consumer tip: build relationships. Reader and flower industry insider Tim Haley, of Colorado Springs, Colo., Recommends making a personal connection with florists far away. If you have a loved one in a remote town, the next time you are there, visit the nearest florists, introduce yourself, meet the owner, and let them know that you are considering doing business with them.
Dirty secret n ° 4. False statements are ingrained.
“Most flower sales go through brokers who have nothing to do with the florist receiving the order,” Shoraka said. When you order through a press service, you see images that have been taken, edited and handled by professionals. “They push all the flowers forward so that the picture shows a lot of flowers, but you can’t see the back, which wouldn’t have flowers.”
Because brokers put a curtain between the customer and the florist, florists don’t develop a relationship with the buyer “and don’t feel pressured to outperform for brokers,” he said.
Advice to consumers: break the chain. Get rid of intermediate players by going local. Reader and flower producer Julia Watson, from San Jose, Calif., Wrote to me about Floret (fleuretfleurs.com) who has a directory of local flower growers and floral designers from around the world, including their own “Tiny Footprint Flowers”.
Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One”.