The reputations of national wire services were built on the hard work and integrity of local florists across the US and Canada, garnering the networks great name recognition and a high level of respect with consumers. The current incarnations, unfortunately, seem to pay little more than lip service to quality, especially with respect to the selling/brokering of arrangements for distant delivery.
Both FTD and Teleflora assess US and Canadian member florists annual fees of $240.00 for 'Quality Assurance' services. These funds are supposed to be used to monitor orders that move through their networks. Based on the numbers of members, the wire services will each collect roughly $5 Million annually under the programs.
Teleflora's progam was recently launched and we are disappointed to note that the information distibuted to florists only mentions evaluations being based on the likeness of arrangements to the original items, overall appearance of the flowers, card message accuracy and delivery time accuracy. At no time do the regulations discuss the monitoring of sellers and non-florist affiliates for truthfulness of advertising and/or compliance to transmission of consumers' full dollar value, including delivery charges, of orders to local florists for fulfilllment.
Added 4/19/05: A recent statement made by spokesman Johnathan Cutler indicates that the company has broadened the scope of the Quality Assurance program to include not only incorrect substitutions, and late cancellations, but order skimming and deceptive Internet advertising, as well.
While the policing of poor quality florists is long overdue, one has to wonder why some of these don't-know-which-end-of-the-flower-goes-in-the-vase types were ever admitted to the wire services in the first place. We are aware of numerous incidences where flower shops were signed up prior to even being open for business and are perplexed how quality could possibly be assessed. Quality to pay dues, perhaps?
To provide true quality assurance to consumers, The Florist Detectives believe the following policies should be adopted by our national floral networks:
- Exhibit a zero tolerance for affiliates using phony locations and deceptive advertising as outlined by the Federal Trade Commission and the Canadian Competition Bureau.
- Mandate the proper and true itemization of all fees including service/relay/same-day charges and actual delivery charge allowances to permit fair and accurate price comparisons.
- Assure that all fees labeled as 'delivery charges or fees' are transferred to local florists for the physical delivery of arrangements and gifts, and are not misleadingly retained by affiliates as service charges.
- Require each selling agent to clearly state the physical location of its businesses and to notify consumers when and if orders will be transferred to other florists for fulfillment and delivery.
- Prohibit any selling agent from advertising as a 'florist in city name ' unless the company is physically located and delivering in that city.
- Unmask each affiliate business name and web address now cloaked behind a master account to provide more transparency of business practices to consumers and florists
The Florist Detectives wishes all members were evaluated on their records of honesty, integrity, product quality and service and highlight a few well-known 'quality problems' within the industry.
Since the initial publication of floristdetective.com, we note that some of the companies listed below have been suspended by at least one major national wire service. They all remain in business, however, continuing to use the same or similar tactics that earned them a place on our Weed Hall of Shame list.
Kay's Florist, Kay's Flowers
aka blossomflorists.com, kaysflorist.com, jodysflowersandgifts.com, abbottsfloristandgifts.com, abbottsflorist.com, floristdeliverytoday.com, floristdeliveryusa.com, sendingofflowers.com, online4florist.com
Advertising as a local flower shop 'family owned and operated since 1970' this Bellaire, TX call center generates more consumer complaint letters to the Florist Detectives than any other order gathering business in operation. Having test ordered from them ourselves, we can attest to their routine skimming of consumer's dollars, delivering far less than they show to buyers.
Kay's family of sites portray themselves as local brick and mortar stores, collect delivery fees that are not properly passed on to local flower shops for the physical delivery of the flowers, and have a pattern of systematically reducing the flower dollars transmitted to real local flower shop. The result is angry consumers and duped local florists who are left on the front lines to bear the brunt of the complaints for delivering smaller-than-expected-arrangements.
According to FTD insiders, Kay's is one of FTD's top 5 volume affiliate resellers. Florists report primarily receiving Kay's orders through the FTD Mercury network. Kay's is also listed as a member Teleflora and also uses Teleflora's proprietary product images on their websites.
Without the wire service commissions, rebates, cloaking of orders and proprietary networks, this company could not continue to rip-off consumers on a national scale. We call on both FTD and Teleflora to stand up for flower buyers, actually provide some quality assurance and suspend this company from their networks.
USA4Flowers.com, Hobe Sound, Florida
aka international-florist.com, USA4roses.com, 1800USA4flowers.com, 1800calflorist.com and more than 50 addtitional URLs.
Teleflora says 'Weed Be Gone" on June 3, 2005
In an annoucement sent to to its members via the Dove network, Teleflora said
Due to recent violations of the company's Rules and Regulations, and after repeated quality assurance monitoring and evaluation, Teleflora has taken action against a member florist who has violated the company's policies. Effective immediately, USA4Flowers.com Inc.'s Teleflora membership (account XXXXXX) is terminated and we strongly urge you to refuse orders from them.
We note that florists are reporting USA4Flowers.com attempting to get orders filled by contactling local shops direct, using credit cards and claiming to be representatives from 'State Florist Network.' Having noted USA4Flowers.com's repeated use of fraudulent free delivery claims, The Florist Detectives is pleased to see Teleflora finally take action against this non-florist affiliate's deceptive selling tactics.
JustFlowers.com, Los Angeles, California
aka VirtualFlowers.com, Flower.com, FlowerDelivery.com
Teleflora Pulls This Big Weed on April 7, 2005
In an annoucement sent to its member florists via the Dove network, Teleflora said
Due to recent violations of the company's Rules and Regulations, and after repeated quality assurance monitoring and evaluation, Teleflora has taken action against a member florist who has violated the company's policies. Effective immediately, JustFlowers's Teleflora membership (account XXXXXX) is terminated and we strongly urge you to refuse orders from them.
In a separate statement which appeared in a Society of American Florists e-brief, Teleflora's director of public relations and corporate communcations, Jonathan Cutler, was quote as saying,
"They repeatedly violated our rules and regulations, including order skimming,"
Order skimming means this company was found to be transferring less than full monies collected for orders to the local florist that would actually fill them, depriving recipients of their full flower value. The Florist Detectives are aware of multiple reports by consumers, florists and former employees about these allegations and applaud Teleflora for taking this step.
In an effort to protect consumers and its florist members, we hope FTD will also thoroughly investigate JustFlowers.com, one of its top volume affiliates, and heed the reports submitted by their own member florists.
Lovin' Blooms, Macon, Georgia
aka lovinblooms.com, aflorist.net, flowershope.com, floristconnection.com, flowers4canada.com, floristseverywhere.com, flowersunder50.com, floralthoughts.com, afloristusa.com
FTD Finally Pulls This Affiliate Weed on March 28, 2005
In an annoucement sent via email to its florist members FTD said
Effective immediately, FTD has removed ... Lovin' Blooms located in Macon Georgia, from FTD due to continuous violations of FTD Standards, including order curtailment and failure to comply with FTD's code of conduct.
While you may still receive orders from Lovin' Blooms through other wire services, FTD has decided to take action regarding this unacceptable behavior by terminating Lovin' Blooms' membership and disconnecting their Mercury Network connection.
Order curtialment means the company was caught transferring less than the proper full monies paid for orders to local florists for fulfillment, thereby defrauding consumers. The 'other wire service' alluded to in the second sentence is Teleflora which still permits Lovin' Blooms and all its aliases to use its trademarked product images and its proprietary network.
In an effort to protect consumers and its florist members, the Florist Detectives hope Teleflora will follow suit and remove this company from their network as well.
We'd have plenty to say about Lovin' Blooms/Flowershope.com but think flower buyers, reporters and the Better Business Bureau say it better.
Complaints.com - 4 reports
Ripoff Report - Lovin Bloom - 12 complaints
Ripoff Report - FloristConnection
Ripoff Report - Flowershope.com
Phildelphia Enquirer Article
Better Business Bureau Alert
The industry is replete with stories of Tracy Wells, Lovinblooms.com's owner, calling florists with threats to have them thrown out of wire services for refusing to fill his orders. Many local florists will not permit their products to be brokered by or affiliated with his company nor his vast array of alias websites. Yet, still the national wire service logos have blazed brightly on his sites. Teleflora seems to like his operation so much they even built him a site to plague Canada.
Vancouver Flower Company, Vancouver, BC
aka urbanflorist.com, artisanflorist.com
FTD Finally Pulled This Weed on February 16, 2005
The announcement, sent via email to its florists, stated
Effective immediately, we have removed Vancouver Flower Co. from FTD due to their continuous violations of FTD Standards.
The company had been doing business as
Vancouver Flower Co.
Urban Flowers & Baskets
One of the most prolific affiliate/broker florist advertisers on Google and Yahoo, in our opionion this company offered a one-stop look at how to dupe the public.
First, they placed respected logos on their sites to add consumer credibility - even when they weren't a member of the organizations. They were NOT members of the Society of American Florists (SAF), The Specialty Cut Flower Growers Association, Florafax, Interflora, nor the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD).
Next, they built sites with a separate page for each city in the US and Canada, claimed free delivery, and obfuscate their actual location by parsing words as found on this deceptive Las Vegas doorway page.
With your Las Vegas local florists, you can send fresh flowers anywhere in Las Vegas with fast, reliable delivery. Our Las Vegas flower shops are known for their excellence in both flower design and quality service, for all of your special occasions!
Does anyone besides us think the phrase 'our Las Vegas flower shops' implies they actually own and operate stores on Vegas?
Then, they overstated the customary selling prices and offered phony 'sale' prices while baiting consumers with arrangement images that bore little or no resemblance to what would actually be delivered (not designed roses, not in a vase .)
Next, they advertised two sites targeting the same phrases on search engines, using specific city names and the term 'local florist' to lead shoppers to believe they were directly servicing the communities. Two sites gave Vancouver twice the chance of hooking unsuspecting consumers. (Note: Thankfully, ads from both sites have disappeared from Google's Adwords.)
Lastly, they transfered less than the customers paid for orders to the florists that would actually fill them.
While the above tactics were dreadful, we found this last step to be outright theft.
Vancouver Flower Company was named FTD's Best New Florist of 2003.
We recently saw a post on a florist bulletin board about this company (there are many) that caught our attention. A florist had received an order from Vancouver Flower Company (the parent company) via the FTD network which requested a specific bouquet and a vase delivered for $36.49. Vancouver/Artisan/Urban had charged the customer $39.99 plus an additional $9.95 service fee. In clear violation of FTD 's rules, they had skimmed 8.5% off the order value and had falsely promised free delivery. After subtracting her local delivery charge of $5.99, the florist would have been left with only $30.50 to fill the order - nearly 25% less floral product than was promised and sold to the sender.
Fortunately, the local Millinocket, Maine florist knew the customer and contacted her. The customer had thought she was ordering direct from the Millinocket shop since Vancouver/Artisan/Urban had used Millinocket Florist (the name of the real shop) as the title of their ads.
All this was reported to FTD in December 2004. We are also aware of other complaints filed by florists regarding Vancouver/Artisan/Urban.
Read the shocking remarks from a former staffer here.
Ripoff Report - UrbanFlorist.com - 60 entries and rising
Ripoff Report - Artisan Florist - 3 entries
The Florist Detectives urges consumers and florists ripped off by Vancouver Flower Company or one of its alias websites to contact FTD, The US Federal Trade Commission, The Canadian Competition Bureau and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Links are located here.
We are pleased to see that FTD took the step of suspending this company and urge them to address the other 'quality problem members' who use similar deceptive marketing practices as outlined on our site.
A note about wire service awards
Shoppers may notice the use of Top 100, Top Florist, Top 250 or similar marks in conjunction with wire service logos on florist websites and in yellow page ads. These awards are given based on volume of orders sent through a particular wire service and are not necessarily an indication of quality of floristry. We'd hope that high volume florists would offer great quality, however some of the 'top florists' of today aren't florists at all, just affiliate/broker webmasters who wouldn't know a muscari from a mouse.