Florist Detectives. Consumer Information about alleged deceptive and misleading florist advertising and marketing practices.

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Skimmer Report

You paid how much for those flowers and delivery?

The reports of skimming - the selling of arrangements and delivery services to consumers for one price followed by the forwarding of less-than-full-dollars-paid to the florists that fill the orders - have sadly been rolling in. We addressed the issue briefly on this page and have seen enough of these incidences to believe that this issue deserves its own space here on our site.

It's time for a big clean up with swift suspensions of any wire service member - and all their alias websites - caught skimming funds. Egregious cases should be turned over to appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Quite frankly, we local florists are tired of devoting time to and being blamed for the problems created by delivering under-valued orders from these companies. Consumers expect and deserve their full value and the future of flowers-as-a-gift depends on it.

Kay's Florist, Bellaire, Texas

The Letters about Kay's Florist Rip-Offs Just Keep Coming In

Kays-Complaint_small.png

(The letter-writer's name was redacted. Please see his other letter on our Consumer Flower Complaint Letter page.)

Imaging going to a search engine and typing in "Florist in my Hometown". It happens every day. For another gift-giver, a gentleman ordering flowers for his wife for Mother's Day, the 'local florist' turned out to be a distant call center that took not only his order, but a chunk of its value as well. 

At floristdeliveryusa.com, one of the Kay's Florist group of order gatherer sites whose ads purport to be a 'florist in his town', this consumer spent nearly $70 icluding delivery and purchased an upgraded version of this lovely flower arrangement:

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What he got was this disppointment (the wine bottle was used in the shot to show the size of the arrangement.)

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When the consumer contacted us, we did some detective work and tracked down the florist that delivered the arrangement. Just as in the previous shopping done with Kay's (see story below) the local florist had received 20% less than what the customer had paid for his flowers and delivery.  The order had been sent by Kay's 'Florist' (we use the term loosly since they're really just a call center) through the FTD wire service via the FTD Mercury Network.

Not only had Kay's skimmed the flower and delivery dollars, they also failed to tell the florist precisely what the customer was promised and used a general description instead of citing a photo. 

More than a year after we first broke the story of Kay's skimming, it seems nothing has changed. A company insider told us of a systematic schedule to withhold portions of consumers' dollars on each order and of staff training to instruct employees how to imply their call center operates florists or 'branches' in communities where flowers are to be delivered.

Isn't past time these consumer-fooling practices be stopped instead of rewarded by the wire services that pay Kay's their commissions and rebates?

We're pleased to report this consumer finally got a refund and went on to file complaints with the proper authorities but he wouldn't have needed to, if the national wire services cleaned up their affiliates.

2005

The Florist Detectives Quality Assurance Team decided to shop one of the top volume internet-only order gatherer florists that operates multiple URLs under the single roof of Kay's Florist of Bellaire, Texas. Not a brick and mortar store but associated with traditional retailer Kelley's Flowers of the same city, Kay's operates kaysflorist.com, blossomflorists.com, jodysflowersandgifts.com, abbottsflorist.com, abbottsfloristandgifts.com, floristdeliverytoday.com, sendingofflowers.com and online4florist.com. Their sites often include lyrical text designed to pull the heartstrings of America.

From jodysflowersandgifts.com/aboutus.htmOur family has been in the flower business for three generations beginning with Grandma Mary and Great Aunt Susie. As children we helped in the flower shop where Mary and Susie taught us to value our customers and take pride in the quality and beauty of our flowers.

and

From http://www.abbottsflorist.com/aboutus.htm Family owned and operated for over 30 years, we are committed to providing our customers with beautiful flowers for all occasions.

Do most shoppers know that these 'florists' are simply 2003-registered URLs leading to a call center that flips orders to real flower shops across the US and Canada? After removing up to 25% of the dollars spent on purchases.

All orders sold on Kay's family of sites are cloaked and transmitted via the FTD and Teleflora networks behind the name Kay's Florist. Kay's primarily advertises via Yellow Page ads, both local print editions and online versions such as SmartPages.com, and in Google's AdWords using prominent banners and highly placed listings that target searchers looking for local florists in specific cities. Their ads often include the tagline 'Family owned and operated since 1970.'

We put two of Kay's URLs to the test.

Jody's Flowers & Gifts

We ordered the Spring Blossoms basket arrangement, Item 171-8 listed as $34.95 with an 8.95 delivery charge. (see receipt below) Per FTD and Teleflora membership rules, the sending member (Jody's Flowers & Gifts) must collect any delivery charges, in addition to the price of the order, and transmit the full dollar amount, including delivery charges, to the receiving member. So on our order, Jody's was obligated to transfer 43.90 to the local florist who was to create and deliver the arrangement, an FTD licensed product image alternately known as C7-3072.

Jody's Flower and Gifts Receipt

Copy of FTC Mercury Order - Jody's

How much did the local shop receive via the FTD Mercury Network cloaked behind the Kay's Florist membership number? $33.00, almost 25% less than the customer had paid.

After subtracting a $5 delivery local delivery charge, the filling florist created a lovely $27 basket arrangement in a style very similar to the picture. A spokesman for the store assured us that the recipient would have received a significantly larger design had the order been transmitted at the full 43.90 value.

Abbott's Florist and Gifts

We ordered the Soft & Cuddly vase arrangement, Item 41-2 listed for $39.95 with an 8.95 delivery charge. Once again Kay's Florist transmitted the order through FTD via its proprietary Mercury Network (even though the item is a Teleflora licensed product image) - this time for only $38.00, far less than the 48.90 paid by our shopper.

Abbott's Florist & Gifts Receipt

Copy of FTD Mercury Order - Abbott's

After subtracting a $5 local delivery fee, the filling florist designed and delivered a cute $33.00 floral gift similar to the description. In this case, Kay's did not provide the florist with a reference product image code. ( Florists are not permitted to send or fill proprietary products created by competing networks, but the local shop could not possibly have known they were being used to circumvent Teleflora's membership rules.) Again, the local florist owner told us he would have delivered a substantially larger design had he received the full $ 48.90 paid by our shopper.

Additionally, both orders were placed by customers located in the state of Texas, yet Jody's Flowers & Gifts, and Abbott's Florist (really both Kay's Florist) failed to collect Texas state sales tax. According to the Texas Administrative Code

(c) Sales tax is due on amounts charged by a Texas florist for taxable items purchased in Texas for delivery outside the state. Tax is due whether the items are delivered by the florist who took the order or by an unrelated florist outside Texas who is instructed to make delivery

(e) Delivery charges, whether charged by a florist taking an order or by an unrelated florist, are taxable even though stated separately from charges for taxable items.

Could it be that Texas holds state-based internet resellers to a different standard than local brick and mortar florists? The Florist Detectives certainly hope not and have referred copies of these transactions to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts for further investigation.

Consumers should have confidence that they will receive the full value of their floral purchases. FTD and Teleflora each collect approximately $5 million in Quality Assurance fees from their real florist members. We'd like to see them use some of it to put a stop to these types of consumer and local florist rip-offs. We are forwarding hard copies of these transactions to FTD and Teleflora in the hope they will conduct a full investigation into Kay's skimming practices. With FTD now interested in deceptive and misleading advertising and poor business practices, the Florist Detectives recommends they start in their own back yard.

Clipping To The Extreme

One of the web's most recent aggressive order gatherers is Vancouver, BC-based BroadwayFlorists.com. An FTD and Teleflora affiliate, the company has been running city-specific ad campaigns in Google, Yahoo and via optimized doorway pages. By claiming "We are your Lexington Florists" on this doorway page, and the thousands of other faux 'local florist' pages, no doubt Broadway has been successful in deceiving quite a few consumers as to their actual location.

We doubt most US consumers would choose a Canadian-based florist to send their US-destined orders but the FTD hosted sub-site reveals location identifying information only on the home page which is bypassed when consumers arrive via redirects from BroadwayFlorists.com. The site also exhibits prices in US dollars. We do note that Teleflora's parallel sub-site does identify the location of the business with proper display of prices in Canadian currency.

We believe the tactics of using "we are your city name florists" and omitting their actual city of location are enough to merit them a big Order Gatherer label, and a firm clean-it-up letter from the wire services - but that's not the only issue.

The Florist Detectives were contacted by a local flower shop owner that caught BroadwayFlorists.com in an amazing attempt to rip off one of their customers. The consumer had placed an order for the FTD Smooth Jazz Bouquet / FTD B14-3598, an arrangement of white tulips in a vase, and was charged $59.99 for the arrangement, $9.20 for local delivery and $8.99 as a 'service fee' - for a total of $78.18. A copy of the receipt is shown below:

Receipt from Broadway Florists, Vancouver, BC

Unbelievably, the local florist was only transferred $45.00 to make and deliver the entire order - a full $24.15 less than was collected from the customer for this purpose. A copy of the FTD Mercury transmission is shown below:

FTD Mercury Receipt, Broadway Florists, Vancouver. BCit

We expect FTD, the host of both BroadwayFlorists.com's shopping cart and the Mercury Network, to complete a thorough audit of this company's orders and to take appropriate action to protect consumers and local florists from being ripped off like this again. Having seen what happens to consumers when allegations of clipping are not aggressively pursued, we hope FTD will take immediate steps to address this issue.

Clipping Delivery Charges

Teleflora's rules to florists state:

The Sending florist must collect transmission charges, state and local taxes and delivery fees in addition to the price of the order, and transmit all order information to the receiving member correctly... Transmit the full dollar amount, including any delivery charges, to the receiving member.

The use of city-specific 'doorway pages' where consumers are lured into thinking a site's business is actually located in the target city, is rampant in affiliate order gatherer sites. Take, for example, this Tucson, AZ doorway page from roses-nationwide.com. Shoppers are then redirected to roses-nationwideshop.com, a Teleflora hosted site which houses the shopping cart where purchases are completed. The site clearly states:

A local delivery fee of $8.95 will be added to each order, for each address. (For deliveries outside our local delivery area, this fee may vary.)

Both sites lack location-identifying information, such as a business address or local phone number, and affirm that they offer 'national delivery.'

Then why are consumers charged $65.00 for a dozen roses plus $8.95 for 'local delivery' as seen on this page - but delivering florists are only sent $65.00?

Teleflora Dove Copy of Order from Roses-Nationwide

That delivery charge represents more than a 13% boost in the value of the arrangement sent. Without it, local florists simply deduct their delivery fees and fill to value, providing less product and services than the customers' believe they paid.

We expect Teleflora, which hosts both this site and the Dove Network on which the orders are transmitted to local florists, to perform a thorough audit. We expect Sueppel's Flowers of Iowa City, Iowa, the site's owner, to address this issue immediately and to refund all delivery charges that were withheld from local florists to the consumers that entrusted them with their orders.

Any florist receiving a consumer complaint about delivering under-valued orders from this company should contact Teleflora for assistance. Consumers that made purchases from /roses-nationwideshop.com should contact both Sueppel's and Teleflora to enquire about possible refunds.

Note: In Juy 2005, Roses-nationwide.com/Sueppel's finally ammended the delivery text to read "A relay charge of $8.95 will be added to each order." The Florist Detectives believe that changes like this are more honest and helpful to conusmers wishing to make flower purchases.

Allegations of skimming practices found on other websites and other pages of this site

Alleged failure to transfer full dollars paid for flowers and delivery sold by Irvine Florist - from Ripoffreport.com

Alleged failure to transfer full dollars paid for flowers by Flower.com/JustFlowers.com - from Outcrier.com

If you are a consumer or delivering florist that has not been provided full dollar value of the products and delivery services paid to any 'broker/order gatherer' or local florist, please contact us and we will do our best to expose these fraudulent business practices.