Anaheim CA Flowers  Blog by Avante Gardens Florist
09 February 2010

Local Florists vs Online Florists

Kudos to Bob Sullivan of MSNBC for his well written article about online flower companies' low-ball flower prices loaded with hidden fees: Online Flower Prices Still Grow and Grow.

"If you study hidden fees and price distortions for a living, Valentine's Day is your Super Bowl. Can you name another industry where the true price of an item is routinely more than double the advertised price? Yet that's precisely what you'll encounter this week"

Uh-huh, the marketing practices do smell really bad - and leave shoppers paying more for less.

And every year we read the pages of post-holiday complaints that fill consumer review sites. No doubt, this year will be the same, if not worse, due to the weekend holiday and its delivery issues.

When last I checked, there were 126 comments to Mr. Sullivane's article: some from consumers, some from obvious shills and many from local florists. One comment really inspired me to write this post and it came from a person who claims to have worked for one of the online compaines:

"I worked both sales and customer service. We do try to offer products that of high quality for a reasonable price. However, we are at the mercy of the local florist that we contract with to do the order as requested."

You have got to be kidding me. "at the mercy of local florists"? She has it entirely backwards. Due to the marketing clout of that online company, local florists often feel at the mercy of her former company - with photos of arrangements that cannot be made 'as shown' in real flower shops -  which is why local florists have been quitting the network at a speedier pace. 

During this 'no service charge' advertising period of the Valentine's holiday, many of these local florist affiliates will only be paid about $30 to make and hand-deliver $50 consumer purchases - as mandated by the company. Decline to fill the orders for those prices and florists can and will be cut off from most future orders. Now who is at whose mercy?

The corporate side of most flower affiliate marketing isn't much different than the commenter (ex-employee) to the MSNBC article - top-down with little feedback from local affiliates - it's just they don't post their contempt.

Will the low-priced deals be enough to lure shoppers? For a glimpse at a consumer perspective, read this recent post from the Orange County Register's OC Deals BlogWhat Do You Think About 1-800-Flowers?

Bottom line: go direct, go local, save loads of fees (service fee, handling fee, relay fee, same-day fee, rush delivery fee) and get what you purchased without all the small print about substitutions and all the credit card slam scams.

Know who's really delivering your flowers without all the smoke and mirrors and get a pretty Valentine's Day arrangement delivered - as promised - at a good value. :)

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# Lori Kunian said:

I am sure that the Customer service reps do feel that they are at the florists mercy, because so many florists are wising up and realizing that they cannot fill the arrangements for what they sell them at, they are rejecting and asking for more money and then they get squeezed from corporate that giving the florists more money is hurting the bottom line....However, they have never tried to operate a flower shop and balance the shrink on a perishable product, market fluctuations and how much discounted business is too much...We all can and do do some discounted business but there is a point where too much makes for a very unhealthy balance...

Florists may seem like they are whining about these companies and the simple answer is to just not fill for them, but for some it is over simplified, The very nature of the wire service was modeled for florists to be able to send product far away for their own customers. The current model is broken in the fact that many of these companies are brokers just skimming the cream off the top and sending along heavily discounted low ball arrangements to hard working florists just trying to make it in a difficult economy...Florists do have the larger burden with trying to please everyone from the sender, the wire service, themselves and finally the recipient, many do a very good job even phenomenal, however many fall very short because of the very balance I was talking about, too much discounted business leads to bad choices in flower selections to save money which leads to poor arrangements, in some of the worst cases, bad for our industry as a whole, the filling florist resorts to skimming the discount off the top just to stay afloat...this is a no win situation for all of us.

I believe that in order for this to work, the wire services must regulate the msrp of arrangements better and not allow brokers to deeply discount them, just like sony does with their products. They also need to unbundle delivery charges, now that standard delivery charges are over the 10 dollar mark in many markets it is unrealistic to bundle it, it skews the value of the product being sold...this would also let the consumer know what they are paying for and be able to make a more educated purchase and get a better sense of what they are getting for which dollars spent. Florists also need to smarten up and not carry the items that they cannot fill properly and hire people that can produce the items as shown if they do carry them...

10 February 10 at 8:27 AM
# Mike Champion said:

Cathy, thanks for highlighting this ongoing issue about the "hidden agenda"  and deceptive marketiing practices that many on-line floral marketers are using to deceive the flower buying public. Hopefully, efforts like this will help turn the tide in favor of people that buy flowers towards using a good local florist rather than being "duped" by non-florist marketing machines that continue their deception practices. Kudos.


10 February 10 at 8:46 AM
# heather said:

i loved this article.  I owned my own shop for a few years, but the summer of "08 just killed us (along with a wire service whose name won't be mentioned).  I now have the awesome opportunity to work for a small local florist in Seattle.  I find myself "educating" clients as well as employees to the wicked ways of order gatherers and why it's always best to buy local..for them and for us.

Thanks for a well written blog.  

10 June 10 at 9:03 PM

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