The biggest problem is order gatherers. When you order flowers what you really want is for a real local florist, one close to the recipient, to prepare the flowers just for you and deliver them. This way you can be assured that the flowers are fresh, prepared and delivered by professionals, with no middlemen getting in the way.
Order-gatherers are the middlemen that try and get in the way. They are not real local florists – they are generally just call centers and websites, hundreds if not thousands of miles away from where the flowers will actually be delivered. And they almost never have coolers or fresh flowers or florists to prepare them – they are just in the business of taking orders.
Their goal is to have you place the order with them. They will typically charge you for the flowers, plus a delivery fee and some kind of service fee.
They then contact a real local florist near to your recipient and try to sub-contract them to actually fill that order for you. They will typically keep all of the service charge that you paid for themselves, and often part of the delivery fee as well.
They also try and keep a big part of what you paid for the flowers. In these situations the best that the real local florist – the small business that will actually prepare and deliver your fresh flowers – can hope for is about 70% of what you actually paid, with the middleman (the order gatherer) keeping the rest. If you paid $50 just for the flowers the filling florist – the one that does all the work – might get $35.
Unfortunately even that isn’t enough for most order-gatherers. They will usually lie to the local flower shop about how much you really paid them. If you actually paid $50 they would probably say you only paid $40, meaning the local florist gets just $28.
This is the ugliest part of an ugly process. You paid $50, but the order-gatherer convinces the real flower shop that you only paid $40, so you get less than what you asked for.
How do the numbers look in the end?
You paid $75: $50 for the flowers, $15 for delivery and a $10 service charge
The order gatherer gets $37: $50 for the flowers, $15 for delivery and a $10 service charge
The filling florist gets $38: $28 for the flowers, $10 for delivery and a $0 service charge
In most cases the order gatherer keeps almost half of your money, in return for... running a really costly deceptive ad campaign designed to trick you into calling them. More on that in a minute.
The genuine local flower shop gets about half, and from that they have to provide the flowers and other materials, the expert labor to prepare them, and delivery.
Your flowers will still look great, but you paid more than you should have and get less than what you deserved.
The good news is that all of this can be avoided by dealing with a real local florist. The website bringflowers.com has a great article on how to avoid order gatherers and find real local florists. It all starts with avoiding deceptive listings.
To get to a local florist you have to avoid what are known as deceptive listings. Deceptive listings are misleading, designed to trick you into thinking that you are dealing with a genuine local florist.
Telephone books and directories are full of deceptive listings. Large order-gathering operations will take out large ads in telephone directories all over the country – ads that suggest they are in fact real local florists when in fact the number just goes to their call center.
Often they will even use fake local addresses to enhance credibility. Even worse some will use the name and address of established local flower shops to further mislead potential customers.
And it’s not just telephone directories. Order gatherers will do the same thing in phone books –deceptively using the names of respected local flower shops to drive business to their call centers.
It’s clearly wrong and terrible for the consumer. The good thing is that some state governments are starting to act. The California Florists First Act was introduced to protect consumers and became law in 2012 as Chapter 633/AB 1581.
Other state governments have followed. In Nevada Senate Bill No. 404, introduced in May 2013, is similar to the California law. In Massachusetts House Bill 226 and in New Jersey AB 4067 are pending. Other states including Oregon, Missouri and Oklahoma are considering similar legislation.
These laws are a great start in that they tackle the worst of the deceptive practices. Most importantly they make it illegal to use a fictitious or assumed business name in any advertisement or listing. This is a huge relief to local florists that worked hard for years, sometimes generations, to build a good reputation and strong brand only to see it “stolen” by out-of-town order gatherers. It’s even better for consumers because it makes it easier for them to find the established local shop they were really looking for.
They also make it illegal to misrepresent the geographic location of a business. That means that an order gatherer cannot use a local number unless they really are considered local, or also list the true physical address of their business. Again this should help consumers distinguish between legitimate local flower shops and order gatherers.
However… the law does not consider the listing of toll-free numbers to be deceptive so look for local numbers if you have to resort to a directory. It also places no obligation on the publisher of the phone book or directory – they can print whatever their advertisers submit, so they can’t be expected to police the content.
It can’t be assumed these laws will ultimately be effective. Unless order gatherers come to believe that they will be prosecuted they may continue to run deceptive listings, and consumers must remain careful.
The internet is even more dangerous. The largest and most successful order gatherers may use hundreds, even thousands of websites or landing pages, each carefully designed to trick you into thinking that you are dealing with a real local flower shop. Often, and unfortunately, these sites rank better in search results than the real flower shops. You need to be very careful.