When I first became a weekly columnist, an editor told me that if I didn’t get both love and hate mail from readers, I wasn’t doing my job. Judging from my inbox, I’ve been overachieving the last two weeks. Readers have inundated me with responses to recent columns about the floral industry. I’ve heard from both the vilified (certain florists) and the vindicated (burned consumers).
While I never want to hurt small-business owners, I am first and foremost pro-consumer. I know that many flower shops do a wonderful job, offer exquisite arrangements and are a delight to work with. However, my reader mail and experience tell me not all are such a pleasure. That’s what I am setting out to help fix.
Last week, I offered tips on what consumers can do to increase their odds of getting the flowers they hoped and paid for. The week before, I offered some less-welcome advice to florists. This week, I am spilling a little more dirt I dug up behind the greenhouse. After lengthy interviews with a few industry veterans, here’s what I learned about a field that is not always so rosy.
Dirty Secret #1: The posers. Online companies posing as local flower shops are threatening the good reputations of legitimate ones. Florida’s Sally Kobylinski, owner of Orlando’s In Bloom, a brick-and-mortar-flower shop with two stores, has been burned by these “posers,” who have actually co-opted her store’s name online.
“They are not stores at all. They are call centers, people sitting at computers,” she said. “When I hear from customers disappointed in their arrangements, which they think came from my shop, I ask to see their receipt and have to tell them, ‘We didn’t do the order.’”
These order gatherers pretend to be real florists. They take the order, pocket 20 percent of the payment without ever touching a flower, then use a wire service, which takes another 7 percent, before sending the order to a local flower shop. So if you ordered an arrangement for $100, the flower shop is left with only $73 to work with, she said. Then the poser often tacks on another $20 to $30 service fee, leaving you with a $130 bill.
No wonder customers are disappointed.
People who fall victim to these order gatherers experience “huge 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 farm orders through their website, then leverage a wire service’s network of florists to fulfill orders.”
Consumer tip: Do your research and be sure you are working with a flower shop you can actually walk into.
Dirty Secret #2: Grocers edge out florists for quality. Not that long ago, flower farms recognized two tiers of flowers: premium florist grade and grocer grade. “Now that’s flipped,” Kobylinski said. “Farms are growing for Costco, Trader Joe’s and Sam’s Club, and selling the better grade flowers directly to them. They would rather cater to five big customers than 5,000 small ones.”
Because farms sell direct to …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment