A rose is a rose…is not.

by Cinda Baxter on February 6, 2012

in Independent Retailers, The 3/50 Project

The following is a reprise of my 2.7.11 blog post, at the (very repeated) request of brick and mortar florists. Happy Valentine’s, everyone!—Cinda

Yes, the Super Bowl ad featuring Faith Hill and the guy sending flowers was clever (and yes, his girlfriend probably broke up with him over what he wrote on the card). But have you ever wondered just how much of your money actually ends up in the vase when ordering through an online floral site?

Probably not…but then, you probably didn’t see the finished product either.

To understand what’s going on behind the curtain, you first need to know the players:

Wire services are companies most of us have heard of—FTD, Teleflora, Bloomnet, 1800Flowers, and the like. Originally created to link local brick and mortars to each other nationally (making it possible to place an order in Kansas City for delivery in Denver), they’ve jumped into the online business, now selling direct to consumers…at great expense to local florists.

Non-affiliated order gatherers (aka order takers) are a more slippery lot. They purchase local phone numbers in multiple cities, build websites behind each number to give the impression they’re a nearby brick and mortar, then route calls through a central phone bank somewhere out of state. Their role is to process and pump—take the money, grab their cut, then pawn fulfillment off to a third party who’s given pennies on the dollar to work with—often a warehouse operation, rarely an actual florist.

Where’s the money go?
Numbers for unaffiliated order gatherers are tough to come by; no two seem to play by the same set of “rules.” Wire services, however, are more easily charted, as they follow well-documented patterns:

Why cross your fingers and pray the business who “inherits” your online order can magically turn $35 into a $50 look and a ride across town? Instead, let’s get all that hard earned cash into your vase:

Step 1. Do a Google search for “flowers” or “florist” plus the name of the delivery city
Ex: florist “Salt Lake City”
Check out the resulting websites, looking for a local phone number—not just a toll free number. If only the latter appears, beware; you probably landed on an order gathering call center. (Don’t assume a street address is legit; quite often, they’re commercial addresses at p.o. box locations.)

Step 2. Next, call the local phone number
When they answer, say the following (exactly as written):

“I’d like to come by to pick something out in person. Where are you located, and what are your hours this week?”

If they answer you straight up, it’s a brick and mortar florist. If, however, they work toward getting you to order over the phone or online instead, you just found a call center. Next in line, please…..

(Side note: After they confirm they’re an actual store, it’s okay to come clean. There isn’t a brick and mortar florist in the country who won’t thank you for checking to be sure they’re real.)

Step 3. Separate delivery from daisies
If you want a $50 floral arrangement, ask for a $50 floral arrangement. If, instead, you want the $50 to cover both the arrangement and delivery, tell the florist up front. Don’t assume delivery is free–it’s not (in spite of what the online sites lead you to believe…they may advertise a $50 arrangement with free delivery, but the expense comes out of the portion you thought was allocated for flowers).

Between paychecks, gas, and insurance, florists pay a premium to offer delivery service, then price it as low as they feasibly can. Don’t haggle; they’re already cutting numbers to the bone.

Mission accomplished
Your goal is pretty straightforward: Find pretty flowers, pay for pretty flowers, send pretty flowers—not fund a call center or national processing service. Dialing up a phone number or two instead of trusting your keyboard will make the difference between “ooh ahh” and “oh well” on the receiving end.

C’mon. Go for the gush. It’s worth it.

Cheryl Bakin February 8, 2011 at 10:09 am

I just wanted to comment on your blog post yesterday.

FTD, which began in 1910, was an organization built by florists for florists to use to get orders transferred from one part of the country to another part. The original system used the Telegraph!! Until about 1994, it was an organization still owned by all its florist members.

Approximately 1994 or 1995, the membership voted to sell the organization to a private investor group. The purchasor orginization has subsequently sold FTD at least a couple of times since.

Teleflora has always been a privately held wire service company, similar in nature to FTD. Fee structure to belong to TF was similar.

Florists across the country chose to belong to FTD or Teleflora — or both — in order to gain order transfer capability for their local customers.

With the rise internet commerce in the early 1990′s, some very, very smart people quickly set up websites, and began advertise, and collect orders from around the country — yes, even the world.

Local florists have also set up websites, and in many cases, have become very adept at assisting customers with order fulfillment — even when the order is not in our backyard — thru our continuing networks of FTD and Teleflora members. Our customers can order on-line, in their jammies, at 2 am or midnight — and know that their order will be waiting at the flower shop to be filled first thing in the morning.

Yes, there are a number of people who just collect orders.
The suggestions made by you for the consumer to use are valid. The most critical one is to look or ask for a PHYSICAL STREET ADDRESS.

However, Many LOCAL FLORISTS also have national websites. The internet border does not stop at a state or community line. We fulfill orders for consumers near and far each and every day. Our florist mantra is to take care of our customers — near or far — and we always do. So, when you Great Aunt Betty dies no Saturday, and you need funeral flowers for a Sunday service, look on the internet and then call your Local Florist! We can help you!

Buying Local is always a good thing. We do thank you for promoting Buying Local. Over 30,000 florists live, work and play in individual communities across our great nation. We are the ones that the public seeks for donations, advice and community involvment every day.
If you want to be assured that your order is guaranteed … without question or hassle — call your local florist. We have been making it happen since 1910!

Cinda Baxter February 8, 2011 at 10:39 am


Yes, local brick and mortar florists also operate websites—thus, my suggestion to look for a local phone number and to ask for a physical address. While “the internet border does not stop at a state or community line,” I implore consumers to look to local brick and mortar florists in the city where the delivery will occur.

While your hypothetical “if Great Aunt Betty dies [on] Saturday” with a Sunday funeral example is colorful, it begs the question: What shipping company offers overnight/Sunday a.m. delivery? These types of rush situations, in particular, are extremely well suited to local florists who are within driving distance of the service, familiar with the local churches and funeral homes, and cognizant of the fact death isn’t limited to store hours.

I have yet to meet a brick and mortar florist who would leave a loved one in the lurch simply because the timing of a funeral didn’t coincide with store hours….

Edie Frere February 8, 2011 at 11:36 am

I just went through this to send flowers to 2 couples giving an engagement party for our daughter and her fiance in San Francisco. Even on Yelp, most postings serve up Teleflora bouquets, but I finally found Church Street Flowers. Sent them an email and not only got an email back from one of the owners/designers but also got a phone call. Their flowers are unusual and gorgeous and obviously NOT the standard “3 roses and a lily” bouquet. Can’t wait for the flowers to be delivered!
Our local florist in Los Angeles is great, too, and I never use anyone else when I send flowers to LA friends.
I was so glad to see your post!

Debbie Ward February 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Great article. One large problem is that the wire services have accepted therse “order gathers” as members and they are just calling centers. FTD and Teleflora used to be very strict about who they allowed to carry their brand. Now all you need is a room full of phones and operators who have no idea about the product they are selling. The public needs to be educated about getting the best value for their money at a REAL FLORIST.

Karen McIntosh February 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Cinda… Well said and much appreciated article. Your article was very insightful for floral buyers as to the pitfalls of just clicking on any old site for flowers and what to look for.
Thank you from Monroe WA’s independent local florist

Tiffany February 9, 2011 at 12:59 am

As a real florist, we run into this EVERYDAY, a customer spends say 70$ on an arrangement plus fees and “delivery” charges with a call center or gatherer type company, totaling say 100$. The call center (middleman) keeps the fees and other charges and alot of times part of the cost of the arrangement and sends the remaining $ to the florist who need to make and deliver the arrangement. They will first send say 40$ total to the florist who in turn looking at the picture of the arrangement says well after we take our delivery out we are left with 40$, which is obviously not enough to make the 70$ arrangement the customer has seen online. The florist says to the call center ‘we either need more funds or we can do the best we can to make it similar’. The call center usually assures the florist that 50$ is all their customer can afford to pay so it would be fine to do a similar arrangement usually even pretending to double check with their customer to make sure that is ok. Maybe one in the same color scheme, but with cheaper flowers than what the customer has originally seen ( ie omiting roses or lilies, ect and replacing them with carnations, daisies, alstro, ect) The florist does what they can with the funds provided, and sends out an arrangement that totals 50$ with delivery, most cases 10$, so a 40$ arrangement. The call center or gatherer keeps a large portion of the senders money, in hopes that the sender either never sees the flowers, or hopes the sender just thinks the order was sent to a ‘bad’ florist who screwed up the order. Now the end result is the customer has paid 100$ for a what they could have gotten for 50$, had they called the florist directly. The money that the florist doesn’t receive funds the call center to continue operating and ripping off the public. And the sender is turned off to the floral industry as a whole, and thinks wow, thats all i got for 100$!! Please people.. cut out the middleman and get what you pay for!! Call a florist directly not only will you get the full value of your hard earned money, you will speak to someone knowledgeable who can tell you what they have in stock that day that is fresh, ect.
These call centers are ruining our reputations as real florists and are ripping off the general public. Send this along to others to educate the consumers!

Jean Schneider February 9, 2011 at 4:22 am

Thanks for the great article. Out of the eight yellow page advertisers in the Orlando telephone books, only 2 are really located in Orlando. On the web there are 23 websites touting “Orlando” florist although I’ve been Incorporated and been open for business in the state of Florida since 1988. We do not accept orders from order gathers because the consumer is getting less than they paid for and I refuse to let them be disappointed. We are having more customers verifying that we are really a brick & mortar business in Orlando but that generally means they’ve read your blog or they’ve already been stung online. Thanks again.

Brenda Simmons February 9, 2011 at 9:45 am

Thank you sooooo much for writing about this! I wish more columnists would educate the public about this deceptive practice!

Bloom Country Florist February 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

Great post and well written! We will share this amongst our online and social network! Thanks again for some great insight!

TWINK February 9, 2011 at 4:13 pm


Sandra February 9, 2011 at 9:49 pm

You have pulled the arrow out of heart, thank you so much I hope the public is smart enough to listen. Tonight the ad that Teleflora is promoting with Faith Hill for Valentines Day, really is rediculous. The public only sees $$$$$ signs.The public is so uneducated when it comes to the bottm line, Thanks again.

Vincent Mingalone February 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I am a “wharehouse” and a “florist” I always turn $35.00 arrangements to $50 and it’s no marical, If I have to I personally run accross town to get ALL my orders out. Sure nothing better than a repeat customer, a web order or any 100% percent order I recieve. However the 35 I get paid to deliver a 50 arrangement is reaching a potential customer for me, and I get plenty of those. Your customer is my customer and I built a nice base of customers that way. It’s my product and my name being hand deliverd to the recipient who is in my city. Im on a Manhattan side street on the second floor…. No walk in traffic hear. I survive on my Funeral Homes, Churches and Schools an being in this neiborhood for 10 years. I love the volume of orders even at a 30% loss. Maybee cause I buy direct and local and the fact that im in Manhattan but I believer it comes down to old fasion PRIDE in every order I fill.


mandyFSN February 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Thanks so much for this article! Great insight in an easy to understand way! It’s so important for consumers to understand just what is happening to the florists.

Here at Flower Shop Network we think it’s vitally important for consumers to connect directly to a local florist!

We also mentioned this article in our latest Valentine’s Day post, thanks again!

Marci Rasmussen February 15, 2011 at 8:17 am

Great Article, great information for the consumer. As a brick and mortor florist in Salt Lake City for over 24 years, I’ve been trying to educate all customers. I’ve been telling Teleflora since they started gathering orders, they should leave that to the florists, hopefully they will find that their way is just like the others, and it’s costly and damaging to our industry. It’s deceptive to the consumer, costly to the Florists, and if they want us around in the future, they need to find a better way to sell goods, especially Flowers. Hope all had a wonderful Valentines Day.

Amber April 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Great article. I am reposting this everywhere! Educating the consumer base is a great approach to improving the wackiest part of the floral industry.

Amber April 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm

@ Edie Frere, I love Church Street Flowers! Great find. :)

Marci Rasmussen May 24, 2011 at 7:40 am

Hi Cinda, Thank your for this post. Now, after another holiday, Mothers Day, I find dissapointing customers remarks on These “Order Gatherers” social media accounts, (facebook). I am a local Florist and find it hard to believe that people are still ordering from these companies. Local Florists will dry up and not exisit if the perceptions of buying flowers comes from using these companies. We can not compete with their advertising. I’m talking 1-800 Flowers, Pro Flowers, and now our own wire service companies, FTD and Teleflora are doing the same. How do we educate our customers to Buy from a Reputable Local Flowers Shop and get the service, quality and beauty they deserve? Any help here would be appreciated.

Maureen Wilson November 30, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Oh, my gosh, this could not be more timely. I am a real, local florist operating a true retail floral center in Glendale, Arizona. I have disassociated my store from the wire services because they allow this nonsense with the order gathering companies to exist. Without FTD, Teleflora, Bloomnet and others like them, the orders cannot be transmitted to the florists. Do yourself a favor: find a florist near you that you trust. When you need to send flowers out of state, call that florist and ask for the name of a competent florist in the area you are wishing to send your flowers to. Get the phone number and call THAT florist to place your order. Put the wire services out of business – they are only here now to take money from consumers and florists alike. They don’t care about you, your floral gift or the flowers. In fact, they probably don’t even know what flowers are available in your town this very moment.

Thank you to all of you consumers who still believe in sending flowers as a beautiful, treasured gift. If you need them in my town, please call my shop. Our work is beautiful, our flowers are always fresh, and we deliver on time, every time. Thank you again.

Lulu December 1, 2011 at 1:33 am

Thank you, thank you! Finally, a straight forward piece that really breaks it down and can be passed on to customers. You are amazing!!!

Sparrows nest flower shop llc December 1, 2011 at 11:11 am

Thank-you so much for this article! I have been trying to educate my customers on this issue! Find a florist! Personally speak with them. They are the ones who are going to take your order, fill it & deliver it! I got rid of wire services 8yrs. ago. What I’ve been reading on-line from other florists regarding wire orders…they(the FTDs & Telefloras, 1-800′s just keep sucking more & more $$ and the filling florist gets less. Support your local flower shop! We need you!!

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