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.

Mary Sherman February 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

I see it happening in a lot of industries. Vista print, cafe press. Both take away business from local businesses. I’m not sure we can fight it – the younger generations use their smart phones 90% of the time. We must keep up with them and join in their generation. 350 program is one way to inform. Keep up the great work

Florist Chronicles March 8, 2012 at 5:08 am

Cinda, your article was referenced in the comments of our post Valentine’s Day “Aftermath” article “Valentine’s Day Aftermath: Don’t Give Up After a Bad Bouquet.”

I think you have done a fantastic job with this article, explaining and handling the issue of Local Florist vs. Wire Service very eloquently and in a way that the consumer can relate and understand.

I also really love your image of the florist register receipt. Brilliant idea and very creative! Perhaps with your permission, we can borrow it in one of our future articles (with credit and link back to your site of course), as it seems we are fighting the same fight here, and we intend making a lot more noise about the local florists in the future.

Keep up the great work!


florist July 11, 2013 at 6:45 am

we can sell roses bouquets for up to £250 on the day, that’s British pounds. Convert that to $ and then you really have a Yikes! crazy crazy day, but the only day when florists can make some money and most do mess up on their flower delivery.

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