So, recently we had an unusual development, one that I think confirms we’re on the right track by trying to offer great value for money, but one that is also a tad worrying.
A lady emailed us to tell us how disappointed she was with the flowers she had received from her son in the U.S. who had spent $80. She explained that she thought the flowers were probably only worth about $20 in her opinion. I pulled up her order to investigate and saw that indeed the order placed was for a posy worth around $20 ($26 at the time of writing this, to be exact – our very popular mixed posy). I was about set to send an email explaining that maybe her son had oversold it a little or was perhaps mistaken, when i noticed that the email address of the sender was from another online Melbourne florist!
In my spare time I’m a detective
We thought about it for around 5 secs (we’re smart like that) and concluded that we were unwittingly being used as a floral relay service–without our permission! I contacted the lady who had emailed us and explained what i thought was happening, including how sorry I was that this had happened to her son and that I would try and get in contact with the owner of the other florist to see what could be done. I was horrified to think that someone had paid $80 only to have a substantial amount of it pocketed!
Sure enough, searching for the florist’s email in our system came up with a number of orders that had been placed by said florist. Most were posies, and we had no way of knowing what people had paid for them originally. This was the first person to contact us about it – so either our posies are all kinds of awesome or people don’t want to embarrass the sender by questioning the value? (Possibly both?)
I called the mobile number that accompanied the florists senders details on the order – message bank! Not a problem, I’ll leave a message but I’ll also visit their website and ring whatever their number is there. Typing in the address from the email redirects me to a different domain, Ding! Not quite a red flag, but a fairly deep shade of crimson. 1300 number, that’s a good sign, i’ll call that – uh oh, exact same message bank as i got before! Ding! Ding! Ding! Flag is now firmly red. Searching a bit deeper on the company only makes matters worse with several domains that look abandoned or that redirect. I decide I’ll wait to see if I get a call back or a reply to my emails (I wasn’t hopeful).
Fast forward a couple of days and another order comes in from the same florist – this time I cancelled the order, refunded the money straight away and sent an email to the florist explaining that we do not participate in relay systems and that we’ll be cancelling any future orders, please feel free to contact us. That seemed to do the trick, as an hour or so later I received a phone call.
The lady on the other end of the phone was very apologetic that we’d receive any complaints and mentioned that she was having to send orders through us because she was having issues with her relay companies, and that people kept ordering on her website for delivery areas that she couldn’t really cater to – still, that’s no excuse for not sending out orders to full value!
She said she couldn’t really understand the complaint because her website prices were really reasonable, without much in the $80 range, so they wouldn’t have paid that much for it. Maybe I was looking at the wrong website because I couldn’t see much under $50.
During our conversation she seemed like a nice enough lady, with multiple website issues she was having a lot of trouble solving (explaining the redirects and abandoned domains) but I was still unable to get a good reason for the price difference between what she paid and what the original sender paid, so i politely declined to accept any more orders from her.
In the end the son was able to retrieve most of the balance, which was the least that should have been done, but those types of things discourage people from buying on the internet and, more importantly, from purchasing flowers online. No one wins, our brand is unfairly affected, and the end customer has had, what should have been a happy occasion, turn into a sour one.
We’re fiercely independent and don’t use relay companies to fulfil our orders because we want our customers to have a consistent experience with us, but we never thought we’d be used by other florists to fulfil their orders, at least not without taking us to dinner first so we can get to know them.
Getting value for money when buying flowers online
So how do you choose an online florist that is on the up and up and ensure you get good value for money?
Here’s what I would do:
- Search for a local florist that delivers to the area where you want to send flowers to.
- Find a user-friendly website. A good website is a great start, but unfortunately many independent florists seem to have less than stellar websites. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re less trustworthy, so if you’re up for a challenge have a go, otherwise move on to a more user-friendly website.
- Review a couple of websites to get an idea of the differences in value. Prices can sometimes vary wildly.
- Make sure they have a prominently displayed phone number. If you make a mistake with your order or need to change details, you’ll want to know that you can get in touch easily to sort out any issues. It’s also worth calling them before placing the order if needed, you’ll soon get a good feel for their business when you speak to the people behind it.
- Take a quick visit to their social media pages if they have them (here’s ours as an example) – do they have a following? Are the posts from others mostly positive?
- Read their delivery, substitution and cancellation policies. Most florists have a cut-off time for same-day delivery so it’s good to be aware of what that is. Some florists also charge cancellation fees up to 50% of the price of the order as well as re-delivery charges if the delivery address is incorrect (honestly, it’s best to try and get the address correct the first time to avoid disappointment).
- If you have questions, try emailing them. Ideally, during business hours, they should respond within half an hour (local florists don’t normally have dedicated call centres, so i think 30 minutes to an hour is not an unreasonable time frame).
- Try to deal with the florist directly. There are a lot of websites that are just order brokers (relays), which tend to have better, more organised websites than independent florists, but take their cut before handing it to the florist. Going directly to the florist should mean you get more value for money in most cases.
I guess the moral of the story is: Always buy your flowers from us 🙂