1-800-Flowers.com vs Florists
Is delivery really 'free' if 1800Flowers.com charges you twice and discounts once?
1-800-Flowers has done an amazing job of presenting their BloomNet subsidiary as a kinder, more florist- and consumer-friendly company than their chief competitors - FTD and Teleflora. Some florists believed them... until this Valentine's Day 2007 marketing campaign.
What better way to sell flowers to consumers than to promise 'free delivery', even if it's not entirely true. In a Clintonesque parsing of the English language, 1-800-Flowers has begun telling consumers that their middleman 'service/handling charge' of $12.99 pays for 'florist delivery' while the actual delivery charges florists receive are additionally padded into the prices of the florist-delivered flowers displayed on 1800flowers.com.
The $12.99 'florist delivery' fee is generally kept by 1-800-Flowers for being a middleman - it's a service charge, so consumers are paying for 'delivery' twice.
Enter Valentine's Day 2007
1-800-Flowers decided to run ads promising consumers free delivery for florist delivered flower gifts sent Feb.10-12. (We note the lack of 'free' FedEx or UPS delivered products for those days.)
Shoppers are greeted on 1800Flowers.com with the same promises of 'Free Delivery!'
And product pages continued to tout the offer, again shouting 'Free Delivery!!!!'
During checkout, the now-labeled 'shipping charge' is deducted in the shopping cart when flower buyers enter the promotion code. (Of course, these flowers are hand-delivered, not shipped.)
So is the consumer really getting 'free delivery' and what does 1-800-Flowers tell their florist BloomNet members about how they are paid for local delivery charges? The membership agreement states 'All prices (1800flowers.com products) include up to $7.99 charge for delivery'.
The Florist Detectives spoke with BloomNet florists and asked if they offered 'free delivery' for 1-800-Flowers' orders. Though wishing to remain anonymous, here are two typical responses:
- "I was told 1800Flowers.com included an average of $7 added into each flower order. We're not delivering for them for free. The customer is paying for it in the price of the flowers."
- "We never agreed to deliver for free for 1800Flowers or BloomNet. The local delivery charges are included in the flower prices on 1800Flowers.com."
So why doesn't 1-800-Flowers advertise 'Free Service or Handling Charge' instead of 'Free Delivery'? Could it be that, as the FTC acknowledges, 'free' was deemed to be one of the most powerful advertising offers? Calling the fee what it is - a service charge - draws attention to just how much their middleman service costs you above the price of the flowers and local delivery.
The Florist Detectives want consumers to know that local florists itemize their flower arrangements and delivery charges separately and that national companies like 1800Flowers, FTD and Teleflora bundle local delivery charges with the flower prices and list separate 'service' (convenience) fees.
1-800-Flowers' campaign marks the first time a national wire service has crossed into the 'free delivery' realm via local florist fulfillment. We hope it's the last and urge the Federal Trade Commission to address what we believe is an ever-growing form of deceptive advertising by affiliate marketers.
To learn more about phony claims of 'free delivery by affiliate flower sellers, visit our page dedicated to the topic.