Anatomy of a Flower Fraud
A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain. A piece of trickery; a trick.
One that defrauds; a cheat.
One who assumes a false pose; an impostor.
The Deception Starts With Advertising
In this case, it begins with a Google ad written to deceive shoppers into believing they will be purchasing from a local flower shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
See FlowerShopping.com, a local Cambridge florist, family owned and operated for over 90 years? It says so in the ad even though 1) they are not a local Cambridge florist and 2) FlowerShopping.com is not a 90 year old flower shop - just a call center in Mission Viejo, CA.
Yet here's FlowerShopping.com (along with 11Flowers.com - owned and operated by the same call center) as a Local Hartford Florist and Hartford's Finest Florist...
... a Local Buffalo Florist and Buffalo's Finest Florist ...
...and a Local Las Vegas Florist and LasVegas' Finest Florist.
The Deception Continues to the Website
Once on the site, the shopper has no reason to think she isn't shopping with a Cambridge florist. She selects a beautiful bouquet featuring gerbera daisies, TF-Web43, and decides to opt for the more abundant Deluxe version for a price of $69.95.
The Shopping Cart tells her 'Handling and Delivery' cost is $12.50. She agrees to the prices and pays a total of $89.25 online with her credit card.
What the shopper didn't see on the site, since it's buried on a link labeled 'Delivery' at the foot of the page, was this little bit of text:
In other words, 11Flowers.com/FlowerShopping.com will be deducting money from her order, won't tell her how much, but they assure her it won't affect the size of her arrangement or the quantity of flowers used.
The skimming of her dollars by this order gather proves to be true (see below), but the promise that the reduction in dollars won't affect the size of her floral design is completely false.
Skimming and Deceiving the Local Florist
Another business enters the picture - The Flower Concern. Who are they? Yet another order gatherering company run by 11Flowers/FlowerShopping.com.
FlowerShopping.com/11Flowers.com used the name The Flower Concern to send the order for TF-Web43 through the Teleflora Dove network to a local florist in Cambridge. (Perhaps too many florists refuse orders from 11flowers.com due to all the complaints they've generated in the past.) How much of the consumer's dollars were sent in the order? Not the $82.45 paid for flowers and delivery - but $60.
So the local florist had sixty dollars to work with. First he deducted the store's local delivery charge of $10 which left $50 for the flower arrangement. (This is the way floral wire services work. The local florist deducts its regular delivery fee and fills the order with the balance of the value.)
The flower shop driver delivered the $50 arrangement of gerberas to the recipient and that's when the whole scam fell apart. The purchaser had bought the flowers for herself so she actually saw how much smaller her arrangement was than paid for and promised. She picked up the phone and lodged a complaint with the delivering florist.
Only then did the buyer learn that she hadn't ordered from a florist in Cambridge and that more than 25% of her dollars had been skimmed by the California call center.
She phoned the call center and they agreed to refund her money. 11Flowers/FlowerShopping/FlowerConcern next cancelled the order with the local Cambridge florist, refusing to pay them because the consumer was 'dissatisfied'.
They deceived the shopper about their location, skimmed more than 25% of her dollars, blamed the local florist for an unhappy customer and stuck him with the bill for the flowers and delivery.
Once again, a consumer and a local florist were defrauded by the deceit of a national wire service-sanctioned order gatherer. It's not the first time. 11Flowers.com/Flowershopping.com have earned an F from the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau.
The Floral Wire Service's Role
Mixed in with the deception is a national floral wire service. Teleflora.
- Teleflora hosts the websites of 11flowers.com, flowershopping.com and The Flower Concern.
- Teleflora pays a 20% commission to 11flowers, flowershopping.com and The Flower Concern for each order sold via those phony local florist ads.
- Teleflora allows the language about the hidden fees.
- Teleflora does not require this affiliate to clearly disclose that orders on the site will be forwarded to real local florists for fulfillment.
Teleflora could try to claim that 11Flowers.com et al is responsible for the content of their own sites. But the Florist Detectives know that Teleflora controls content on their hosted sites for real brick and mortar florists since the company has refused to allow local florists to link to our site.
Had the purchaser not seen her skimmed flower order, here's the 'take' 11Flowers.com/FlowerShopping.com would have generated from the sale.
$22.90 in undisclosed and hidden fees withheld
12.00 Teleflora-paid commission
$34.90 plus an undisclosed Teleflora per-order performance rebate
All for just deceiving a shopper into believing they were a florist in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
What does Teleflora get? A 7% clearinghouse fee on each order, a 'receiving fee' from the real local florist and more orders in their sytem that add two middlemen - the order gatherer and Teleflora - between the consumer and a real local florist.
Unfortunately, phony 'local' florist operations skimming consumers' dollars are affiliates of other North American wire services including FTD and 1-800-Flowers' Bloomnet.
The Real Flowers
The real Cambridge florist invited this gerbera-loving customer into his store and created a custom design for her - on the house. He's hoping she'll now know a real local Cambridge florist the next time she needs flowers - if she hasn't been completely discouraged from ever ordering flowers again following this ordeal.
In a recent segment about phony florists on WHDH-TV Boston, Barabara Anthony of the Federal Trade Commission said, "Taking consumers money when they are unaware of it, through deception, that's against the law."
The Florist Detectives hope the FTC will take a good, close look and finally stop the financial incentives of being a fruadulent phony 'local' florists. If you have been deceived and had your dollars skimmed by a phony local flower shop, please file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission and email us. We'll do our best to help you get your money back and to find a real local florist.
Read another complaint letter about 11Flowers.com.