Florist Detectives. Consumer Information about alleged deceptive and misleading florist advertising and marketing practices.

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Florist Complaints and the Better Business Bureau

A Dozen Reasons Why Complaints About Florists keep Rising at the BBB.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently released its Complaint Summaries for 2011 and the report revealed a total of 3072 complaints lodged by consumers against US businesses in the 'Florist-Retail' category.  The business classification is ranked 54th in overall complaints for the year (up from the 90th spot in 2010.)

Based on numbers culled from BBB pages on 5/5/12, just 12 companies were responsible for 93% of those complaints.  Here's the dozen (in descending order by complaint volume.)

FTD - 557 complaints,   A+ rating
(also includes
Wesley Berry Flowers  - 535 complaints,  A+ rating
(also includes Flower Delivery Express, Flowers Nationwide & American Floral Delivery) - 350 complaints, C+ rating
(also includes and
Teleflora - 330 complaints, B+ rating
From You Flowers - 274 complaints, B+ rating
(also includes
ProFlowers - 225 complaints,  F rating
1-800-Flowers - 198 complaints, A+ rating
(also includes
Blooms Today - 197 complaints, B- rating
Avas Flowers - 101 complaints,  F rating - 25 complaints, F rating  - 25 complaints, B rating
Flowers (Cambridge, MA) - 23 complaints, B rating

What all these companies have in common is that their primary income is generated by orders which are fulfilled by third parties. Flower deliveries are either brokered to local florists via wire services or drop-shipped to recipients via express delivery services.

The 232 remaining complaints (out of 3072) divided between the more than15,000 local flower shops in the US shows an effective rate of just .02 per local florist for all of 2011.

93% of all complaints to the BBB about Florists were made about just 12 ‘online florists’.

We continue to be stumped at how Wesley Berry Flowers can keep their A+ rating. With less than 5% of the order volume FTD processes, Wesley Berry Flowers has collected nearly the same amount of complaints in the last 12 months.

Wesley Berry Flowers continues to advertise ‘$20 off’ most products and then forwards almost $20 less to local florists (so their ‘deals’ are really ‘no deals'.) And then, when local florists refuse to fill their orders (due to repeated complaints generated by Wesley Berry Flowers’ selling tactics), the company refuses to provide full refunds to shoppers, claiming it’s ‘company policy’ to keep the ‘service charges’ and ‘handling fees’ despite the flowers never getting delivered. Read the many pleas for help from consumers about Wesley Berry's operation.

It’s the BBB’s A+ rating on every page - on all Wesley Berry Flowers’ websites - that helps persuade shoppers the company has a commendable reputation for customer service.   So the BBB’s failure to grasp the deceptive and misleading marketing tactics and anti-consumer refund policies is actually responsible for (mis)leading many, many shoppers.

Local florists call on the BBB to separate businesses (like the dozen listed above), which primarily forward or drop-ship orders to others for fulfillment, into a distinct category

“Please, call them Floral Relay Services, Floral Marketing Agencies, Online Floral Services or some other name that reflects the true nature of their businesses, but don’t classify them as ‘florists’.”

2840 complaints generated by 12 online businesses vs .232 complaints between the other 15,000 local US florists means we brick and mortar stores deserve to NOT be painted with the same brush. 

And the Federal Trade Commission needs to take a close look at why complaints in this category have increased by more than 200% in less than 10 years. The business model is rife with unrealistic product images, phony discounts, geographic misrepresentation, hidden fees and 'small print' and disclaimers that would make even a lawyer's eyes cross.

For shoppers who want to minimize their chances of having a complaint about Mother’s Day flowers, use Google, Yelp or one of your favorite local resources and order in person, by phone or online direct from the local florist who will deliver Mom’s flowers. 

The proof positive is in the numbers.