ProFlowers.com vs Florists
May 4, 2008
Reputation Management by Cease and Desist
This story really is the case of ProFlowers.com vs Florists. Tired of hearing hired radio personalities malign local florists and frustrated with ProFlowers' continued negative marketing about brick and mortar flower shops, two Pennsylvania florists ordered a set of ProFlowers' roses online and chronicled the experience.
In addition to photographing the frozen flowers delivered to their home, they video taped the experience of opening the box of frozen flowers and uploaded it to YouTube.com, where the video was seen by more than 30,000 viewers. Needless to say, the folks at ProFlowers.com were unhappy that their delivery policy of leaving flowers on doorsteps when no one is home, despite freezing temperatures, received so much exposure.
Rather than actually fixing the problem by changing the delivery policy, ProFlowers.com hired an attorney to send the local florists a cease and desist order claiming trademark infringement.
The video has been removed from YouTube.com and the blog post about the frozen rose experience has been removed from the florists' site. We have republished the entire post below, removing the florists' name so ProFlowers can no longer say they are 'trading on their intellectual property.'
Consumer awareness of issues that can effect the flower purchasing experience is the mission of this site. We will continue our mission to help shoppers learn how to avoid disappointment when ordering flowers - and to understand what they're really buying.
ProFlowers - Do You Think Your Flowers are Fresh From the Field?
This is what we ordered...
This is what we got...
If you're thinking of ordering an arrangement of flowers fresh from the field, read this before you do.
We placed a test order with ProFlowers to show that their flowers are neither arranged nor fresh from the field. We found a few other things along the way that should make you think twice. We ordered their One Dozen Assorted Valentine's Roses for $29.99 (plus shipping), and had them delivered on Feb 6, 2007. These are short stemmed roses, slightly more than 1 foot in length. Also, this item does not include any greenery or fillers (such as baby's breath).
As we progressed through our order, we were notified of something we already knew: you'd better be home when the flowers arrive, or they'll be left at the door. ProFlowers made the claim that your flowers will arrive "when you want them to, not when a florist wants to deliver them". Who wants them to sit in the freezing cold all day? Good luck calling FedEx or UPS and arranging a time when you'll be home. We call all recipients first to ensure they'll be home, and we never leave flowers on a porch when the weather is so bad! Read their full shipping disclaimer, and you'll see that their promise of "when you want them" falls short.
As we neared completion of our order, we found our next surprise. You can't change your order! That's because your flowers are already sitting on a loading dock, waiting for their shipping label. There's no going back when you click OK. With a real florist, you can call us right up to the time your flowers are on the van and make changes to your order--you can change your card message, or what's in the vase, or even where it's going. Not with ProFlowers.
When it came time to ship our order, it originated in Philadelphia. Philadelphia? So much for "fresh from the fields". In reality, ProFlowers pre-stages products in warehouses around the country. Like we mentioned above, your order is just sitting there, waiting for a shipping label.
In an article in Business 2.0 discussing ProFlowers distribution network, we learned
Flowers grown outside the country arrive at a refrigerated distribution center run by ProFlowers in Miami, where employees monitor flower quality. From there, bouquets are shipped in refrigerated trucks to 12 regional distribution centers and then by FedEx Ground or UPS to customers--a process that keeps shipping charges to a bare minimum. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2005/05/01/8259689/index.htm
For a company which stresses "fresh from the fields", trucking flowers around the country sounds exactly like how we get our flowers. As an aside, for our test order, Proflowers' delivery fee was $9.99. Our delivery fee is $4.95 or $6.95, depending on where it's going.
According to the tracking information above, our flowers were delivered at 2:43 pm on 2/6/2007. Our high was 15 degrees F. By the time we arrived home, the temperature was 7 degrees F. The photo below shows our thermometer hung on the box. In the large view, note the instruction to the driver that it's OK to leave the box.
The fun really began with the unboxing. We recorded a small video of us unboxing the flowers. They're frozen solid, and unarranged. We think a lot of people expect their ProFlowers orders to look like the photos on the website. We have to hand it to their photography staff--they do a fantastic job. Your flowers will arrive wrapped in plastic--the arrangement is up to the recipient. It would take our staff some serious effort to make what we received look like their photo.
Guys, there's something important about Valentine's Day you need to know. Remembering her is only part of the event. Deep down inside, she wants her friends to envy her. And the vases of roses below is not likely to make anyone envious. This Valentine's Day, choose a real pro--your local florist.
The sad truth is it's not only a couple florists reporting receiving frozen flowers from ProFlowers.com or one or two consumers expressing disappointment at seeing a beautiful arrangement online but actually getting a Do-It-Yourself kit. With an 'Unsatisfactory' rating at the Better Business Bureau
, it seems ProFlowers.com has more than a few problems.
Read what other consumers have to say about the service they've received from ProFlowers.com:Flowers were delivered on-time, but appeared to have "freezer burn" with many of the outside rose petals brown and wilted. The box was delivered on time, but since nobody was home it was left out in the rain and 35 degree weather.I was disappointed that the flowers I sent my wife for Valentine ’s Day were not arranged as they looked in the online photos.What we got was a far cry from what was actually ordered. The flowers were not even in the vase! They were in a box with the vase wrapped up next to them.I definitely think that the quality of the flowers at from Proflowers.com is sub-par. I also believe it has to do with their delivery system, because the flowers are not delivered arranged
To cut costs, ProFlowers has to cut corners by leaving flowers on doorsteps and requring receipients to make their own arrangements. No cease and desist will change that.
February 6, 2007
Fresh from the frozen fields of Philadelphia. Watch this hilarious video about unpacking a frozen box of ProFlowers roses. According to ProFlowers.com, their flowers are shipped 'fresh from the fields' and delivered "when you want them to arrive. Not when a florist decides to deliver them." OK.
The accompanying blog post tells about a 'Fresh from the fields' ProFlowers.com shopping experience and how their flowers were picked up by FedEx from the 'fields of Philadelphia' and dumped on their front doorstep - despite the temperature being 15 degrees.
February 6, 2007
More about the 'fresh from the box' experience. Don't take our word for it. Read blog consultant Franki Durbin's take on dealing with 'wilted, tethered flowers' from ProFlowers as she describes the difference between reality and one of ProFlowers.com's drive-time radio ads. She cautions 'some assembly required' - and then some.
February 3, 2007
More on Love and Like: A reader pointed out that his 'fresh from the fields' purchase from ProFlowers.com was shipped with a tracking label showing Memphis, TN as the city of origin. He and we would love to know how many 'flower fields' - especially those of ProFlowers' rose growers - are in there or in Miami or New Jersey, too?
The answer would be like 'zero'.
February 1, 2007
ProFlowers is at it again, disparaging the quality and service of local florists. 2007's Valentine's Day campaign "Love comes fresh from a field. Like comes from a florist' cooler" leaves florists asking 'huh'?.
We thought ProFlowers had given up that 'fresh from the field' claim after being involved in a couple lawsuits and handing out millions in credit coupons. (see Nov. 12, 2006 story below).
Local florists want to remind Valentine's Day flowers shoppers that there is a difference between ProFlowers and local florists. We're the real pros with flowers.
A recent blog post about checking temperatures in FedEx and UPS trucks also stands as a reminder to shoppers sending to cold climates to beware of Valentine's Day rose-sicles delivered in boxes.
And don't forget that all of ProFlowers' late next-day, same-day and Sunday deliveries are made by those very same local florists whose flowers they claim "by the time they (flowers) reach their recipient their best days are long gone".
Would ProFlowers really sell florist-delivered flowers to their customers if they believed their own ads? Since they obviously don't, you shouldn't either. So skip the ProFlowers middleman and call a local florist direct for professionally arranged, grower-fresh flowers.
November 12, 2006
It's too soon to tell of ProFlowers' settlements of the both the lawsuit claiming misleading advertising by FTD and the class action alleging deceptive marketing for claiming its flowers were "fresher than traditional floral providers" because they are shipped direct from fields and bypass middlemen' will see a change in the way the company markets against florists. The agreement with FTD is supposed to take effect December 1 and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge will review the proposed class action settlement on December 20.
According to an article in the Denver Post, ProFlowers' customers dating back as early as 2001 have begun receiving notification of a $10 store credit which can be used between January 1 and June 30, 2007 - excluding the traditional floral holiday periods of Valentine's Day, Easter and Mother's Day.
With flowers pre-staged in warehouses across the US, it would be tough for ProFlowers to defend either of the suits. Many florists would have liked to see the suits go further, but at least it's a start.
August 24, 2005
In a move that has rocked the floral industry, today FTD announced the filing of a lawsuit against Provide Commerce, parent company of Proflowers.com, alleging false and misleading advertising for claiming their fresh cut flowers are shipped direct from the fields.
This isn't the first time ProFlowers' operation has been accused of shading the truth in the course of marketing their products (see our entries below from February 9 and 27.) We'd like to have seen FTD include a complaint about ProFlowers.com's use of professionally arranged product images to sell their do-it-yourself kits. Considering FTD does the same, those charges are unlikely.
The Florist Detectives agree with FTD's assertions. We will keep readers updated as this story unfolds.
March 16, 2005
The Florist Detectives received correspondence from FloristExpress.net/FromYouFlowers.com disputing that the order featured below originated from the ProFlowers.com site, stating that their company was offering lower prices for the same items on a different URL. We have modified the text on the March 8 entry to reflect that possibility even though we were unable to find FYF-103 available on any site but FloristExpress.com in late February and early March.
T he sites' owner has indicated his agreement to more accurately reflect products and prices that can be properly reproduced by local florists and has removed the claims of $20 savings on the disputed product images. He has additionally indicated a willingness to obtain separate wire service identification numbers for orders sold from the company's various URL. We see both measures as positive steps for consumers and local florists.
March 8, 2005 - edited March 16, 2005
The story about ProFlowers.com/FloristExpress.net gets more infuriating and interesting every day. The Florist Detectives have been contacted by more than one outraged florist who, after seeing our comments from February 27, looked back to review orders transferred to their businesses by From You Flowers, the company name under which these Teleflora affiliate orders are cloaked. One flower shop provided us with several copies of Teleflora Dove network transmissions from the month of February. In most cases, where customers had selected upgrade items such as balloons, chocolates and teddy bears, From You Flowers had transferred less dollars than shown on the ProFlowers/FloristExpress.net. Compare the prices indicated on the upgrades of the FYF-103 rose arrangement to this copy of the printed order shown below.
In this particular example, after subtracting their local delivery charge of $8.50 (absolutely allowed by wire service rules) from the $39.99 rose order, this florist filled the arrangement for $31.45 in a basic glass utility vase which in no way resembles the contemporary vase in the photo of ProFlowers Item # FYF-103. The shop then added a mylar balloon, a box of $14.00 chocolates and a $14.00 teddy bear. Again, in most every case, on numerous February orders with an upgraded accessory, this florist received less money than indicated on the site - which begs the question "Were consumers and local florists shortchanged by this practice?" and "Was From You Flowers charging consumers different prices on the very same images of brokered products?"
Our florist also reaffirmed that the consumer in no way received a $59.99 value rose arrangement, but that their shop would have been be happy to deliver one if ProFlowers' affiliate had actually sent that amount.
We also note that the text on the One Dozen Red Roses Item # FYF-103 page exclaims " Includes glass vase !" yet the container in the photo appears to be the same as the "modern acrylic vase" ( genuine plastic ) which is featured as an upgrade for $9.95 with ProFlowers.com' direct-ship flowers. So why is this image shown when they know it's not glass and there's practically a zero chance that any florist would include it for such a low priced order?
We call this product presentation and faux value comparison deceptive and misleading at best and once again request ProFlowers.com/FloristExpress.net to provide a realistic $39.95 rose arrangement image (roughly $35.00 product value after local delivery has been deducted by filling florists) and omit the highly dubious price comparison.
We call on both Proflowers.com and Teleflora to conduct a complete audit of the dollar amounts paid by consumers and the values transmitted by From You Flowers to local florists for fulfillment as a result of purchases from the ProFlowers.com site.
We thank the real local florists for alerting us about this situation. Florists are encouraged to contact Teleflora to report similar incidences regarding this company.
February 27, 2005
The latest twist in dubious marketing claims by ProFlowers.com and FloristExpress.net are the "Save $20" buttons found on this page. Consumers are presented with markdowns on these florist-delivered products which indicate that the gift recipients will receive $59.95 rose arrangements for $39.95 as seen on this deceptive page.
Proflowers.com's and Florist Express.net's customers will receive $59.95 roses arrangements only if these brokers transfer $59.95 plus local delivery charges to the local florists who fulfill the orders. Otherwise, the recipient's of these gifts will get $39.95 roses - with zero savings.
We call on both companies to take down all misleading advertising claims - once and for all - and request Teleflora, their wire service affiliate network, launch a thorough investigation into the value of products sent to local florists for fulfillment. Consumers fooled by these deceptive tactics should be refunded immediately.
If you are a consumer that has been mislead by these false claims of savings, please file a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission.
February 9, 2005
The last week has been almost laughable with ProFlowers.com issuing a press release where their COO Abe Wynperle stated, "When considering a Valentine's Day gift, consumers should be aware that national wire services and local florists use an outdated business model that often results in the delivery of flowers that are less fresh, more expensive and unpredictable."
We'd like to remind them about the recent remarks regarding their own unpredictable deliveries.
This was countered by a press release from Teleflora which included the advice to "Make sure you buy florist-arranged bouquets. Don't get disappointed by purchasing direct-from-the-grower offerings that arrive unarranged in an overnight shipping box. These flowers require your "special someone" to do all the work and worse yet, they could be damaged in transit."
The Florist Detectives concur. Having seen unopened ProFlowers.com boxes sitting on snowy doorsteps, at hospital nurses' stations and in backrooms of funeral homes, we believe their professionally designed product images may mislead some shoppers into thinking they are sending completed arrangements. In our opinion, stating "assembly required" beneath each and every product photo should be mandatory for any boxed/shipped flowers advertised using arrangement images.
So, what's funny about ProFlowers.com and Teleflora trading press releases?
See the link on ProFlowers' left navigation column labeled Same Day Delivery? It leads to FloristExpress.net, a Teleflora affiliate/broker which primarily uses licensed Teleflora product images and transfers orders to local florists via the Teleflora network cloaked under the name From You Flowers of Old Saybrook, CT. Those same local florists lambasted by COO Mr. Wyneperle are ProFlowers' only source for offering delivery of Valentine's Day orders placed after Saturday, February 12.
We doubt most florists would agree to deliver products for them, given ProFlowers.com's negative marketing approach regarding flower shops, but since the orders are hidden behind the name of a different company, florists will likely be fooled into becoming de facto agents. And we have to wonder about the sincerity of the COO's remarks given that his company is selling and financially benefiting from these alleged "less fresh, more expensive and unpredictable" flowers. (Of course, we disagree with those assertions.) Teleflora's permission and commissions earned from this affiliate's use it's images and network, all behind a cloaked business name, makes their statements ring a tad insincere, as best.
Adding insult to injury, on February 9, 2005 when this article was originally written, once inside FloristExpress.net, shoppers were offered "One Dozen Red Roses (ITEM #FYF-103)" and several other designs that stated "Includes a Free Glass Vase!". No local florists were delivering those vases for free - the prices were simply bundled into the total costs of the items. This was a patently false advertising claim and we are pleased to report that some time after a visit to this site from the proflowers.com folks, the 'free vase' claims finally disappeared.
So far, there is no winner in the battle between ProFlowers.com and the wire services. The clear losers are the gift-givers who think they're sending arrangements when they've really purchased do-it-yourself kits and the local florists being insulted while being fooled into doing work for a cloaked affiliate.
If you think the designed images misrepresent the delivered products of Proflowers.com and should be more clearly labeled and/or that the cloaking of orders to local florists from FloristExpress.com are just plain wrong, please help us and file a complaint with those companies, the Federal Trade Commission and your state attorney general.