FREE DELIVERY!!!! shouts a wire service affiliate's 'online only florist' website.
But the deceptive claim is untrue. Why do they do it? Because it generates sales. Lots of them. According to an article from Internet Retailer:
"Numerous research firms and studies have confirmed that free shipping is a customer favorite and we would not expect to see any change in this area. Thus it’s no surprise that 89% of shoppers found free shipping very to extremely helpful."
The simple truth is that the only US and Canadian florists that can really make a site-wide claim about hand-delivering arrangements for free (not boxed/shipped product) are the ones operated by the actual florists that will physically deliver the flowers themselves. By promising 'free delivery', and combining the actual delivery fees in with the flower prices, these order gatherers give the false impression that they charge less than the local florists who will deliver their orders. It's an unfair competitive advantage and earns millions in commissions, rebates and rewards - paid to these affiliates by national floral wire services.
The most well known wire service affiliate to falsely advertise ''free delivery by a local florist' is CheapFlowers.com. Per the wire service rules, orders flow to local florists at specific prices, the florists then deduct their local delivery charges, and go on to fill CheapFlowers.com's orders with the remaining dollars. CheapFlowers.com's orders are masked behind the name of another company, The Red Liliy, so most local florists are unaware they are filling for this notorious advertiser.
Here's what the US Federal Trade Commission has to say about using the word "free" in advertising:
(b) Meaning of "Free".
(1) The public understands that, except in the case of introductory offers in connection with the sale of a product or service (See paragraph (f) of this section), an offer of "Free" merchandise or service is based upon a regular price for the merchandise or service which must be purchased by consumers in order to avail themselves of that which is represented to be "Free".
In other words, when the purchaser is told that an article is "Free" to him if another article is purchased, the word "Free" indicates that he is paying nothing for that article and no more than the regular price for the other.
Thus, a purchaser has a right to believe that the merchant will not directly and immediately recover, in whole or in part, the cost of the free merchandise or service by marking up the price of the article which must be purchased, by the substitution of inferior merchandise or service, or otherwise.
Read more about the FTC's Guide to using the word Free in advertising.
Many of the sites most loudly claiming free delivery are simply affiliate resellers that have included an estimated delivery charge in the price shown with the flower arrangement.
What consumers don't know is that local florists that fulfill (make and deliver) the wire-service-relayed orders are permitted to deduct their local delivery charges from the total amount spent, and then fill the orders per their own prices.
Each order brokered to a local florist for fulfillment is a 'negotiated sale' because no wire service is allowed to require member shops to fill and deliver arrangements at specific prices.
The FTC's guidelines go on to state:
If a product or service usually is sold at a price arrived at through bargaining, rather than at a regular price, it is improper to represent that another product or service is being offered "Free" with the sale. The same representation is also improper where there may be a regular price, but where other material factors such as quantity, quality, or size are arrived at through bargaining.
Here's an excerpt from one of the national wire service clearinghouse guidelines regarding florists' rights to deduct local delivery fees:
You should plan for the filling florist to take their delivery fee out of the total order amount.
|Total Order Amount
|Filling Florist Delivery Charge
|Order Filled to Value at
In most cases, these affiliate resellers also charge a 'shipping,' 'handling,' and/or 'service' fee in addition to (or mixed in with) the price of the flowers and delivery.
Once again, local florist members or floral wire services are absolutely not obligated to deliver any 'online-only' order broker's orders for free. In fact, the sizes of designs delivered will be reduced as florists offset their local delivery charges from the total dollar values of each order.
Order gatherers currently using the 'free delivery' ruse include the following ads found on Google and their advertiser network:
Free Flower Delivery
Starting at $29.95 w/ Free Delivery
Same Day Service Available!
Free Delivery FTD Florist
Same-day free flowers delivery
FTD florist network since 1910
Teleflora Free Delivery
Nationwide Same Day Delivery by our
local Florist. 888-758-4141.
Honolulu Florist (not really, they're just a call center)
Starting at $29.95 w/ Free Delivery
Order Your Fresh Flowers Today!
Los Angeles Florist (not really, they're in Canada)
Free Delivery, Free Vase $9.99
Farm Fresh Flowers from $24.99
US Direct Flower Delivery
We guarantee free delivery today
with no service fee anywhere in US!
Online Florist - Send Flowers Online Same day to USA/Canada (FREE Delivery) & Internationally. Same-day Florist delivered flowers, NO taxes.
Let's see which other order gatherers are fooling shoppers by falsely promising 'free delivery' today.
Are you surprised that so many of these types of companies are deceiving consumers? We're not. We have repeatedly reported these false claims of free delivery to the largest wire services and requested they suspend members that use such tactics - to no avail.
You can help the Florist Detectives by filing a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission and/or The Canadian Competition Bureau. Please help prevent other consumers from being taken in by these and similar misleading ads and sites.