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Blooming Pity: Valentine's Day Florist Wars Turn Ugly Online

Posted by Sheila Shayon on February 15, 2012 05:41 PM

This year's Valentine's Day flower-ordering rush didn't bring any bouquets for the brands. On the second biggest day of the year for sending flowers, after Mother’s Day, disappointed U.S. customers took to Facebook and Twitter in droves to voice their outrage at 1-800-FlowersFTD and ProFlowers. No wonder a website call FlowerComplaint.com exists.

But a lesser known story occurred when Chez Bloom, a florist in Minneapolis, MN checked-in online at about 4 P.M. on Valentine’s Day. Chez Bloom's Twitter account posting a few tweets complaining about the incorrect information, but there's no doubt the misinformation impacted sales. Call it the war of the roses.

Owner Laura Chase told brandchannel, “It was a very busy and successful day, too busy to check online, until late afternoon when I went looking for any reviews of our deliveries. I Googled Chez Bloom and up came this screen shot." (Take a closer look below.)

"I Googled all the other local shops I could think of – and same thing appeared," Chase continued. "It’s a good thing I took a screen shot because by 5PM it was taken down. I nearly fell off my chair. They also had TV ads saying local florists were sold out, and showing a deceptive ad with a kit that had to be assembled. It’s beyond despicable. We were not sold out. We’d like to know how many others were treated this way. It’s maybe a class action lawsuit.”

We called ProFlowers and spoke with Jen Caroll, Director PR and Corporate Communications.

Caroll said they were busy handling Valentine's Day complaints on social media (some of which Chez Bloom has been conveniently reposting on Twitter), a day for which she said they had staffed up “appropriately and pro-actively.” She also confirmed what went wrong with the Chez Bloom situation:

“It turns out that the ad in question was part of a Google ad campaign of ours to advertise that OUR flowers (ProFlowers) were sold out for Valentine’s Day, but we could still accept orders for Wednesday and beyond. Our marketing team bids on tens of thousands of floral-related keywords and keyword combinations which trigger ads to appear in search results pages. An unintended consequence is that search engine matching technology, run by Google in this case, inputs the searched-upon keyword (e.g., “bloom”) into the ProFlowers ad. The fact is our team entered the “sold out” descriptor for ProFlowers’ products—not for the florist’s. Because we have a dedicated team closely monitoring our social media channels, as soon as we became aware of the unintended consequence we worked immediately with our search engine providers to rectify the problem.”

Another V-Day floral flub online was reported before Valentine's Day by ABC News in Burlington, VT. Turns out an online search for local florists may pull up local florists, but also aggregator sites called "gatherers” that don’t belong to florists, but show pictures of bouquets, often at marked-up prices, which if purchased from them puts the price difference in the gatherers' pockets.

"They may even lists our schools and our funeral homes. But in reality, they're in Michigan or in Oregon, or someplace else," Juiffre said. "The product may not arrive on time or at all if there's not a florist in the area. They're most likely going to pay far more for that item than they would if they had bought it locally.”

Vermont passed a law preventing "gatherer" sites last year, but according to the Vermont Attorney General's office, it’s easy to get around.

"Whenever a middle man gets in between the florist and the consumer, bad things are going to happen," warned Steve Juiffre, co-owner of Chappell's Florist in South Burlington, VT, to ABC News.

One upside, small as it might be, for those whose floral orders got messed up, as Bloomberg Businessweek notes: “Customers can at least take heart in the fact that their online outburst got some notice. With 1-800-Flowers following everyone who’d made a complaint, victims got something that’s arguably more special than a second-day bouquet: a chance to expand their Twitter following.”

Clearly, it's a perilous journey out there on the web, where another brand's search engine marketing can step on the best-laid plans — but is all fair in love, war and Google AdWords?

[image via Twitter.com/chezbloom]


laura United States says:

Proflowers response is very hard to believe. I doubt customers are searching for the word "Chez" when searching for flowers to buy. What a farce.

February 15, 2012 06:04 PM #

Jun Korea says:

I don't believe in conspiracy theories but it sounds like one.

February 15, 2012 07:24 PM #

laura United States says:

Why would Proflowers want to advertise that they were sold out? And when I typed in "Bachmans" the same "Bachmans sold out" ad appeared with the Proflowers link. Is the word Bachmans a generic floral term? No, it is a brand name of a real brick and mortar flower shop. The excuse Proflowers is using is laughable at best.

February 15, 2012 08:35 PM #

laura United States says:

It is now February 16th and Proflowers is still advertising Valentine's Day flowers on their website.
They NEVER mentioned they were sold out on Valentine's Day. Instead they take out Google ads saying local florists are sold out using our names and trading on our intellectual property. The response they gave Brandchannel was a poor attempt to cover this up. :-(

February 16, 2012 07:19 AM #

Nicole United States says:

I agree that ProFlowers excuse is laughable. Why would anyone pay to tell people they are sold out? If it was truly to get the message out that certain flowers were sold out, then my guess is they would have shown that on their website, AFTER they customer was already there looking to buy. No this was an intentional campaign ran to drive traffic to ProFlowers and there is no other explanation.

February 16, 2012 10:29 AM #

Desirea United States says:

You got that right. This was deliberate because honestly, you have to do some programming to detect local searches and figure out what local flower shops are around. Can't hoodwink a programmer... and there are a lot of us who can see right through the explanation.

February 16, 2012 10:55 AM #

kevin donahoe United States says:

I own a brick and mortar shop and we need to get the word out to all consumers to call
your local florist directly .  Not only will the service, and the product be better , you
will usually pay less.  These order gatherers are killing the floral industry.  The nation
has gone from 28000 florists, to 16000 and declining quickly at a rate of about 1000 per
year.  The irony is that when the consumer uses any of these order gatherers , a good portion
of the money goes directly in their pocket.  Then they call a brick and mortar shop to do the order at a discount.  We no longer accept any orders from all of them.  We are still an FTD shop
but I am working at discontinuing that relationship as well.  They no longer represent the local florist, they compete with us.

February 16, 2012 11:03 AM #

Anna Schatzman United States says:

The order takers are sending these orders WE TAKE to brick and mortar shops.  The people in these shops are the ones making it bad for everyone.  There are plenty of bad reviews for FTD.  Wire service has been around for over a century. Florists are shooting THEMSELVES in the foot, not the order takers!  

February 17, 2012 04:18 PM #

Laura O'Hara United States says:

As a "brick and mortar" florist, your remarks show a lack of understanding of the real issue. The order gatherers are the ones who promise what they do not have to deliver. For some, the photo of the arrangement does not change based on the price and shows flowers that are only supposed to be in the larger or deluxe version.. That is beyond mis-leading. They are also responsible for photos of round arrangements where all of the flowers in the picture are shown. giving the sender the impression the arrangement has twice the flowers and in full bloom, which would not last the 7 day guarantee. It is also the gatherers who promise early delivery for an added fee which does not go to the filling florist, the one who may need to send a driver back to the same area later in the day. Operators with little command of the Emglish language attempt to get a florist to accept a phone order, even after the florist explains they do not have the product. An order for a dozen white orchids is flollowed by the question "What do you have to substitute". I would like to know what qualifies you to judge that about which you know so little.

February 20, 2012 01:37 PM #

Peter Lenzo United States says:

For the on-line consumers there is a way to punish these Beasts and that is to avtively seek out smaller, honest businesses on the web. I sent a bouquet of 24 just opening and still budded, long stemmed white and yellow fragrant and organically raised narcissus for 40.00 from a CA organic flower farm. Recieved a on-line photo the next day and they were gorgeous, as advertised. Another method is to google florist and the City where you want your flowers sent. Many listings (yellow pages is one) provide a list of businesses and customer reviews, cut out these predatory, corporate middlemen, spend your money wisely.

February 16, 2012 11:21 AM #

Stew B United States says:

Having had a couple run ins with 1800-flowers in the past, this isn't shocking to me. I learned my lesson and only shop local!

February 16, 2012 12:00 PM #

Bettina Miller United States says:

If you look at the reviews for Teleflora, Ftd , Pro & 1800flowers, it is downright shocking at how many complaints that they all have, especially related to major holidays, like Valentines Day. When are people going to get it that they sell garbage for flowers and their customer service is beyond repair. Then they blame it on computer error or any other possible thing, to justify their F...ups. The order gatherers and box shippers have degraded the entire floral industry to where people don't expect much from a florist anymore. There are still many great BRICK & MORTAR
stores that do exceptional work, we just have to find a way to get out ahead of the mass marketed crap without loosing our shirts. GO LOCAL you'll be glad you did. Make sure there is an address related to the business............

February 16, 2012 12:39 PM #

Michelle Elwell United States says:

To the consumers out there...buy local. Better value, more bang for your buck.

February 16, 2012 03:36 PM #

Kiri United States says:

I learned years back to buy from a local florist after a major screw up with a funeral wreath for a relative. (I used a national chain thinking it'd be easier) Since then, if I need something where I am I use my hometown florist.  If I need flowers for elsewhere in the country (or outside of it) I contact the local florist there directly.  It might take ten more minutes of my time, but I've not had one iota of a problem since, the flowers ALWAYS arrive when they are needed, they are done properly and usually I can get special arrangements easily depending upon season,  and as stated above usually for a lesser price.  It is also great to know whom will be delivering and when - especially to one's grandmothers and older aunts.

I wouldn't send flowers anymore if it weren't for a local florist.

February 16, 2012 04:44 PM #

Catherine United States says:

I agree with all of the comments above.
Buy from your local florist. You'll get a QUAILTY product and a face behind it.
Ordering online without a true address is a disaster waiting to happen. Some of the orders are filled by local florists but they only see a third of what you  the consumer are charged.
We brick and mortar shops are quite friendly people & treat you as friends, not credit card numbers!

February 16, 2012 04:52 PM #

Everyday Flowers United States says:

Google needs to do something about this.  They should not be showing ads within the business bubble or business listing and this is exactly the reason why they should not be doing this.  Allowing a large company such as Proflowers to show an ad saying "Sold Out For Valentines" right under our own business listings is just wrong.  

February 17, 2012 01:45 AM #

Mimi United States says:

Okay, I've got a solution for you.  When you need to order flowers, quit being addicted to websites. Look up a shop,  write down the phone number and call, then make darn sure you're dealing with a local company by calling back a little later and asking to speak with the same person.  Ask a few questions that only a person standing in a local flower shop can answer, such as "I'd like to come in and pick up another arrangement, how do I get to your shop"?  The fake florists can't tell you....Anyway, nothing is ever going to be 100% perfect, but the wire services have destroyed flower ordering by creating unrealistic expectations, siphoning off all the profits from the orders and finding themselves with limited memberships to fill their orders.  Skip the nonsense and find a real local flower shop to deal with in the future.

February 17, 2012 08:36 AM #

Anna Schatzman United States says:

I disagree with some comments here except about Proflowers.  This is how WIRE Service works and has worked for a century.  You live in Nashville, Tn. You want to send flowers to your Mom in San Francisco, Ca. In the old days, you called or walked into a flower shop, they took your order, you paid them money.  The Nashville, tn florist called a florist in their network (telafloral, FTD or Floral Source) and told that florist what to deliver and where.  It is up to the florist in San Fransisco, who is also a brick and mortar biz to deliver FRESH flowers.  The other florist in Nashville, Tn has little control over the other florist except to call and complain or ask for a replacement. It is no different if you place an order online for any florist who is in one of these networks.  Florists are destroying their own industry by not being honest and delivering a quality product. Flowers are expensive and there is no getting around that.  I have bought moldy flowers at Wallmart and the grocery store too. Want really fresh flowers, grow them yourself.  Florists have a hard job and it is even harder on holidays.  

February 17, 2012 04:35 PM #

Sonya Frederick United States says:

I have to speak up for most of us.  You are referring to "florists" who do not deliver a fresh product.  That is not the case for many of us brick and mortar florists.  The networks use to have regulations and if a florist did not follow them, they were kicked out of the network.  It seems, today, that the networks will allow anybody who wants to call themselves a florist in.  THIS is what is killing our industry! The order gatherers are members, grocery stores are members, everybody is a member and the networks don't care who is and how they run their business, as long as they get their cut.  How cunfusing do you think this is for the consumer when they try to find an honest business?  Our store is celebrating it's 35th year in business.  I have watched the neworks change over the years. It is astounding how much it has changed in just the last two decades. Please don't think for a minute that the tried and true florist in this country and abroad are to blame.  I take offense.  Don't lump the true professionals with those you speak of!

February 18, 2012 01:38 PM #

laura United States says:

Our shop (Chez Bloom) is not and never will be a member of a Wire Service. Proflowers does use the Teleflora network to send same day orders to actual florists though. What a tangled web!!!
They depend on local florists yet they pull a stunt like this advertising that local florists are Sold Out For Valentine's Day!  Well Proflowers, please send me a check for the inventory I had on Valentine's Day because you must have purchased it all. What a bunch of deceptive Vultures.

February 19, 2012 10:36 PM #

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