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-Flowers, FTD 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]