When we had the shop in Morrisburg, we were just getting the hang of emails instead of faxes. And websites, well that sounded interesting! Ha! The world has changed a lot in the few short years that I chose to stay home with my kids, and then several years later, chose to re-open The Village Green in Ingleside.
It started with the introduction of online ordering through websites like 1-800 Flowers. To be honest, we thought they were brilliant at first for getting that domain! They would take orders online and then use the wire services that many flower shops are members of to forward the order to a florist. Now-adays, even the wire services themselves are in on the action by taking orders online from customers themselves and passing them on to their member florists. These are not the ones to be wary of though. It's not a whole lot different than asking your local florist to send an order for you out of town. But what goes on now in the world of online ordering is a term used by florists called "order gathering". And some sneaky people have gotten the idea to make money by directing your online search for a local florist to their site where they pose as a florist in the town/city you are wishing to send to. For example, if you search “flowers Ingleside” you may see this ad pop up first in your search with the heading: Ingleside Local Florist, followed by this description: Shop Local! Ingleside Florist Delivers Flowers Same Day. Family Owned/Operated. Same Day Delivery. Mobile Friendly Site. $17.95 Flowers. Support Local Florists. Hand Delivered in 4-Hrs.
So, you click the link and think you are ordering from a family owned florist in Ingleside. But upon closer inspection of the site you will notice that they deliver across Norh America! That’s not physically possible for a little shop in Ingleside. Hmmm. Most of the time these people are not florists at all. They are just really good at deceiving you so that you order your special floral gift through them so they can take a good cut of the order amount before sending it on to an actual florist. This process poses problems for the sender who is not getting the value of the dollars they have just spent, and it reflects badly on the florist who is asked to fill the order with only a fraction of what the customer actually spent.
After receiving a few of these orders by phone I began to get suspicious. One lady had placed an order telling me she was from a flower shop in Ottawa. Then I received another order from the same lady, only the shop now had a different name. And they always seem to call from different phone numbers. The last order I received that made me suspicious was at Christmas time. The order was going to a customer who I knew and I am friends with one of her relatives. The person giving me the order told me that they wanted this fancy gourmet basket made, and then asked me how much would I need to make it? I replied, “you took the order, how much did you charge them?” (Because that is what they should be passing on to me to fill the order). He said, “well, can you do it for $70 including delivery?” I explained that I could do a small version of what he had asked for but couldn’t include all the items he had listed. He was fine with that. This didn’t sit well with me. So I contacted my friend and asked if she knew the senders whose names were on the card. She said yes and contacted them to explain my suspicions and verify how much they had paid to have this deluxe gourmet basket sent. It turned out that they had paid 89 US$ plus taxes which at the exchange rate is about $115 or more. So this company was pocketing more than a third of the order before sending it on. The difference of $45 to an order makes a big difference to the value the customer receives. I felt I couldn’t fill this order. I had hoped that the sender would be able to cancel her order but it turned out she hadn’t received any email or order confirmation number to refer to. No paper trail to cancel the charges. And I’m not even sure how easy it would be to find the original website that was ordered from. They seem to morph into different ones and disappear. I’ve even heard of sites that will take the customer from a legitimate site to theirs.
I called back the guy who had given me the order. Of course it’s a call centre and not a flower shop but I did manage to get to speak to the same person. When I told him I was refusing the order based on the knowledge of how much the customer had paid for it and how little he was passing on to me to fill it, he excitedly explained to me how foolish I was. Didn’t I know how much money they put into online ads so they can get the orders for me?! He also explained that they weren’t the only ones taking the cut. This particular order wasn’t taken by them. They had received it from another order gatherer! I wasn’t sure how he thought that information would convince me that he was doing a good thing. I told him I didn’t need his help, thank you.
I’m sharing this story to encourage people to be very careful when ordering online, even in the lovely world of flowers! Beware of scam websites! Key indicators to check are their delivery area. If it lists a very broad delivery area, be wary. Check the about us page. It’s also helpful to check for a Facebook page just to see how personal it is. If you are unsure, call them before placing your order online to see if it’s a real shop and not a call centre. And if you really aren’t sure and just want to be safe then check in with your friendly neighbourhood real life florist. We will help you either by sending the order for you, or checking within our network of florists to find you a good shop to send to.
With Mother’s Day quickly approaching take some time to help any out of town friends and family who may be thinking of sending flowers. Please help them avoid being scammed by letting them know the name, number and website of your local florist. It’s always best to contact them directly. This way you will get personalized service and know that your order is being well looked after. Because in the online world, it’s not all sunshine and roses!