Valentine’s Day flower shopping advice abounds. Yesterday, Chicago’s BBB reported that complaints filed against florists were up 47% from 2010 to 2011 and urged sweethearts to shop wisely for the best blooms.
A 47% complaint increase? Quite an alarming statistic – one that really begged for a closer look.
So I dug through their numbers to discover the details of the source of that huge jump in BBB complaints:
Total 2011 Chicago BBB Florist Complaints : 588
FTD.com complaints: 558
Local Chicago florist complaints: 30
FTD.com’s business practices were the source of 95% of all complaints about ‘florists’ made to the Chicago BBB.
I called the Chicago office of the Better Business Bureau to ask a few questions and to express my dismay with the way their press release seemed to create a negative portrait of Chicago florists as a group. In reality, the overwhelming majority (all but 5%) of complaints processed were about a single business – FTD.com – and the BBB still rates that company with an A+.
So in effect, by urging consumers to view florist ratings on the BBB site, the BBB is heartily ‘endorsing’ their single biggest source of consumer flower dissatisfaction.
Many local florists believe the Better Business Bureau should put national floral marketing firms like FTD, Teleflora, 1800Flowers.com, Blooms Today, Just Flowers and others in a category separate from local flower shops. These businesses don’t stock fresh floral inventory and don’t actually make the deliveries themselves. They primarily broker orders to local florists for fulfillment or use third-party fulfillment houses to drop-ship orders via parcel services.
Please, call them Floral Relay Services, Floral Marketing Agencies, Online Floral Services or some other name that reflects the true nature of their businesses, but don’t classify them as ‘florists’.
Lumping local stores in the same category as national call center/affiliate marketers is akin to categorizing Expedia or Travelocity (travel agents) as hotels or airlines.
Before anyone gets the idea that weak local florists cause most of the complaints about FTD.com, it might be helpful to know:
- Valentine’s Day 2011 was the scene of a major marketing fiasco with FTD.com and Groupon where FTD’s discount offers through the group buying site were called bait and switch scams across national media.
- Approximately 75% of the products featured on FTD.com for Valentine’s Day and other floral holidays are not delivered by local flower shops. They’re drop-shipped in boxes via UPS and FedEx.
- FTD created a program which severely fines local florists 100% of the value of each flower order if the shops fail to deliver the items on time. The down-side for accepting their orders is now much greater than the up-side during busy major holidays. Many stores simply shut off their FTD communications software and refuse to accept FTD orders before and on high-demand days like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
As a business owner whose company is a member of the BBB, it’s disheartening to read such an incendiary, misleading headline as the one released by the Chicago BBB about florists this Valentine’s Day.
A more helpful headline could have read: “Local Chicago Florists Blossom in 2011: Just 30 consumer complaints for the entire year.”
Hey, Chicago BBB, how about a do-over? And if you’re going to send out a press release cautioning flower buyers for Valentine’s Day, think twice about who you award those A+ ratings.