I frequently get calls from friends and family looking to purchase flowers. There are a lot of people that don't buy flowers very often, and even people that do aren't always sure about the best way to go about it, and they'll often ask me for advice.
The advice is pretty much always the same… yes, flowers are the perfect gift for almost anybody. I also encourage people to give them when they aren't expected – wives and girlfriends might expect flowers on Valentine's Day, birthdays and anniversaries, but it's great to surprise them on any one of the other 362 days of the year. Same thing with moms – don't wait for Mother's Day. And any of those "what can I bring?" situations like a party or dinner... try taking flowers. They will always be a hit and are a nice change from another bottle of wine.
The who/how/where to buy part is always a little trickier. Don't get me wrong – if you talk to a real local florist you will be fine. I work with florists and they are generally wonderful, honest and caring people. They truly love flowers and they want you to love them too – they will work very hard to make sure that you and the recipient are both thrilled with your purchase.
But sometimes what we call "order-gatherers" get in the way. These are not florists, they just pretend to be. They'll have websites, yellow pages ads and phone book listings all intended to convince you they are real local florists, but they don't have coolers or flowers or florists or delivery vans. All they really have is a website, a call center, and a knack for tricking consumers.
Their goal is to get you to place your flower order with them. They then call a real local florist and try and get them to fill the order for them. The problem is the money that you paid – the order gatherer tries to keep a big chunk of it. Often as much as half.
That means that the local florist who will actually prepare and deliver your flowers gets just a small part of the money that you intended to go to the people that actually prepare and deliver your flowers.
How does the order gatherer get away with it? There are a couple of different ways. First they'll usually charge you a service fee that doesn't get passed along to the real florist. It's really their charge for "handling" your order, something of course the local florist would have done for free, and it certainly doesn't add any value for you.
It's also common to inflate the delivery charge and pass only a portion of it on to the real local florist. The downside for you? You probably paid more for delivery than you had to.
But the real problem is the product. The order gatherer will try and save money by ordering something a little cheaper than what you actually paid for. You ordered the premium ultra-long stem roses? The order gather will often order something less expensive on your behalf and keep the difference.
The worst part is that they have become really good at masquerading as real florists. They will have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of websites (or doorway pages), each designed to make them look like a real local florist dedicated to serving a particular area. Same thing with the yellow pages and phone books – they'll take out ads and listings in directories across the country, all to try and convince you that they are real local florists. Sometimes they will even use the names and addresses of established, well-known shops.
If you can avoid these guys and deal with a real florist instead you will be fine. There is a great guide to finding a real local florist on the Bring Flowers website. Follow those tips, deal with a real local flower shop, and you will be very happy.