You want to send flowers to Aunt Sally in Newark or your sister Susan in San Antonio. You decide to look up a local florist there, hoping to get more personal service or even save a few bucks by avoiding the "middleman." Normally, a simple call to directory information or an online search would be all it takes, but in the case of florists, the results could be deceiving.
Many of the online resources are overcrowded with national marketers and wire services rather than the real local florists you're seeking. Some companies have built hundreds or even thousands of web pages referencing various cities across the country just to show up in so-called "local" searches across the country. Others are simply paying to be on top. This makes life difficult, as it is very hard to tell the difference between a genuine family flower shop and a national fictitious "florist" with local phone numbers which are actually forwarded out of state.
While these deceptive phone listings have officially been banned in many states as intentionally misleading, the laws are all too often not enforced. As a result, fictitious florist phone listings have become commonplace, especially with the growth of online yellow pages. Flowers With Gifted Elegance of Randolph, NJ and All American Flowers of Mount Laurel, NJ are two of several telemarketing companies employing this tactic to make money while providing a disservice to unsuspecting consumers. By purchasing local phone listings under many different names, they hope to lead customers into using their services.
The strategy first surfaced in the mid-nineties. States such as Virginia and Delaware recognized the threat and took action. Other states have followed, but the practice continues today relatively unhindered. Companies in New Jersey, Wisconsin, and the state of Washington purchase phone numbers all over the country, and place those numbers in local white and yellow pages. The listings usually have the name 'Flowers Of (Town or City)' or 'Flowers in (Town/City)', with a local area code and phone number but either no address or a bogus address. Consumer groups agree it's misleading at best and usually a ploy to con people into ordering. In the end, customers may face unnecessary extra charges, poor quality, or both. Here's how it works and what you can do to avoid it.
The Phone Listing Scam
Take a quick trip over to whitepages.com. Do a search for business type "florist springfield," and don't even both entering any city or state. You'll see that about five of the first listings are for "Florist in Springfield" or "Florist of Springfield" in Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri. They all display local phone numbers, but none of them list an address, a common indication of a deceptive listing. To find out more, we called each of the numbers. Four were answered by a recording referring to "Our Flowers with Gifted Elegance." The fifth was answered by a similar operation which refused to provide a physical address and claimed it didn't allow 'walk-in' customers. In short, all five were bogus. The problem isn't limited to Springfield. One florist we interviewed knew of at least seventeen misleading florist listings in its local yellow pages.
According to customers, the real disservice isn't the false listing; it's the poor service. These companies often charge between $8.99 and $14.99 for taking each order and redirecting it to a real local florist. The service fee is on top of the flowers and local delivery, or worse yet is deducted from them without the customer's knowledge. The Better Business Bureau report on Flowers with Gifted Elegance, at bbb.org, notes an unsatisfactory record due to unanswered complaints. A search at RipOffReport.com reveals the number of complaints, including reports by people who's flowers were never delivered.
Avoid Being a Victim
There may be no easy way to recover from being a victim of this kind of advertising deception, but avoiding it is fairly easy.
- Trust your hometown florist. Most are seasoned professionals who can deliver your gift almost anywhere, know the better flower shops in other areas, stand behind their service, and guarantee your satisfaction. In the unlikely event any problem does arise, you'll be glad you're working with a reputable local business that wants your continued patronage.
- If you shop online, choose a nationwide florist that proudly displays a toll-free phone number, contact address, customer satisfaction policy, and industry credentials. Check for a secure order form with "https" in the address, and consider placing your first order by phone to ensure customer service people are easy to reach.
- Get advice from friends, neighbors, or business associates. They're often the best source for choosing the right florist.
- If you do search for local florists online or in phone books, be sure to avoid those with generic names that include the town or that can't give you the address and directions to their local store.
The vast majority of florists are hard-working, family-owned businesses dedicated to serving you. So, you can send flowers with confidence when you turn to the local florists you know and nationwide florists you trust. Most can deliver your bouquet around the corner or across the country, within 24 hours or less. No wonder, flower delivery is still one of the most reliable and popular ways to show you care. Still, like any industry, the flower business has its share of 'bad apples.' So, think twice before you play Russian Roulette with the phone book. Count on your local hometown florist and the established nationwide florists online.
Courtesy of Flowers Delivery Florists, an online guide for fresh flowers, florists online, and floral information resources.
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