LIMA — Clicking on a bouquet on an online flower ordering site seems like a great idea. Once it gets to your door, you may feel entirely differently.
Some local florists said floral websites can be misleading to customers, as the bouquet could be delivered with different flowers or be a different size than it seemed online.
“It’s impossible for florists to have all the flowers pictured on websites available for purchase,” said Doug Johnson, owner of Don Johnson’s Florist in Lima.
He’s fed up with what he calls “online order gatherers” like 1-800-FLOWERS.com, From U Flowers, AVAS Flowers, FTD, Teleflora and more.
Though customers have complained to local florists about size and flower discrepancies when they ordered online, the online floral services say their customers know about possible substitutions.
“Our customers understand that flowers are a natural, perishable product, and their availability can vary by geography and season,” FTD Executive Vice President of Florist Division Tom Moeller said in an email statement.
Local florists disagree that customers are aware. The warning is often buried in the sites’ terms and conditions, which many customers don’t take the time to read through, Johnson said.
“They act like they’re a local florist,” said Kenny Cruse, owner of Town & Country Flowers in Lima. “The online pictures … they look quite impressive … I don’t know if people just don’t realize the size.”
Shari Pritchard Trowbridge has used the sites before.
“I have used several web sites, and what I have found is what arrives is usually much smaller than what is pictured,” she wrote on The Lima News’ Facebook page. “Buying local is definitely a better value, even when I have called them to send flowers out of town. I will never use a website again.”
Mary Jo Looser, bookkeeper at Mohlers Flowers by Uhl in Lima, deals with the online floral services every day. She said she’s talked to customers who paid $80 for an arrangement online and got a $50 arrangement delivered.
“Ten, 15, 20 dollars in flowers is a huge difference in what it looks like,” Looser said. “Basically you’re just paying them to send it to us … You can save money calling direct, and you know the people.”
Consumers get the best value when ordering directly from their local florist, said Jennifer Sparks, spokeswoman for The Society of American Florists, a national trade association that represents all segments of the U.S. floral industry.
“When they contact the florist directly, that florist has the opportunity to have a conversation with the customer to let them know what is in stock and to customize their designs to meet their customers’ desires and needs,” she said.
Though they would rather customers contact them directly, local florists work with the “order gatherers” because they make money off the extra orders.
Johnson said his wish, and a possible solution, is that local florists work together and stop allowing the sites to take their business and have them fill the orders at what is often a reduced profit for local florists.
Despite local florists’ complaints, as well as some customer dissatisfaction, local florists and online floral services are constantly working together to improve their partnerships for the benefit of customers, Sparks said.
“Local florists also continue to make it a priority to build their local customer base and be visible in the community so that consumers will contact them directly,” she said in an email.
There are happy online customers out there, as well.
“My daughters have used the 1-800-flowers, and the flowers were sent to me and the surprise is that the flowers are very fresh and still last for a few weeks,” Paulina Orduno wrote in a Facebook comment on The Lima News’ page.
Allowing customers to choose from a photo online can pose some problems.
“Consumers are very literal when they see a photo online and, understandably, expect it to look exactly like it does in the photo,” Sparks said. “This can pose a challenge for florists, who want customers to be extremely satisfied with their purchase, as do the online services.”
Some of that can be fixed when online services work with multiple local florists.
“If one florist in a consumer delivery area does not have the right flowers for an order, we ask that florist to notify us,
and we send the order to another florist that will,” said Moeller, of FTD.
Substituting flowers and having a different bouquet show up is “the challenge when working with a perishable product,” Sparks said in an email.
1-800-Flowers.com sent a statement about its flower arrangements in response to questions about whether the online photos can be “misleading.”
“1-800-Flowers.com offers truly original floral arrangements designed by our florists. … We provide our customers with a variety of floral gifts that are arranged and hand-delivered by our local florists,” Yanique Woodall, spokesperson for 1-800-Flowers.com, wrote in an email.
The company is proud to partner with local florists, she said.
Teleflora declined to comment, and AVAS and From U Flowers did not respond to requests for comment.