Thursday, February 16, 2012

On The Dark World...Of Valentine's Day Flowers

The Dark World… of Valentine’s Day Flowers

There is a secret world, a dark world.

A world shrouded in mystery and deceptions, lurking in the advertisements you see, hear and read.  The images forced upon you leading up to the most simultaneously loved and hated day of the year–Valentine’s Day. That world (dramatic pause) is the world of corporate flower sales.
Corporate flower sales? Really? Doesn’t sound too controversial, or mysterious, or even interesting. But these “big dogs” are ripping off unbeknownst consumers and shutting down local businesses in greater numbers each year.

How it works:
Valentine’s Day is coming. You jump online and Google “flower delivery Virginia Beach” (or any of our Seven Cities), and see what pops up.

what pops up.
Here’s what you see above: paid listings from the big corporate “florists” such as FTD, Teleflora, 1800Flowers, and ProFlowers. The secret is – these are not florists! They are huge corporations who farm out the actual floral design work to small local shops, through a system called wire transfers. So big deal?
Here’s the catch–they are ripping off both you and the local flower shops. And so are the other top listings, who usually are call centers posing as local florists.
In the picture above, the first two left listings are examples of fake call center flower shops. If you click on a listing and you don’t see a local phone number and address, and can’t find them listed on a map, they aren’t an actual flower shop. They will go so far to appear local as to buy domain names with the city included in it, like the “Beach Virginia Florist” at the top of the page, or purchase local phone numbers that forward to call centers.  The only local chain in that picture is Norfolk Florist, and they are not a small “Mom and Pop” shop. They have multiple stores and mass produced flowers that come out of a central warehouse, and can afford the large advertising budget to get ranked on Google with the other businesses you see listed. Whether this is good or bad is up to you to decide; I don’t fault anyone for being successful. I DO fault the other companies for being deceptive and not disclosing how the system really works.
Why Not To Use Them:
Rip off #1: When you call or order online, you purchase a pretty arrangement for $75. Then they add in a service fee, which is made to sound like a delivery fee. IT IS NOT. It is just what it states, a service fee, tacked on to the cost of your flowers. It is usually anywhere from $9.95 – $14.95. So with tax, that brings your total right up around $100.

Fresh flowers don't have to come with a rip off. (Pic | Studio Posy)
Rip off #2: They then call or forward your order electronically to a local flower shop. On these websites, you see pictures of pre-designed arrangements, many times with flowers that are not in season or available locally. No flower shop carries all flowers all the time. They usually stock up with the popular year round flowers (roses, lilies, daisies, and the dreaded carnation), and fill in with whatever is available based on the weather and their location. So what you order, and what shows up, is usually not the same. And many times it is smaller for the following reason:
Rip Off #3:  The local flower shop is only paid 73% of the original value of the arrangement, which includes delivery, and not the service fee you paid. That’s right – 73%! So let’s do the math: $75 x .73 = $54.75. Delivery is usually $9.95.  So the shop, and you, are left with $44.80 retail to create that arrangement that cost you $100. If the shop fills the wire order to its advertised retail value, they will lose substantial money. On top of only being paid a fraction of the actual retail value of the flowers, in order to “join” FTD, Teleflora, etc… the local shops have to pay monthly dues. These dues are usually a few hundred dollars, plus the cost of the software to receive orders, and a bunch of other fluff fees.
Why this is BAD and why you should buy local: Since the economic crash, people have cut extra spending from their budgets.  Flowers have been deemed a luxury. Many small shops are financially forced to participate in these programs because people are shopping less, and when they do shop, they shop online and purchase through these wire services or call centers. The “big dogs” can afford to purchase the top advertising spots when you search any site, be it Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc… They spend thousands a month to take those top spots, and local shops who are already suffering from the cut back in spending on daily flower orders do not have that budget. The “big dogs” also spend huge amounts on TV and print advertising, which most local shops cannot afford. When was the last time you saw a commercial for the flower shop on the corner of your closest shopping center?  So when it’s time to buy those flowers – for Valentine’s Day and any other occasion, the majority of people use the companies that they see on TV and online.
My Challenge to You:  This Valentine’s Day, even if you are on a tight budget, or doing something creative or an alternative to flowers – buy a single rose, lily, or orchid from a local flower shop (not a chain grocery store!) for a loved one. That should cost you a few bucks at most. Because as much as you may think flowers are cliché, or a waste because they will die, or they are not cool – designing them is an art form and they bring joy to any room they are in. The have been shown to improve emotional health. Flower shops are a staple of the community – along with local cleaners, coffee shops, drug stores, and all the other local businesses that comprise the streets and shopping centers in Hampton Roads.

'Radiantly red tulips' from Greenfrier Florist.
Most have online sites with pre-designed arrangements to order from, but you will get the most bang for your buck – especially when flowers are at their most expensive during this holiday–if you call them up and ask them to do what they do best: create something gorgeous for whatever price you name.
How to Find a Real Local Flower Shop:  All of the major search engines have a local listings section that pops up when you search for shops in a specific city. Use this! Check out the map, or type in the zip code you’d like your flowers delivered to, or where you will pick them up from. Or actually stop by a shop you drive by and see, but have never been to.  You will find that most are creative, friendly, and fun businesses that also sell funky gift lines not available elsewhere, and best of all – THEY MAKE BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS!
Some of My Fav’s: Find links below to a few of my favorite local shops. I used to own a shop in Virginia Beach (Bella Flora), but had to recently close due a chronic illness. I have dealt with most of these shops personally, or know them by reputation – they do amazing work and many have been serving the community for decades.
Studio Posy
Bloom, The Art of Flowers
The New Leaf
The Sunflower Florist
Virginia Beach:
Great Neck Florist and Gifts
Posh Petals and Gifts
Eclectic Design Florist
Lasting Impression Florist
Greenbriar Florist
Wholesale Flower Market
Ray’s Florist
Johnson’s Gardens Inc.
Churchland’s Village Flower Shop
Hughes Florist
Plumaria Florist
Your Friend in Flowers
Fran’s Florist
Becky’s Buckroe Florist
Newport News:
Jeff’s Flowers Of Course
Pollard’s Flowers

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