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Friday, March 28, 2008
Businesses and organizations are often faced with a set of all-too-human challenges. What should they do when life-altering events happen to an employee or a business associate? And how do they say “thank you” for extraordinary performance?
These are questions that have interpersonal, ethical and legal overtones. In many instances, a “Hallmark” card may be inadequate. But high value gifts may be inappropriate, considered as “compensation,” or might even be construed as “bribes.”
But even the most cynical of auditors is hard-pressed to put floral gifts in such unacceptable categories. Floral gifts are always appropriate, easy to buy, and surprisingly economical – if you know where to buy them!
Choosing The Right Florist
Would you buy a laser printer if you knew that 44% of the purchase price went to FEES & COMMISSIONS?
Of course not!
Then why would you buy flowers that way?
The shocking fact is that, with a “National Florist,” almost half your purchase price goes to “handling charges,” commissions and “network relay fees!” To make matters worse, they then take your order and send it to a hometown florist for crafting and delivery. YOU could do that!!
LOCAL is always better!
Think of the benefits. You always get full value for your money. You keep ALL the money in the local economy. And you support local businesses the same way that you would like local businesses to support you!
What to look for
Experience. Did you know that there are many local florists – such as the Flower Hut – that have been in business under the same ownership and management LONGER THAN any of the National Florists?
Quality. The Flower Hut buys its flowers direct from the grower. This provides all our customers with fresher flowers that last longer. Yahoo! Ranks the Flower Hut at 4 ½ STARS. We are Charlotte’s ONLY 4 ½ Star Florist! In contrast, none of the National Florist has better than a 2 Star rating!
Price: All National Florists, like FTD and Teleflora (TF) feature beautiful floral arrangements on their websites. As FTD and TF members, we feature many of those items on our website also. BUT while the National Florists are “stuck with” National Pricing, we use our grower-direct purchasing power to dramatically lower our costs. This means that when you order from our website for local delivery, we DISCOUNT “their” National Pricing by 20%!
That’s right. You can buy “their” Nationally Advertised Products for 20% off their Nationally Advertised prices. And, unlike the National Florists, with the Flower Hut there are NO HANDLING CHARGES and NO NETWORK RELAY FEES!
Service: The Flower Hut is open for business 6 days a week. We answer the phone 24 hours a day – 365 days a year. And we have a full-service website, www.flowerhut.com where you can buy at any time, pay via charge card or put the purchase on your HOUSE ACCOUNT (OAC). And of course, you always receive email and/or hard copy confirmation on all your orders.
THE SIMPLE CHOICE
So, for all your floral needs, your best option is to BUY LOCAL. And your best local choice is:
The Flower Hut
Friday, March 21, 2008
Did you look into these folks?
If you had done so, you would have learned that 44% of a 1-800 FLOWERS order goes to FEES and COMMISSIONS. Please see the preceding blog for details.
And you would have learned that Proflowers products are shipped in non-climate-controlled vehicles so they often arrive "cooked" or frozen. See this humorous video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNYGZHPKQgs
These are examples. Yahoo! Shopping ranks 1-800-FLOWERS at 1 1/2 stars (out of 5) Google has them at 2 1/2 stars. Proflowers does better at 3 1/2 stars -- about average for the web.
Why do I care?
In 1988 (sound familiar?) my wife and I launched our Charlotte, NC, flower shop, The Flower Hut. But NATIONAL marketeers -- like 1-800-FLOWERS, FTD and Teleflora -- have captured large segments of the local flower market using techniques that are at best unethical and at worst are illegal : http://ncleg.net/Sessions/2007/Bills...ML/S514v5.html
The result is that the number of flower shops in NC -- small businesses all -- has declined from 800 to 600 in the last 10 years.
I'm sure you have an advertising contract that you cannot break. But please, Rush, look MUCH closer into the businesses you endorse. Your listeners deserve it!
After all, do you REALLY want to promote companies whose users rate them as AVERAGE or WAY BELOW AVERAGE?
I don't think so, or you would have named your network MIB: Mediocrity In Broadcasting!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
To illustrate the severity of this problem here are actual customer satisfaction scores on a number of nationally known florists. Scoring is by Yahoo! Shopping as of 10/08/2007:
1-800-Flowers: 1 ½ Stars
Teleflora (TF): 2 Stars
FTD: 2 Stars
Proflowers: 3 ½ Stars
(As a point of reference, The Flower Hut is rated at 4 ½ Stars and this is one of a handful of florists in the nation with a rating between 4 and 5 Stars.)
Why such TERRIBLE scores? Well, in a typical scenario, a customer goes online and searches for “flowers.” He notices that several vendors’ names keep appearing on all of his searches. Reassured by the presence of an apparent plethora of “national florists,” he confidently places his order.
But, when he sees the flowers, he is often in for a huge surprise. Sometimes the product looks skimpy when compared to the beautiful online picture. Commonly, one or more of the featured flower varieties are missing.
To make matters worse, the shocking fact is that when a customer orders online, some 44% of his purchase price goes to fees and commissions. Only 56 cents out of every dollar goes to flowers and delivery!
Why is this happening? Much more importantly, what can we do about it?
First, we must recognize that there “Ain’t” No Such Thing As A “National Florist” In contrast with virtually all other retail segments, there is no “McFlowers.” This is not for lack of trying.
Just a few years ago, some of the founders of Blockbuster Video attempted a national floral operation under the name, Gerald Stevens. It failed. But nationally advertised “florists” are abundant. Among those are FTD, Teleflora, Just Flowers, Blooms Today, 1-800-Flowers and a host of others.
For a more complete list, go online and search for “flowers” or “florists.”
With the exception of a handful of “grower direct” flower outlets, whose characteristics we will explore later, “national florists” fall into two categories. These are, “Network Administrators” and “Order Gatherers.”
In the US, there are two main Network Administrators, FTD and Teleflora and a smaller operation called Bloom Net driven by 1-800-FLOWERS. FTD and Teleflora started as membership-only communications networks. These networks were established so that independent flower shops around the country could assist their local customers in sending flowers to other cities, states and even overseas. Some twenty or thirty years ago, FTD began accepting orders directly.
After years of declaiming that they would not compete with their own customers, Teleflora changed their operating philosophy and also began accepting orders directly from customers. Bloom Net has always been an outlet for 1-800-FLOWERS
“Order Gatherers” aka "Phony Florists" are business entities that usually, but not always, have at least one actual flower shop. However, their physical flower shop(s) are usually physically separate from their telemarketing/web marketing operations. Their operations closely resemble “call centers” wherein the operators may have little, if any practical floral experience.
In addition, FTD has a member category called “Sending Only Florist.” Entities in this category have no floral capability at all!
One way to quickly identify these Phony Florists is to search their website to determine where they are located. Most, if not all Order Gatherer websites, DO NOT REVEAL TO THE CUSTOMER WHERE THEY ARE LOCATED!
Another “hint” is that their web sites are usually “loaded” with a vast array of products – usually with no regard for seasons of the year, regional availability or suitability for the intended purpose.
In most locations, their order handling process is highly automated. In an extreme case, a customer’s order may go directly from the website into their order processing software. Once the customer’s credit card is charged, a florist in the town where the order is to be delivered is picked from their database, and the computerized order is electronically sent directly to the receiving florist. This REAL FLORIST makes the product and delivers it. This process means that there often is no human intervention in the ordering process.
What’s the result? Mis-spelled card messages, orders going to the wrong city, orders for Valentines bouquets in December, and orders for spring tulips in August! In these Phony Florists, the primary focus is order processing. Occasionally (and often late in the day when other florists have refused the order) these Phony Florists will make personal calls to local florists in a now-desperate attempt to find someone to fill an order.
A typical order through a “national florist” consists of two main elements:
1. The product(s) – each with a price that includes about $7 for delivery.
2. A handling charge – typically around $10 to $12
In addition, some “Phony Florists” charge extra for “same day” delivery and for Saturday delivery, even though REAL FLORISTS never charge for these “extras!”
Two things should be immediately obvious. First, if delivery is included in the price, then a customer that orders more than one item going to the same location will pay a double charge (or more!) for delivery. Examples might include multiple sympathy arrangements going to the same funeral, a flower arrangement and a balloon bouquet for a favorite “birthday girl,” or multiple arrangements destined for the Administrative Assistants in a department.
Second, if the delivery is going to a local address, why should the local customer pay an extra $10 or more so that a flower order can be sent to the sender’s own town?
But the story does not end here. Let's look at a floral order for about $45. Neglecting tax, here's where the money goes:
- Purchaser pays: $45
- Handling Charge: ($10.50)
- 20% Commission to Sending Florist: ($6.90)
- 7% Network Commission: ($2.42)
- Amount Provided to local florist: $25.18
In other words, about 44% of the purchaser’s money goes to FEES and COMMISSIONS!
Obviously, as the customer's purchase gets larger, the effect of the handling charge becomes a smaller percentage, but it still represents $10 or more that NEVER GOT INTO THE FLOWER ARRANGEMENT! Is it any wonder why customer satisfaction is at an all-time LOW?
In addition to the “National Florists” that we discussed above, there is one other floral source that has risen to prominence. This floral source calls itself “Grower Direct.”
The idea is attractive. Why not bypass all the middlemen and buy directly from the growers? This would be sort of like shopping for produce in a Farmers Market, rather than in a local supermarket.
But the term “Grower Direct” has more “hype” than reality associated with it. This is because most flowers – especially roses – are grown in the South American countries of Colombia and Ecuador and are shipped in bulk to the United States. Given our current geo-political situation, there is no way that flowers from these locations can be shipped directly from those countries to the consumer.
Instead, the flowers are packed in cardboard boxes called “grower packs” and sent to Floral Importers in major ports of entry. The primary entry point for the Eastern half of the nation is Miami, FL. After clearing customs and TSA, they end up in large refrigerated warehouses. They may stay in these warehouses for a few days or as long as a week or more.
Grower packs are not suitable for distribution “as is” to the general public. (A typical grower pack might consist of 10 bunches roses, or 24 bunches of daisies, or 100 stems of Gerber daisies. ) Instead, for "Grower Direct" shipments, the supplier will open appropriate grower pack boxes and use their contents assemble flower bouquets. Finally, the finished bouquets are placed into domestic shipping boxes and sent to their destination.
Clearly, this process is not “grower direct.” But it does reduce consumer costs and can provide fresher flowers to the consumer.
But there are some caveats. UPS and FEDEX -- the primary carriers of these bouquets – do not have refrigerated aircraft or trucks. And non-refrigerated flowers can spoil very quickly. Also – and contrary to the pictures found on many “grower direct” websites - the flowers come un-arranged. This may be OK if the recipient has floral design abilities. It is not so good for hospital gifts, and is useless for funerals.
So, how can someone get his or her Best Floral Value? Like many things in life, the answer is both simple and complex. The simple answer is, DO NOT USE A “FLORIST” THAT IS NOT LOCAL TO THE RECIPIENT! This is true whether you are sending flowers locally or out of the area.
How do you find a florist? The old, “reliable” technique of asking a friend may not be reliable when applied to flowers. Why? The average person buys flowers just 1.7 times per year. It can take years to establish a "track record" with a floral supplier.
Another tried and true method is to look in the Yellow Pages. But, on paper, all florists look the same. Beware of florists that do not list their physical location! These are likely to be Phony Florists posing as REAL LOCAL FLORISTS!
Before you buy, check out the local florist’s website. If the florist does not have one, they may be too new – or poorly run! Beware of websites sponsored by FTD and Teleflora. These sites generally are just “mirrors” for the main websites, the prices are generally set by the wire services; and those prices are usually quite high!
Locally generated florist websites will often contain local “specials.” These may include cash-and-carry items or locally available designs. The Flower Hut, for example, offers a 20% discount off the nationally advertised wire service prices if the products are for local delivery.
There is one other factor to be aware of: Most florists purchase their flowers from a local floral distributor (also known as a “middleman”). Floral distributors buy their “grower pack” flowers from the same basic sources as the “Grower Direct” suppliers. They are shipped to their local area where the products are cut, hydrated and kept in readiness for local retail florists.
Just a note of caution is appropriate here. Sometimes the local distributor may keep its inventories just a little bit longer than they should. The result, of course, is a floral product that won’t last very long when put into a floral arrangement.This may help explain why the first purchase from a florist may have super fresh, and a subsequent purchase may have contained wilted flowers.
About five percent of the retail florists in the USA have made a business decision to “buy direct” from the floral importers – like the local floral distributors do. The result – for the customer – is a floral product that is fresher and longer lasting than if the florist had bought similar flowers from a wholesaler.
The Flower Hut, for example, has been “buying direct” since 1990, and attributes much of its positive reputation to being able to consistently supply fresh products to its customers.
How do you find out if a florist “buys direct” or through a wholesaler? Ask them.
What about finding a florist in another city or state? This is where the Internet can be truly useful! There are several website directories that only accept listings from florists that are actually in (or immediately adjacent to) the city that you are searching for. Here are a few that have been around for quite a while and are generally trustworthy: