In my attempt to be a good son to my mother who lives about as far away from me as possible in the contiguous United States, I decided to send a bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day. Sending flowers may be cliché, but I know she appreciates it, so I’m happy to send them.
I’ve used all the major flowers brokers in the past: 1-800-Flowers, ProFlowers, and FTD. When shopping around, I generally choose the company that offers the best deal at that particular time. For Valentine’s Day, I used ProFlowers to send bouquets to both my mother and my girlfriend, and did not have a problem with either delivery.
I decided to go with FTD this Mother’s Day because, when combined with cash back from my credit card and cash back from Ebates, I was going to get a good deal. In fact, I had some bonuses “pending” in Ebates, which means I would need to complete a purchase through their retail portal in order to receive some of my bonus cash. I placed the order with FTD last week for the “large” bouquet (eight to twelve stems) of my mom’s favorite flowers with a basic vase. I paid extra for the flowers to be delivered on Mother’s Day.
FTD, like the other major national flower retailers, doesn’t actually deliver the flowers. They work with local florists who handle all the details, including picking the flowers, designing the bouquet, arranging the delivery, and driving to the location. I understand that Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for flower delivery, but what followed was a disaster.
As I head to bed on Sunday night, my mother still had not received the flowers nor any communication from the local florist. I understood that delivery might be late on Mother’s Day, so I wasn’t that concerned. I visited the FTD website to inquire about my order. The automated system responded that FTD would contact the local florist to provide me with an update.
By Monday afternoon, I still had not heard from FTD, and my mother still had not received the flowers. I called FTD and provided my information. While I was on the phone, the customer service representative, who was very friendly and apologetic, put me on hold to contact the local florist to determine what happened. When she returned, she said the local florist had told her that they’re very busy and would be able to look into my order and call FTD back in a half an hour. The FTD representative said they would call me back once they heard from the local florist.
She offered to give me a 10% discount off of my shipping charge. This, of course, was unacceptable; the shipping and handling charge for Mother’s Day was $21, so I was not going to accept a $2.10 refund for the failure for the flowers to be delivered. I asked only for them to reduce the shipping charge from the inflated Mother’s Day price to the “normal” shipping charge, considering the flowers were not delivered on the holiday. She acquiesced without a challenge.
FTD never called back after that half hour. I didn’t hear from the company until Tuesday morning. Aaron, the new customer service representative handling the case, apologized for the inconvenience and confirmed a fresh, beautiful bouquet of flowers would be delivered that day. Aaron was able to get things done; he removed the shipping/service fee completely, took 40% off the cost of the bouquet, and sent me a $20 coupon to retain me as a future customer. My mother received the flowers that day and sent me a photograph from her phone when they arrived. The flowers hadn’t bloomed yet, but the bouquet did match the basic description of the item that I ordered, even if the arrangement looked a bit uninspired.
When I was first concerned that the shipment wouldn’t arrive, I mentioned my dissatisfaction on Twitter, and was met with compassionate responses from people who recognized I was not alone with my problems. In this month’s review at Consumer Reports, FTD was rated thusly:
In our small study, 1800Flowers.com was best at sending what was ordered, followed by ProFlowers.com and FTD.com. The flowers most likely to look the way they did on websites were tulips, roses, and orchids. Mixed bouquets had more substitutions than the rest. If you want to make sure your flowers prompt a smile, pick a color scheme that matches your Mom’s favorites, then steer away from mixed bouquets. If you’re unhappy with what gets delivered, call customer service.
The company’s customer service department also noticed my tweets; I was contacted almost immediately by a Twitter-based consumer support individual who was quite busy that day sending tweets to dissatisfied customers offering to help. It was this communication, not my initial phone conversation, that inspired the call from Aaron.
The main problem is with the local florist who obviously couldn’t handle all the orders they received for Mother’s Day. Communication with FTD wasn’t perfect, but they did resolve the issue as best they could, and the final effort to provide the discount and a coupon for a future purchase did help improve my impression of the company. I didn’t feel they were trying to blame the local florist, and even though I’m sure that’s the issue, my business was with FTD, not the local florist, so in the end they are responsible for the level of service I receive.
I will likely use the coupon for a purchase as long as it doesn’t expire before the next time I decide to send flowers. I’ll continue to shop around for the best offers, though I might stay away from holiday delivery in the future.
Update: I received the coupon through the mail, and it does not apply to online orders! In order to use the coupon, I need to call the company to place an order, as if I am stuck in the twentieth century. Perhaps it’s my fault for not verifying the coupon could be used online — this I would have thought was a reasonable assumption. A coupon designed to be difficult to use is a coupon designed not to be used. How disappointing.
What has been your experience with holiday flower delivery with any company or with FTD in general?
Updated February 10, 2012 and originally published May 12, 2011.