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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

Floral Arrangements Part 1: Some Advice to Florists

I don’t have any advice this week. Rather, I clearly need some. Twice in the past few months I have ordered flowers from a florist. Twice I have been disappointed. Once I didn’t get the flowers I ordered. The other time, I didn’t get what I paid for, in my opinion.

Am I doing something wrong, or is the florist to blame? I needed to know. So I got some professional help, which Lord knows I should do more often. I called three floral industry insiders to get the dirt.

Meet my therapists:

Juan Palacio owns BloomsyBox, an online subscription flower service he started in 2015. A Colombia native, Palacio moved to Miami 24 years ago, when he was 21, and started selling flowers imported from his native country to Miami Hotels. Today, he ships more than 100,000 BloomsyBoxes of fresh-cut flowers a month.

Farbod Shoraka is CEO and co-founder of BloomNation, a 10-year-old company that connects consumers directly to approved florists nationwide then gets out of the way to let them work together. A former mergers and acquisitions executive, Shoraka, of Santa Monica, Calif., had a client in the flower industry and an aunt who was a florist. “I saw the struggles, and light bulb went off on how to fix it.”

Sally Kobylinski co-owns with her husband In Bloom Florist, a large Orlando area flower shop they have owned for 31 years with two locations.

I had long conversations with each about value and expectations. I shared my saga.

My first disappointment occurred in February. I ordered flowers for my cousin’s funeral, which I could not attend due to COVID. The funeral home recommended two florists. I visited their websites, and chose one that featured a lovely arrangement called “Treasured and Beloved” that looked perfect. I called. I ordered. I paid $134.

What arrived was not what I ordered at all. “They used half as many stems, and cheap filler flowers, in this case chrysanthemums, which is the oldest trick, because they take up a lot of space,” Palacio said.

The second disappointment came a few weeks ago. I ordered a small arrangement for my assistant, who was graduating from college. I went to a local flower shop. I met the owner and her daughter, who works there. I met their dog. I tried to make a good impression.

We discussed what I wanted. Because they had lovely arrangements on their website for $60 and less, I suggested $60 as a price. I provided a vase, which they said would increase my flower budget by $5. Great. I asked if they had peonies. They were getting peonies in the next day. Perfect. They cost $7 a stem. Noted. I figured, using Marni math, that should cover four or five stems, plus a few background flowers.

The flowers arrived. My assistant was happy. I was not. The bouquet had only two peonies, four stems of mini green hydrangea, and alstroemeria, a cheap flower. I felt ripped off not only because of the number and caliber of flowers, but also because of the lack of design. I can put flowers in a vase.

In both cases, I called the florists. The first blamed the misrepresentation on the fact that Valentine’s Day was coming. (It was four days away.) She offered no other consideration. I left a two-star review. The second florist just said, “I’m sorry you were disappointed,” adding that Mother’s Day was that week.

My experts listened, then explained what was going on behind the scenes. Turns out, fault lies with florists, with consumers, and also with the industry overall. Starting today, I will share their insider knowledge in a three-part series tackling each group.

So sit down with a glass of your favorite libation, and learn alongside me. We start this week with eight petitions consumers want from florists:

1. Tell the truth. Be clear when filling orders. Tell us what we will get for our money, and let us decide if we need to pay more. If we ask you to match something featured on your website, tell us if you don’t have the flowers in stock, and what you can do.

2. Don’t bait and switch. Give us what we ordered. Florist number two told me of a customer who was unhappy because she ordered a bouquet of white daisies. The shop sent a bouquet of yellow daisies, which were “beautiful,” the florist said. No doubt, but the customer had every right to be upset. Ask us if any flowers in the desired bouquet have special meaning, or whether you can substitute flowers to achieve the same look.

3. Don’t use the holiday as an excuse. Cancer doesn’t care that it’s Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day and May graduations happen every year. Stock up and staff up. If you’re too busy to do my order right, don’t accept it.

4. Don’t clean your cooler out on my dime.

5. Don’t forget to design. I can buy flowers and put them in a vase. I’m paying you to do something special.

6. Limit your offerings. Don’t put 100 photo-shopped stock photos of flower arrangements you didn’t make on your website. Post only what you can realistically fulfill for the price you say. BloomNation requires the shops it works with to post only arrangements the shop has designed.

7. Offer recourse. Beyond saying we’re sorry you’re not happy, offer a credit, send another arrangement, offer to add flowers.

8. Remember your job. We hire you to convey a feeling — love, hope, gratitude, sympathy, joy — through flowers. “Our job,” as Kobylinski put it, “is to convey emotions by providing a design and an experience that doesn’t take away from that moment. We can’t forget that people are behind those orders.”

Join me next week when we look at what consumers can do to get the flowers they want.

Photo caption: Which is the $60 bouquet? The florist bouquet on the left cost $60 before tax, including delivery ($12). The client provided the vase. "The arrangement should have cost $30 tops," said BloomsyBox owner Juan Palacio. The bouquet on the right cost under $20 from Trader Joe’s, not including the container. Florist Sally Kobylinski estimated that bouquet would cost $80 from a florist. If florists are going to survive, they are going to need to add value. Photos Marni Jameson

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