I had gleaned some materials concerning service charges introduced to me by Joe Chacko when I started formulating this article on service charges.
I found that the researchers and industry people were aware of the rather draconian service and other charges imposed by online floral vendors–but that the issue was generally hidden from the gullible public.
The practice of charging exorbitant service fees by order gatherers is a serious impediment to the public image of the retail floral industry.
The industry has progressed over the last three decades–during which we’ve been in business–from one in which individual florists were the heart of the industry bound together by wire services–most prominently FTD and Teleflora–into one in which large order gathering organizations (including wire services) now receive the bulk of the orders that they then distribute to individual florists to fulfill.
Because of the dominance of the order gatherers, we have morphed from a net sender of orders (to other florists) into a shop that primarily receives orders from wire services and other order gatherers and delivers them locally.
Traditionally, florists charged a local delivery charge and a service charge for outgoing wire orders.
Both were reasonable and generally competitive.
With the advent of the internet and order gathers, the mysterious service charge became a fundamental part of the order.
There was no rhyme or reason for service charges or their amounts–but online order gatherers found that it was a way to get an extra flat fee on every order they processed.
This service charge was a different animal from the wire charge–as the norm was no longer the sending of out-of-town orders from one florist to another.
Order gatherers were already getting 20% of an order–and if they were a wire service, 27%.
The service charge just added a flat amount to their take from an order–a part they didn’t have to share with another florist or a wire service.
And, because customers rarely questioned service charges, they didn’t have to answer yo anyone.
We formulated our policies on delivery and service charges when we launched our first internet website, citifloral.com.
At first, florists were charging their traditional distance-based delivery charges and out-of-town wire service charges online.
They also competed with each other with relatively insignificant discounts like 10%.
We realized that online customers would choose a florist based on the delivery charge of the location if the charge varied–and that the best practice would be to just make allowance for some delivery cost in the price of products.
We therefore eliminated the delivery charge altogether–as some online florists were starting to do to be competitive.
We also realized that customers would eschew a florist who would charge more for a delivery out-of-town–and we wanted customers to feel comfortable sending flowers anywhere with us.
So, we never imposed a delivery or wire charge on out-of-town orders.
We never saw the justification for a service charge–so we never imposed one either.
We thought this was the best deal in the industry–no delivery or service charge whatsoever.
As other online florist dropped delivery charges–or included them in the price of a product–we were left with one policy that no one else could match:
We do not impose a service charge on any order of an online product on any of our websites–whether the order is placed online, by phone or fax, or in person.
We feel that achieves a level of consumer fairness and transparency that is unique in the floral industry.
The price you see is the price you pay (plus tax)–no delivery or service fees!
Paying a service and other innocuous fees can make a product with a relatively cheap stated price much more expensive when you get the final bill,.
In fact, most of the floral websites charging service charges secret until you get to checkout.
And then then spring it on you–hoping that you miss it–or that you decide you;ve gone too far and you’ere just going to finish the order and be done with it.
They fool you by showing you a low price–which looks very good competitively.
To make you think you’re getting a real bargain, they’ll offer you a hefty discount percentage==which is paid for out of the exorbitant service charge.
When all is said and done, you pay us less for a comparable product.
I did a little research on some of most popular florist order gatherer websites.
Here are the service charges you uncover if you make it all the way to the checkout:
From You Fkowers: 14.99
Plus other hidden charges that they add into your bill.
Moral of the story: Beware of hidden service charges on floral orders because they can make a purchase very expensive.
Go with CitiFloral–and you’ll always know what you’re being charged.’
Consumer fairness and transparency are always the best policy’