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04. The Thorn In Our Side: Beware of Order Gatherers!

We’re reviving the blog to shed some light on the lesser-known dark side of the flower industry: the ongoing war order gatherers are waging on florists and consumers.

What is an order gatherer?

The most polite way to describe an order gatherer is that they are an unsanctioned middleman between a customer looking to send flowers and a florist who creates flower arrangements. However, the most accurate way we can describe an order gatherer can be summed up in one term: scammers.

In February 2020, CBS News Texas did an in-depth investigative report on order gatherers, including going so far as to interview a former order gatherer employee and even sending a correspondent to the order gatherer’s office headquarters in New Jersey. As florists, we’ve found this news report to be one of the most thorough pieces of journalism we have seen detailing this nationwide scam, and we implore you to watch it before reading on:

Courtesy of CBS Dallas-Fort Worth Texas, Youtube.

Since this report, operations as Troy’s Florist have since ceased, but the order gatherer industry continues to grow, with many other companies replacing them and finding new ways to disguise themselves as florists local to your area. These companies go by many names – Ava’s Flowers, JustFlowers, Blossom Flower Delivery, – just to name a few, but the sad reality is that there are dozens of these companies fraudulently posing as local florists around the country.

Can you give me a detailed example of how this scam works from a florist’s point of view?

Of course! Let’s say you live in Oregon, and you would like to send flowers to your best friend in South Dakota. You unknowingly place a $100 order for an arrangement of 6 red roses and 4 white peonies through an order gatherer’s website. On top of the price of your flowers, you also pay $25 for delivery, $10 for tax and a service fee of $15. You put in your credit card information and send the order out, and are charged $150.

Now that the order gatherers have your money, they will make some attempt in procuring a version of the flowers you ordered by calling local florists in the delivery area and posing as a customer themselves, looking to purchase an arrangement of 6 red roses and 4 white peonies, but not looking to spend more than $60 total. These callers will often haggle with the florist on the phone, attempting to get them to fulfill as many of the roses & peonies in the order as they can within the $60 budget.

Let’s say the florist agrees to fulfill the $60 order for only 4 red roses, but they have no white peonies that time of year, and can only promise 1 stem of yellow lilies. The order gatherer would happily agree to this, knowing that once they complete the order on the phone, they will pocket the $90 difference and live happily ever after. But the story doesn’t just end there.

We’re sure you can see where this is going: your loved one receives the flower arrangement, and they call to thank you for the beautiful red roses and yellow lilies from [your local flower shop]! This raises some alarms, because you didn’t order yellow lilies, so you ask for a photo of the flowers you sent them and are shocked to see they look nothing like what you thought you were buying. The flowers are the wrong type, wrong color, and there’s absolutely no way what you’re seeing is worth $100. 

You call the local flower shop. They explain they fulfilled the order as requested. You explain that wasn’t what you requested or paid for. There’s confusion, there’s disappointment, and there’s nothing your florist can do. The order gatherer used their company credit card so the florist can’t refund you, and asking them to replace $100 in product or extra $50 in fees when they were only paid for $60 doesn’t seem fair, either. It’s lose-lose-lose for all involved; the customer, the recipient, and the florist.

Apart from negotiating prices with florists, misleading customers, and retaining most of the money from the provided budget, these companies will not provide valid contact information to the florist. Consequently, any attempts to reconnect them with the customer for issue resolution are usually futile, leaving the florist with the sole responsibility and blame.

How do florists feel about this?

To be blunt, we don’t like it one bit! Sending and receiving flowers should be a happy occasion for all those involved, and order gatherers not only take advantage of those people, they are also taking advantage of the florists. Luckily, as florists, we tend to be hyper-aware of their tricks and nefarious intentions, but that is not always the case for the consumers who believe they are innocently sending a thoughtful gift to someone.

At our shop, we do our best to thwart these scammers by staying vigilant of their ever-evolving tactics to deceive both florists and customers by training our staff members on how to identify and turn down order gatherers, but you’d be surprised how sneaky they try to be! In recent months, they have even escalated to spoofing their phone numbers, so that when they call a flower shop, their name & phone number comes up on Caller I.D. as regional hospitals, funeral homes, and other businesses that may often place orders with a local flower shop.

How do I protect myself from this? How do I know I’m using a legitimate service?

You know what they say: knowledge is power. Here’s a few different ways you can make sure you are getting your money’s worth and supporting a real business!

#1 Google is your friend!

As you may have seen in the news article above, order gatherers find the florists they will target the same way many other people would – through a simple Google search. Here’s some green flags that you are looking into a legitimate flower shop:

  • They have an official Google Business Profile with a physical address clearly listed.

  • There is an image of the florist’s storefront shown on the listing by Google Maps.

  • Check their Google reviews! Many order gatherers will only list positive reviews directly on their website, where they can control what is seen, but Google doesn’t discriminate!

Example of green flags in a valid Google Business Profile.

#2 Website & Social Media

Did you know that approximately 80% of florists in the United States are small, privately-owned businesses? Official websites and social media accounts are wonderful tools to verify the legitimacy of a small business, as word-of-mouth in the digital age is so crucial to their success, as many of you may know! Here are some questions to ask while looking over their platforms that will help you verify they are indeed, a real florist and not an order gatherer.

  • Does their website have a detailed “About Us” page, with local contact information, photos of the business, and a brief history of their ties to the community they service?

  • Does their social media feature photos of real people that work in their shop? It’s always a good sign when you can recognize a friendly face! Additionally, do they post often about designs they have recently made for customers, or collaborate with other businesses in their area?

Example of a social media account featuring real employee & custom creations.

#3 Still on the fence about it? Call an expert–your local florist!

Regardless of where in the country you live or where you’re trying to send flowers to, you likely have a professional florist someplace near you! Whether it’s your go-to florist for anniversary flowers every year or just a flower shop you drive by on your daily commute, we know you can definitely identify a real flower shop in your area, and they happen to be experts in this field! 

Give any reputable florist a call and explain to them that you are looking to send flowers to someone not local to you, and you’d like some help identifying a legitimate florist in that area to avoid becoming a victim to an order gatherer. Your florist should know better than anyone else what to look for, quickly search and vet the options available, and give you their professional recommendation on which shops are safe for you to order from!

#4 Now that you have the name of a real florist, give them a call!

Sure, online ordering is convenient, but if you’ve been burnt once by an order gatherer, you may rather play it safe than sorry! Calling and speaking to a florist directly will ensure all expectations are made clear, by both the customer and florist! Any possible substitutions on specific flower types, colors, or containers, delivery time estimates, and any other special instructions should be disclosed at this time, rather than having an unexpected surprise like in our order gatherer example scenario above. 

Yes, ordering on the phone may take between 5-10 minutes of your day when your online order auto-fill settings would have it all done in 2 minutes, but in the event that you have been rused by an order gatherer, think about the hours you’ll be spending on the phone with their unreachable customer service hotlines and, eventually, with your bank disputing fraudulent charges. We promise the 5-10 minutes speaking to a real person isn’t so bad, and one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting the services you’re paying for! And if you’re going to pay $150 for 6 roses and 4 peonies, it’s comforting to know that 100% of your purchase is going directly into a small business who will do anything necessary to fulfill your order as discussed.

Why is all of this important?

As a consumer, there are few things more disappointing than making a purchase and leaving feeling like you didn’t get what you paid for. When it comes to sending flowers, these purchases are typically fueled by the desire to spread love, happiness, and positive thoughts, and being scammed in the process of trying to share those feelings is just cruel and the antithesis of what the gift of flowers represents.  

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, florists will be inundated with calls from sweethearts across the country, and the order gatherers will be working overtime to find new, sneakier ways to mislead customers and skim profits from the flower shops they exploit, but with your new-found knowledge from this article, they won’t getting the best of you!

Keep Blooming,

The Flower Goddesses



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