I was prompted to write this article when a customer recently called our Taipei flower shop and asked us to help her place an order for flowers in a city in the US. In this internet age, [five_tips] We are of course happy to help our customers in any way we can, but I feel that any time you have an extra layer of communication the possibility of error rises. In this case, however, the customer was an older woman from Taiwan who didn’t speak much English.
The amazing thing was just how hard it was for us to actually contact a local florist to fill her order. We were aware of and determined to avoid international flower delivery services, but we still found ourselves on the phone with several “shops” before we realized that they were in fact order gatherers posing as local businesses.* In the end, it took us several hours to actually find a local shop. (For reasons that you should avoid these internet florists, see my blog post, Why You Should Order From a Local Florist.)
Of course any attempt to send flowers to a distant location is going to begin with a search for something like “City flower delivery” or “send flowers to City.” What you may not realize is that probably far less than 10 percent of the search results are for an actual florist in that city. So here are five few tips on identifying a local florist. (By the way, we are aware of the irony of this statement considering we are located in Taipei, but named Avignon Florist. The name was chosen before the internet became so important.)
1. Look for giveaway phrases. Obviously finding a local florist isn’t a priority for anyone drawn in by a website advertising “worldwide flower delivery.” However, phrases such as “delivered by local florists” or “by our network of local florists” mean exactly the same thing. I should be sure to point out that “delivered by local florists” is not the same thing as “we are a local florist.” Real people work hard to build their businesses and are proud to tell you they are a local business.
2. Look for a local phone number and address. A local business should be shouting their contact info from the rooftops (with the possible exception of email address, which is subject to spam). Any florist that goes to any length to hide their address and phone number should be suspect. Having said that, you should be aware that big companies will go to great lengths to appear as a local flower shop, so you shouldn’t take an address or phone number as absolute proof. This brings us to our next step.
3. Check for a Facebook or Google plus local page or Google Places listing. When checking a Facebook page, see that it is updated regularly and has some real interaction with customers. Google goes to great lengths to verify their Google plus local listings, so that provides some degree of assurance. You can also check out their street view and see if the address really is a shop. I have heard of fake sites listing an address a few doors down or across the street from a real florist, so even that isn’t foolproof, but it is a good start.
4. Call the number. Years ago if you could even find a telephone number half way round the world, calling it was expensive and you could hardly hear the person. With Skype and the ability to call right from Gmail, you may still hardly be able to hear the person, but at least you can do it cheaply or free. When you call, don’t ask, “Is this XYZ Florist?” Ask them to tell you the name of their shop and for directions. Internet order gatherers may have a number of fake stores listed under a single phone number and have trouble giving this basic information when you call. You are probably thinking, “How am I going to know if they give me the right directions, if I am not familiar with the city?” This is not a problem. Simply find a Starbucks or McDonalds nearby on Google maps and tell them you are there. If they seem confident in giving you directions, you can assume they are real. If they seem confused, hang up and start over with another location. (If it does appear that they are a real store, you should tell them what you are doing, or they may delay going out to deliver flowers or something while they wait for you.
5. Finally, if you are not in a hurry, send them an email and ask a question. If you get a canned or automated response, you can guess what kind of service you will receive. On the other hand, if you get a personal email that answers your question in detail, (and you have already been through the steps above) you are likely dealing with a real local florist.
We wish you luck in finding your local florist far from home. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Please note that all comments will be moderated and will contain no-follow tags when posted.
*We do not wish to imply that stores associated with international networks are not real stores or should be avoided. It is just that in this day and age, it is not difficult to contact the store directly and avoid transfer fees collected by the network. We do feel that any store that falsely claims to be a local store should be avoided.