Wednesday, August 15, 2007

1-800-Frivolous Lawsuit

So, there's this guy who sends his girlfriend flowers through the online flower ordering service 1-800-Flowers. And the company sends a thank you for the order to his house, where it is intercepted by his wife, who naturally curious, calls the company and receives all the details of the order, including the card message ("Just wanted to say that I love you and you mean the world to me."). And now of course, the guy is suing for a million dollars or something...

A few other facts: the couple were already in ("amicable" according to his lawyer) divorce proceedings--this revelation has made things considerably less amicable, but the girlfriend/flower thing is not the root cause of the divorce. And the guy claims that he asked that the order be kept private and was assured that the company honors requests not to discuss orders with "third parties."

My first reaction--mostly a wife reaction--is that the guy is a weasel, not just for cheating, but also for not having the balls to accept his just desserts (apparently the difference between what the wife had been willing to settle for and what she's asking for now is $300,000--so it is quite a plate of dessert). And, perhaps worse yet, for filing a lawsuit that has brought national attention to his idiocy--and no doubt additional embarassment and pain to his wife. (They were already getting a divorce, I know, but if you think this whole thing isn't an additional kick in the gut, you would be so wrong.)

My second reaction--as a florist who has been on the receiving end of more than one curious wife phone call--is fascination with the subject. Cranky Boss Lady and I have often wondered about florist-client confidentiality and what we owe and to whom. We have mostly let conscience and common sense be our guide--a wife whose name is also on the credit card account the flowers were charged to can have any information she wants. With everyone else, we proceed with caution. But then, we don't promise anything in the privacy department either--as 1-800-Flowers apparently did.

Which brings me--and not a moment too soon--to the real point of this post. Even though I think the guy behind the suit is a weasel (among other less family-friendly words), I'm pretty sure he's telling the truth about 1-800-Flowers essentially promising something (privacy) and then not delivering...because 1-800-Flowers is one of the most disorganized, unprofessionally run companies I've ever had the displeasure of dealing with.

The way the service works is that they offer a variety of products, some of which I believe are shipped directly from their own warehouses and the remainder of which are ordered through local florists through a "wire service" (like FTD or Teleflora). The wire service collects the money from 1-800-Flowers, takes a percentage and pays the rest to the filling florist.

My first problem with the service is that partly because you're dealing with not one, but two middlemen, you're getting (0ver)charged enough to be sure all three parties get their "cut." We have heard cases where a customer has paid as much as double what we would've charged for the same arrangement if they had called us directly--and even when the difference is not so drastic it's always ten or fifteen dollars. Now if you go into it knowing you're being overcharged and you feel that the extra "convenience" is worth the extra money, then good for you, but I feel like maybe a lot of people don't really realize how much extra they're really paying for something that in the end (witness Weasel Guy) may not be as convenient as you'd hoped.

My second problem is from the florist's point of view. We repeatedly get orders from this company that are for towns we do not serve. Without getting too much into the intricacies (too late, I know) of the flower business, the wire service we deal with has a directory of florists and which towns they serve. Despite the fact that 1-800-Flowers has access to the directory, they send us orders for towns 50 or 60 miles from our shop--towns which, needless to say, we aren't listed as serving. These orders are received over a computer system and then we are required to refuse the orders over the same system, which takes a few minutes max--no big deal except, say, at Mother's Day when there aren't many minutes to spare--especially for orders we're not actually going to fill (and therefore we won't actually be paid for) and then add to that the fact that we get the same exact order five or six times in an afternoon, even after repeatedly refusing it.

Then, just when you feel your only option is to bash the computer screen with a sledgehammer or your own head, the order stops coming over the system...because they're going to start calling the order to you sometimes four or five times in an hour--even though you've repeatedly told them you don't go to that town. My guess is that these little people in their cubicles don't want to be the one who has to contact the customer to let them know their order can't be filled so they kick it back into the system without noting the previous refusal.

This is just the tip of the 1-800-Flowers iceberg and I realize I've probably lost all but the most bored* of my readers, but anyone who's still out there, don't you think I have way more of a case against 1-800-Flowers than Weasel Man?

*And if you weren't bored before, you sure as hell are now.



    when i was on the radio we did a phone scam with these peeps with THIS EXACT SCENARIO!!! at the end of our conversation the 800-flowers guy ASKED ME OUT! and then i asked if he had a big weinie and HE SAID YES! HUGE! hahahahaha. oh boy.

    i always google local florists in the area i'm sending. i'm onto the scam that is 'bulk convenience'!

  2. Lou Bricant8/16/07, 8:07 AM

    I thought this guy was nuts as well to take this case publicly, not to mention a total jerk. But the divorce proceeding info does change my perspective. I'm not sure this guy should be called a weasel. Lots of people date while going through a divorce. Not a big deal. But leaving out the information about the divorce proceedings makes the headlines much more salacious, and misleading (wife had moved out and begun divorce proceeding when this happened). Not to mention this case is not about his marriage or his performance as a husband, but the fact that 1-800-FLOWERS did not live up to their end of an agreement. And their error looks like it is going to cost him dearly.

  3. Nita--Sounds like the 1-800-Flowers I know and love.

    Lou--Since this post was all over the map and the title was what it was (because I couldn't resist once it popped into my head), I guess I didn't really make it clear that I actually do think he has something of a suit. He was doubtlessly promised something which he clearly didn't get.

    As to the weasel aspect: It's not the girlfriend part that got to me so much (because like you said lots of people date during divorce), but the secrecy part because clearly the soon-to-be-ex-wife didn't know about the other woman--if the divorce was truly amicable and mutually agreeable to both of them, why keep the new woman a secret? Maybe he was trying to be noble and "protect" the estranged wife's feelings but I have a feeling he was trying to protect his own ass(ets). There also seems to me (though I've read nothing to confirm or dispute it)a high probability that the girlfriend was in the picture before the separation (again, unbeknownst to the wife).

    That possibility combined with the public nature of the lawsuit is where weasel came from--I can't help wondering though how much he and his attorneys actually had to do with making the case public--because the publicity actually makes him somewhat less sympathetic. Maybe some enterprising reporter stumbled upon the case, but I think it's just as likely that the 1-800-Flowers side "leaked" it in an attempt to undermine (and weaselize) him.

  4. I had to chuckle at the phrase "florist-client confidentiality." The rest of us innocently go about ordering flowers for benign special occasions, not realizing there's an illicit, seedy (pardon the pun) underbelly in the floral-giving world that require "florist-client confidentiality."

    And I'll refrain from using 1-800-flowers from now on.

  5. Everyone is focusing on the guy with the affair. That is his personally life. I think the focus should on the contract. He paid for a service with instructions and it was not done. I think 1-800-flowers should be sued. They are nothing but a broker with poor service. I had someone order me flowers TWO years in a row and they never did get delivered. We attempted to call them and was placed on hold for hours and finally they answered (3 hours later). The only response was that the ordered was dropped. There was no " Im sorry, What can I do for you." My niece sent flowers for Valentines, they arrived one day late, frozen. After trying again to obtain a response from the company, there is no answer. So, in opinion, this type of company is not what I would use. Poor delivery, poor response.