Blooming disaster: How trying to support an online business went very wrong (or why not to ever buy from Prestige Flowers)

flowers

So here was the plan: For once, Christmas was to be done away from the high street. I love the Trafford Centre most of the year, but just not at Christmas. And I’m also a little lazy. And I work in digital – so I really have no excuse for not shopping online.

Generally, it went very well. I discovered  – via a Facebook recommendation  – notonthehighstreet.com. If it hadn’t been for the Ashes in 2013 (and tickets for Old Trafford) my Dad would have got one of these crickethouse bird boxes. Other presents came – via the same site – from Eka, Intwine and Claudette Worters. If anyone knows of any similar sites, please let me know in the comments.

Then it went wrong. It’s a bit of a tradition in our house to get flowers for the mothers – my mum, my wife’s mum and, as of 2011, my wife. A little bored with Interflora, I went in search of an online alternative. I stumbled across Prestige Flowers, which served up as a Google ad at the top of a search for ‘Marks and Spencer Flowers.’ I wasn’t after M&S flowers, but I wanted something similar.

Prestige’s selection of flowers seemed good, about the same price as Interflora and the promise of next day deliver – or, to be precise, Saturday delivery which many other sites couldn’t do – was the clincher. Mother-in-law’s flowers ordered, it was time to head to said Mother-in-laws.

We got there on the Sunday, the day after the flowers were due. No sign of the flowers. And here’s where choosing Prestige Flowers became a blooming disaster.

First off, I checked the website where I could track the delivery of the flowers. A link sent me to Yodel. Now, I know a lot of people have had problems with Yodel, but I never have. However, the idea of fragile flowers being shipped via a delivery company, rather than delivered by a local florist, rather jarred with the image Prestige creates on its website. Anyway, according to Yodel, they’d yet to receive the flowers to deliver.

So I tried to ring Prestige. This was the Saturday before Christmas. The offices of ‘the world’s premier florist’ – their words, not mine – were shut. Really. I’d have to ring back on Monday or, as the helpful voice said, contact them online.

So I tried that. And when you email them, you get a reply saying your email has been given a ‘ticket’ and placed in their customer service queue which you can view. It’s here. It’s appalling. And it appears to let you set how important your complaint is. They promise to ‘reply as quickly as possible’ but I’m still waiting. 10 days on.

I also got another reply, an automated response after I fired a message off to their main customer services email address. It was the first time I’d received a customer services message containing a threat:

This is an automated response to confirm we have received your query, we will get back to you as soon as possible, please refrain from sending multiple emails as this moves your query to the back of the queue and will only delay the time in which one of our staff will reply to you.

So, in other words: “We only answer things when we want to, and not at weekends ever, but don’t send us multiple emails because you go to the back of the queue.”

Still, they have an online community on Facebook. Or at least they do at first glance. But take a closer look at many of the comments on Prestige Flowers Facebook Page and see if they strike you as odd. But it’s no wonder they’re all positive, as the negative ones disappear quite fast:

Now you see it, oh, no you don't

Now you see it, oh, no you don’t

It turns out that while the call centre might not be open, but they have people hired to monitor the social media pages. So I tried a direct message to them and got this response:

HI David, unfortunately this is not a customer service platform, we run media campaigns for Prestige Flowers only. It is very busy at Customer Services and I am sure they will quickly deal with your query very soon. Thanks for your understanding.

So busy, in fact, they’re not even in work! But a Facebook page run by a third party company which is just for ‘media campaigns?‘ That’s hardly in the spirit of community Facebook pages are meant for, is it?  If I was Prestige Flowers, I’d be asking just how valuable my 4,000-plus fans are when so many of them seem to say such odd stuff on their Facebook fan page … and the odd customer who does try to contact them just gets a ‘sorry, advertising only here, guv.’ But maybe only once I’d got my own house in order. A bit like when a reporter telling an upset reader that it is the sub’s fault the headline is wrong. Doesn’t make much difference to the consumer, does it?

The flowers eventually turned up on Christmas Eve, just a few hours after Yodel received them. That was the day the recipient was actually meant to be travelling for Christmas, hence the importance of the Saturday order. Now, 10 days later, and despite various long waits on the phone to Prestige – they play Michael Jackson on loop when you’re on hold before offering you the chance to leave a message, which, no surprise, they don’t respond to – I’m still waiting for a reply.

In the meantime, I’ve done what bloggers do when they’re ignored. Blog about it.

As for the flowers, they were ok, nothing special. In fact, truth be told, I could have done better, and I hate flowers. Maybe that’s what I’ll do next time. For now, I’m putting a call into Trading Standards … and making sure I research companies in future before I use them.

Rant over.

 

 

 

 

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13 comments

  1. “the idea of fragile flowers being shipped via a delivery company, rather than delivered by a local florist, rather jarred”

    Perhaps all the local florists have closed down because people think they can find a better service online rather than on their local high street.

    1. Hi. I think growth of supermarkets perhaps has more to do with the demise of the florist. In theory, the right online presence should help a florist thrive. But I take your point online also brings the scope for more competition eg Next flowers and the shower I’ve written about.

  2. Hi, another Manc here with an almost identical experience: I ordered flowers for “same day delivery” the Saturday after Christmas. It’s now Wednesday the 2nd January, and after four phone messages ( and waiting for a total of over an hour on hold listening to Mr Jackson)
    They were for my girlfriend whom I didn’t get to see at Christmas. She still does not have them, despite Prestige’s statement that: ” we understand that flowers are an emotional and personal gesture, therefore the importance that the recipient is delighted with their flower arrangement is imperative, and our number one priority. …and did we mention all of our orders are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee?” So they care, right?
    I have sent an email, and opened a ticket, tried their live help service and got nowhere. Fortunately I paid by Paypal and today launched a case against them,
    Oh, by the way, my last call was today at 4.30 pm, and the helpful voice told me that as their office hours are 9-5, they were closed.
    And the site says that “there is no tracking data available yet” for my fifty pound order.
    I too placed a few comments on their Facebook page which were removed in short order. I am now blocked. :-)

    Googling the company it looks like a lot of people have been treated as shabbily as you and I. Perhaps some kind of group action would be in order.

    1. you’ve been blocked? You’re further on than me! I now just post on my timeline and refer to them. I think a letter to trading standards is next.

      1. I know! I did in fact get a reply this morning:
        Good Morning,

        Thank you for taking the time to e-mail in to us regarding your order. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that this order has caused for yourself and for the recipient. Can you please confirm for me the full delivery address for your order so I can check the flowers have been delivered to the correct property,

        Thank you for your time and I await your reply,

        Many Regards

        Charlotte Noble

        Ticket Details
        Ticket ID: BAX-695-38634
        Department: Prestige Flowers
        Type: Issue
        Status: Closed
        Priority: Normal

        Support Center: https://prestigeflowers.kayako.com

        You will note that “Charlotte” has marked the status as closed.

        replied as follows:

        Good morning.
        The delivery address as noted on your confirmation email to me is:

        ********************( Name and address of partner) ****************

        I look forward to your prompt reply, and your explanation as to why your staff did not call me back, your phone line was closed at 4.40 when the answering machine message stated 5, and why it took 3 days to reply.

        They have not replied to that one yet, so I sent a follow up this afternoon.
        You have to wonder if they are actually reading their emails…

        Trading standards will be getting a letter from me too. Fortunately I paid my Paypal and have opened a dispute so will probably get a refund from them, but it’s damn frustrating and takes time and effort. I paid THEM to put time and effort in:-)
        Thanks for not standing for it!

  3. A salutory tale indeed! Despite long IT experience and running a large e-commerce operation – I got caught in a scam operation and lost my car as a result – along with 300-400 others. The website and approach pre-sales was good – but afterwards when chasing I ended up getting threats. At least criminal action followed.

    Having had a look at the Prestige Flowers webssite, I do not believe their T&Cs etc comply with the Distance Selling Regulations (see http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/business_leaflets/general/oft913.pdfte
    Fresh flowers are not subject to the normal cancellation rights, but other products are and other provisions of the DSR still apply,

    Do complain to Trading Standards and potentially contact OfT as well although they tend not to take up individual issues … and you’ve the advantage :) you could try speaking to their press office.

    I found it interesting that you’d found Prestige Flowers by search for M&S, as I’d recently read of a court case involving M&S, Interflora and GoogleAdWords. If Prestige Flowers are using GoogleAdWords which exploit the M&S name, then it may well be in breach of current Google rules. I’ve just searched on Google myself for “M&S Flowers” and got the Prestige Flowers advert (as well as one for M&S and another online retailer).

    Reading a bit more on the case when writing this, I find that Interflora also took action against “Flowers Direct” but that unlike M&S they settled. It now looks like Interflora themselves are using the Flowers Direct brand, domain name etc.

    Looking at the T&Cs for Flowers Direct – http://www.flowersdirect.co.uk/page/terms/ – they are much more what I’d expect to see as T&Cs for a UK online operation.

    See info about the Google rules at http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2562645

    For more info on the court case, see:
    Court decision I read http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2002/1501.html
    http://www.libertymarketing.co.uk/Blog/post/The-Interflora-vs-MS-case-What-the-ruling-could-mean-for-Google-AdWords-and-its-advertisers.aspx
    http://www.olswang.com/articles/2012/11/marks-spencer-v-interflora-%5B2012%5D-ewca-civ-1501/
    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-09-22/m-s-interflora-both-claim-victory-in-case-over-internet-ads.html

    Mike

  4. Same here, sick of hearing Mr Jackson being played at me, they blatently lied to me, promised to send the correct order to my elderly parents xms eve, poor old Dad waited in all day and yep, you guessed it zilch arrived.

    My comments on the facebook page have been deleted and i am now even unable to comment.

    Have contacted watchdog, so will wait and see.

    1. Thanks for the warning – I clicked on their website which appeared as an ad alongside M&S Online. I did a quick search on ‘Marks and Spencer flowers online versus Prestige Flowers’ and your blog came up. I will now go with M&S as I usually do, very glad I came across your blog!

  5. My partner and I have just experienced the same issue, only half the order was missing from the delivered parcel as well.

    A couple of review sites for this company are covered in fantastic reviews from ‘customers’. 10′s of reviews all on the same day. Something smells a bit fishy right?

    I also find it interesting how many ‘friends’ they have on facebook too – they all seem to have stock photos (some with water marks) and are all friends with each other. What a small world we must live in?!

    Thanks for the blog post – it gives people the truth!

  6. I paid over £30 for flowers that would have cost around £5 in a garage. Was for a very significant occasion and I feel terribly let down by this company. Customer service also very bad – just ignore emails when you don’t accept the £10 voucher. Please, please never buy flowers from this company…..

  7. Birthday flowers for my wife, seemed a good idea. Googled M&S, clicked the dropdown table for flowers, selected the flowers, filled in the forms.
    Received an confirmation email, didn’t take too much notice of it, I must admit.
    Flowers arrived on time. Prestige Flowers printed on the box, assumed working for M&S.
    After four days the roses were dying, only one lily opened.
    This cost £42.20 with £5.80 postage !!
    Called M&S told we do not have third party suppliers.
    WE DO NOT USE PRESTIGE FLOWERS.

    Called Prestige Flowers,spoke to someone, and told then flowers were dying after four days.
    They replied ‘Send a photograph’.
    Sent photograph, received an email saying you should have complained within THREE days.

    So much for 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

    Use this company at your peril.

    Google needs to look at this company if they feel they have any social responsibility.

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