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:
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.