I started by calling FTD, holding the promotional card the company had sent me in the mail, and asked about sending a “Loving Thoughts Bouquet” to mi madre. Just like the one pictured on that card, right? (Not the same as the one above, btw.) Well, turns out that that bouquet isn’t available in her zip code. That seems odd. After all, the rep had just told me that the company uses flowers shipped from its headquarters in Illinois. And I know that FedEx delivers to my hometown. Huh. (And get this – when it’s sent by FedEx, it doesn’t arrive assembled! Just a vase separate from the flowers, which Mom gets to arrange herself. Because Mom hasn’t done enough already….)
“So who grows these flowers?” I ask. “Specialty growers,” I’m told. “How delightfully descriptive,” I think to myself, “He might as well have said ‘magical elves’.” So I continue, “Where are they grown?”
“Are they Fair Trade?” I ask. And this is where things get murky. First I’m told yes, the flowers are fair trade. But that answer changes as I ask how I can be sure of that. At one point, the representative said, “I cannot see any information [about Fair Trade] on my end.” But then – get this! – suggested that I place my order anyway and worry about the Fair Trade stuff later. Wow. I explained that I didn’t want to process the order without knowing that I wasn’t supporting bad practices elsewhere in the world and suggested that maybe a manager might have more information for me.
So I was transferred to a manager (which, of course, made me think of the scene in My Best Friend’s Girl where two telemarketers trade calls to let both customers speak to a “manager”). The manager explained that, if I opted for same-day delivery, the bouquet would be delivered by a local florist. (And that option will come assembled, which is nice if you don’t want Mother’s Day to be a DIY day for dear ol’ mum.) But if I want to know about that local florist’s practices… No dice. It’s like they’re in the FTD Witness Protection Program. I can’t know their name. If there are any problems with my order, I can only address them through FTD. Can I ever know where those flowers come from or if there were any labor abuses in growing them? Nope.
While we were on the phone, I poked around the FTD website to see if I could find more information. Strangely, I found info about Fair Trade that the first representative did not. We must have been on different interwebs. And guess what! Out of all of its hundreds of bouquets, FTD offers four, yes FOUR!, that are Fair Trade certified. I noted the day I called that there were four options, but all were for one dozen roses and all were $50.00. Sadly, even though I copied the text of that page, when I tried to find the link several days later, I couldn’t despite many searches. Nothing like making it easy for your consumers. I did find this link to this Fair Trade option – which was “unavailable.”
Here’s the text I copied the day I called:
“Fair Trade Certification means farms that grow flowers are given a fair price for their produce, workers enjoy safe working conditions, fair living wages are paid to workers, and environmentally friendly growing practices are used. With about 80% of the cut flowers sold in the U.S. grown outside of the country, farming communities involved reap the benefits of global trade, while helping the companies involved to maintain higher standards in their business practices, making the world a better place one bloom at a time. In an effort to embrace the ever-changing needs of our consumer and our society, FTD proudly presents Go Green Living. A collection of eco-friendly bouquets.” (Emphasis added – meaning, we bolded the bold part and italicized the italicized part.)
Our response: This sounds nice and we definitely appreciate fair treatment for workers, but “changing needs of our consumer???” Come again?
Did consumers ever NEED to support violations to the rights of other people in buying flowers? We don’t think so. Even if my mother may remember being in labor with me for well over 24 hours like it was yesterday, I was not, in fact, born yesterday.
And we would be remiss if we didn’t note that Mom would NOT be proud of Change.org for declaring “victory” over a year ago when FTD started to offer a few Fair Trade items! Seriously? “Victory?” Don’t put victory on the petition, darlings. “Progress,” yes. Minor progress. But victory? No. Not yet. Don’t spike the football like it’s a touchdown at the 40-yard line.
We recognize that our sample size of one phone call is limited and we welcome a response from FTD, including any links or information that we missed.
1-800-WE DON’T KNOW OUR OWN FLOWERS
I then went to the 1-800-Flowers website and, in looking for Fair Trade options there, found that I could chat with a rep. So I did. I’ll let the transcript speak for itself – but as you read, keep in mind that the 1-800-Flowers website explicitly says that they get flowers from “growers around the world” – i.e., OUTSIDE the U.S.
Thank you for choosing 1-800-flowers.com. A representative will be with you shortly.
You are now chatting with [1-800-flowers Rep].
Rep: Hello! How can I help you with your order today?
Me: Hi, I’m looking for a bouquet for mother’s day
Rep: Thank you and I’ll be happy to assist you with this.
Rep: I am sending you links.
Me: Thanks! I’ll be ordering from the east coast but she lives in the midwest, so I’m wondering how the flowers get to her -
Rep: Please click here to view Mon’s Rules.
Me: meaning, do they come from her local flower shop?
Rep: Yes, they will.
Me: So the bouquet is already assembled – it’s not like the vase and flowers are separate?
Rep: Yes, that is correct, already assembled.
Me: Great! And how can I know where that florist gets their flowers?
Me: I’m looking at the “green” section of your website now.
Rep: Please click here to view Sentimental Surprise.
Me: That’s very pretty – thanks!
Rep: We are the florist and we plant our flowers.
Me: So all the flowers are grown in theU.S.?
Rep: Yes, they are.
Me: Ok – I’m confused then – the website says something about “international farms” – are some flowers coming in from other countries?
Rep: Actually no, no other countries.
Rep: We guarantee 7 days freshness.
Me: Ok thanks – I ask because I read about bad working conditions at flower farms in Ecuador and want to be sure that anything I send my mom on Mother’s Day doesn’t support that.
Me: But I’m not clear how I can be sure if the flowers are actually coming from a local florist?
Rep: You are most welcome.
Rep: Once the arrangement marked same day local florist delivery at the bottom of the arrangement it is a Florist arrangement.
Rep: Is there anything else that I can assist you with?
Me: So same day = local florist. But other bouquets may not be from a local florist?
Rep: They are from florist but has to be delivered by UPS or FEDEX in a box.
Me: Where are you located? [I asked because the errors in English had made me wonder.]
[insert 2-3 minute pause]
Rep: Our corporate office is located in Carle place New York however I am located in [somewhere outside of the U.S., very, very far from New York].
Me: I’m trying to understand the full supply chain. If I order from 1-800-flowers, how do I know where the flowers are coming from?
Rep: The flowers are coming from the local florist with in the delivery zip code.
Rep: Is there anything else that I can assist you with?
Me: Yes, but what about the steps BEFORE that local florist? I assume that not every florist is growing their own flowers in every city.
Rep: Yes, they are. [Really? The local florist in Alaska is growing roses year-round?]
Me: What I am trying to be sure of here is that if I purchase flowers, I am not supporting labor rights violations in other countries.
Rep: I understand.
Rep: Any other questions?
Me: No. Thank you for your time.
Rep: You are most welcome. It was a pleasure chatting with you do have pleasant day.
Rep: Thank you for chatting with 1-800-Flowers.com. We value your feedback. Please click the END CHAT button at the top right to answer a few questions about your experience with us today.
Me: You, too.
Rep: Thank you.
I didn’t fill out the survey because I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. I found this Representative to be very courteous and recognize that s/he was just doing his/her job – but I was disappointed by the lack of information available. As we’ve seen before in our work, important information that conscious consumers will ask about is not always available to the employees who are interacting with the consumer. To the companies who have yet to inform their employees so that those employees can have accurate answers for their consumers, we say: Do your mama proud and do better!
We welcome comments from 1-800-Flowers. And, as always, we welcome comments from our readers.