Consumer Alert: Poser "Florists" Want To Deliver Your Valentines' Posies

February 10, 2004

What's in a name? While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, getting duped by a fake florist listing in your local phone book would stink.

Before you order that bouquet for your valentine, you should know that the telephone book contains venus flytraps for the unwary. Out-of-state telemarketers maintain listings in the white pages that are intended to deceive consumers into believing they are local, legitimate florists. They list under town names and local exchange numbers like, "Ellsworth Florist, 667-1111." Calls to those numbers get forwarded to "boiler rooms" that take orders and credit card information for payment. The telemarketers forward orders to an area florist, but only after pocketing a hefty processing fee and sometimes a percentage of the sale as well. You don't realize you've been scammed until you get higher than expected charges from an unfamiliar company on your credit card statement, or learn that the flowers weren't delivered as ordered.

Follow these simple tips to protect yourself:

  • Ask neighbors, family, friends, and co-workers for recommendations.
  • Deal only with shops that list a street address with their phone number. If you're asking directory assistance for a number, also ask for the street number and address. If there isn't one, consider doing business with another florist.
  • Ask the florist to itemize the charges. In addition to the price of the arrangement, most florists charge a delivery fee and taxes if you live in the same state.
  • Ask the florist for directions to the shop. If they hesitate or refuse, consider this a red flag, and avoid doing business with the florist.