I guess I learned my lesson the hard way.
On Monday I decided to send my fiancee flowers. In the past, I had successfully used 1-800-FLOWERS.com for many same-day deliveries (these guys have the local florist arrangements down pat). However, on Monday I decided to try a new florist and found a link to urbanflorist.com from a Google search. The site looked pretty legitimate and the prices were roughly equivalent with what I was seeing elsewhere.
I placed and order for the Shout for Joy! bouquet for $29.99, which was listed under the Same Day category. I submitted the order before Noon on Monday and received an invoice for $41.18 later that day.
Sometime in the afternoon my cell phone rang. It was a woman with a very strong Asian accent informing me that they could not fulfill the order Monday because they “had no fresh flowers.” She said they would fulfill it the next day and give me a free upgrade (a bigger bouquet). I agreed.
You can guess what happens next. Tuesday passes and I drop a hint that night to my fiancee Bonnie that she should’ve received something at her office. She said she had not, so I had to ruin my own surprise and tell her that she was supposed to have received flowers.
Today (Wednesday) rolls around and I get a phone call from Bonnie saying that the flowers had arrived (two days late) and that she hoped I hadn’t paid much for them. She described the flowers to me as being a dozen Carnations with no vase (which I knew was not included) and no greenery, filler or other flowers — as shown in the picture on UrbanFlorist/com’s web site.
Sure enough, I logged into my MBNA Mastercard account online and there was a charge for $45.35 from someplace called Artisan Flowers & Gifts in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Astute readers will notice this charge is for $4.17 more than their own invoice showed.
So, not only did I not receive the flowers I ordered but I was being overcharged $4.17, on top of the $1.36 “foreign transaction fee” my credit card company was charging because I bought through a canadian web site.
Needless to say, I was not happy. This morning I spent over two hours trying to reach someone in Customer Service who could explain why I was being erroneously charged and to get an answer for why their local florist delivered a product that was vastly different from what’s displayed on their web site. The phone calls were futile. When you connect to their Customer Service department, you get a “mailbox full” message and it spits you back to the voicemail tree. The only option was to press #1 and talk to the ordering department. All they could do was put me back into the phone tree, which left me with no way to even leave a message. After several tries I finally told the person who takes phone order to NOT put me on hold and to NOT hang up on me. I asked to be transferred to someone in Customer Service or to a manager or supervisor. I finally spoke with a woman who tried to give me a 15% coupon for my next order. I refused and said I’d like my part of my order to be refunded. At this point I was still trying to be fair since Bonnie had already received a cheap bouquet of Carnations — the same kind you can pick up from any bodega in NYC for $4 or $5.
You can guess what happened next. This woman put me on hold and 5 minutes later the line dropped. While on hold, I had filled out the dispute form for my MBNA Mastercard online and was on the verge of submitting it. I gave up on trying to rectify the problem with the vendor and pressed Submit.
Several hours later, after doing more research about Artisan Flowers & Gifts, I realized that everything I experienced was standard operating procedure for this “stress inducing employee abusive customer scamming hell hole“. I found reports all over the Internet about how bad this company is. I’m not the first person to have been scammed.
I was stupid to have not Googled this place before I placed the order. I was busy that morning and was conned by the legitimate-looking web site. I’m posting this to CamWorld because I don’t want others to get scammed by these guys any longer. The owner’s name is Alif Somani and he can be reached at (604) 677-2585. My calls to this number resulted in an answering machine.
I’m considering reporting them to the Better Busines Bureau, the Canadian Competition Bureau and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but will wait to see what my credit card company does regarding my submitted dispute. After 20 minutes on the phone with a guy named Woody at the Billing Inquiries department I composed a letter that I have to FAX to them, clarifying my dispute. Hopefully, I’ll get a partial or full refund and Google will pick up this post and escalate it to the top of the search results for Artisan Flowers & Gifts and urbanflorist.com.
Update: I cancelled my credit card and had them issue a replacement with a different number. A company this unethical cannot be trusted with sensitive data like credit card numbers. The last thing I need to is to wake up one moring and find miscellaneous charges to my acount from other companies owned by Mr. Alif Somani.
I’m also being pro-active and contacting every single company I can find that has done business with UrbanFlorist.com, including the vendors of the web software they are using to power their site. I’m asking them to reconsider their business relationships with such an unethical company. Google knows all.
12/12/05: Update: After many many attempts to reach someone at UrbanFlorist.com, I finally reached someone named Nelson who said that they would not dispute a chargeback of $4.17 and offered me a gift certificate for $29.99 to replace the cheap flowers that were received. This was only after I threatened to contact Eliot Spitzer (Attorney General of New York) and the file a report with the BBB and Canadian Competition Bureau.
My bank tells me that the only thing they can do is dispute the difference. To dispute the product quality I would need a written second opinion, something that is impossible to get now since the flowers are long gone in the trash. So my hands are tied and I’m going to have to accept the gift certificate offer.
Lastly, the people manning the phones at UrbanFlorist.com are trained to refer their customers to the Terms & Conditions page on their site that claims that all orders are subject to up to a 2% currency discrepancy. I argued that I understood the nature of international currnecy transactions, but that their overcharge was almost exactly 10% of the order total, not 2% as their Terms & Conditions statement says.
The bottom line is, this company is very poorly-run and will scam you out of your money if you let them. Their business practices are borderline fraud, and they count on most consumers not bothering with contesting their superfluous charges.
The old saying, “It is easier to steal $1 from a million people than it is to steal $1 million from one person” defintely applies here.
12/16/05 Update: I have filed a formal complaint with the FBI’s Internet Fraud division. If enough people file complaints they will investigate and help close this scammy business down.
12/23/05 Update: I logged into my credit card account (with MBNA) today and was pleased to find that they had credited me $45.35 and $1.36 (foreign transaction fee). This means that UrbanFlorist.com did not contest the bank’s chargeback and i have received 100% of my money back, despite actually receiving crappy flowers (2 days late) and going through this agonizing process. I stand by my accusations that UrbanFlorist.com (Artisan Flowers & Gifts) is a shell of a company designed specifically to rip off unsuspecting consumers by overcharging and delivering poor quality products. The evidence I’ve managed to find backs up everything I suspect, and the number of complaints from other consumers also confirms my suspicions. This is not just a bad company, it’s a company whose sole purpose is to scam people out of their money.
If Alif Somani has a problem with these accusations and wants to defend himself and his company, he knows how to contact me. He can also look up my formal complaint with the FBI. It’s Complaint #I05121615304725, filed on December 16, 2005 with the FBI’s IFCC division.
Posted by Cameron Barrett at November 30, 2005 05:42 PM