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The tale of an unexpected bucket of moss

The Iris's eventually flowered

The clocks have changed, the first daffodils are flowering and you can still gorge on hot cross buns. What better time to buy flowers for someone you love? But what if the flowers you ordered online weren’t even in bud?

That’s exactly what happened to Gabriel when he ordered a bucket of irises from Interflora…

Buying flowers online for your loved ones

gabrielGabriel: ‘It’s January 2015 and it’s the 19-year anniversary of being with my partner, Amanda – a suitable occasion to warrant the sending of flowers, I thought. I have never been one for the conventional bouquet and so when scouring companies online, such as Interflora, I look for its more interesting and unusual offerings.

‘On this particular occasion, I chose to send my present – the ‘Iris Planted Tin‘ – to Amanda’s work address. As I was unable to see my chosen floral arrangement in person, I was therefore reliant on the website visuals and online description provided by Interflora.

‘The irises took my fancy due to them being a living plantation of perhaps 15 in number, and in a rather fetching country kitchen-style rustic tin bucket with a big blue bow. A great addition, I thought, to my partner’s windowsill at work where it would suitably impress as well as brighten up the office for her and colleagues.

‘The big day arrived – a confirmation of delivery via email and text was received. Yet imagine my dismay when I got a call from Amanda saying: ‘Thanks for the, er… package… did you mean to send me a bucket of moss!?’

‘Maybe it was stupid of me to assume that when buying living flowers they might not have flowered yet. But nowhere did it say on the description ‘Irises may not be visible to the naked eye’.

‘Luckily, after 19 years, Amanda has maintained a sense of humour and she managed to curb the mirth of her colleagues and appreciate the potential of what might emerge from this strange yellow bucket of moss.

‘I, however, was not so amused and emailed Interflora with my frustration at the description of the Iris Bucket. I was then very pleased to receive a call almost instantly from its customer care team, who promptly apologised and offered a full refund for the inconvenience.’

What does Interflora have to say?

We got in touch with Interflora, which told us:

‘Each year, Interflora proudly delivers millions of beautiful arrangements to our customers’ delight. Occasionally plants may be delivered in bud form to ensure the recipient can enjoy them for longer.

‘We investigated this specific issue and found that the gift received in this case was an isolated incident and not a true representation of our product. We thank the customer for bringing this to our attention and giving us the opportunity to resolve their complaint. We apologise for any disappointment and wish to take this opportunity to remind customers that all our products are backed by the Interflora Promise and come with a Seven Day Freshness Guarantee.’

It’s worth remembering your rights when you buy goods online – they must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. If they’re not, the retailer is in breach of contract and you have a claim under the Sale of Goods Act.

Has something you’ve ordered ever arrived in a completely different state to how it was described online?


The iris tin is offered at £24.99. It is good to see that Interflora were able to reverse the charges to at least sort the financial aspects. If it had been a post first date offering ………… ouch!

If I did not have tiny iris reticulata in the garden now I might not query the expectation of irises being in bud in January. Still, in the world of flowers growing them in places like China or Kenya is quite normal so all things are possible.

I ordered flowers from inter flora for Mother’s Day and was appalled at what they delivered. I complained and they agreed to send another arrangement from a different florist, they were better but they still did not look anything like the image on the website. My boss, having seen pictures of the rubbish that inter flora had the audacity to deliver to my mum and being concerned about the flowers she had ordered for her own mother, checked with her own mum to see what had been sent and she had exactly the same problem. The arrangement was nothing like the picture on the website and there were hardly any flowers, it was all cheap greenery. I was even more upset when I saw on interfloras Facebook page just how many people had also been duped by this supposedly reputable company. I really will never send flowers to anyone ever again. I’d rather send a gift voucher so that they get something they like instead of a bunch of weeds in a bucket.

I gave up Interflora completely several years ago after 3 disappointments. Nowadays I only send flowers to distant family by telephoning their local florists, instead of wasting a lot of money absorbed by Interflora charges. Result: no-one has ever been disappointed since, and the florist earns a decent profit on each transaction. Also, the relative often meets the local florist and gets to chat to a friendly face when the flowers are delivered.

Peter says:
4 April 2015

I have had several disappointments at the hands of Interflora as well. In one three month period they failed to deliver a birthday bouquet for my wife, a Christmas bouquet for my wife and a Christmas bouquet for my mother in law.
They apologized, profusely, each time, but after 3 goes I just gave up, and have vowed never to use them again.

William Smith says:
5 April 2015

I purchased some flowers for my partners birthday which unfortunately is the day after Valentines Day when florists charge their highest prices. I paid £50 for a bouquet of flowers in a glass vase from a local Company, which on their website looked huge, very colourful and full of blooms. When it arrived I was astounded and appalled. There were 7 flowers, 1 rose, 3 Gerbera 2 Alstroemerias and 1 flower which is normally seen in dried flower arrangements. There was an abundance of greenery but all rough cuttings of laurel and similar large leafed varieties. When I contacted the Company to complain I was offered 50% refund or a replacement! they refused to repay my full amount. Needless to say, I will not be using this Company again and I have also spread the word amongst many family, friends and work colleagues to do likewise.

I gave up on Interflora years ago, overpriced and poor quality.

I have been using a company called Orchids by Post for quite a few years now. They turn up well packed and my Mum can easily make them last 6 weeks.

Douglas says:
5 April 2015

For a couple of years running I bought spring bedding plants in plug format from a couple of different companies in the Spalding area. In both cases the plants were of very poor quality and not fit for purpose. In the first case I complained and received a second batch which were not much better. In the second case the company denied all responsibility in spite of me sending photos to back up my complaint. They gave me no redress at all saying nobody else had complained for thousands of orders which had been processed (if you can believe that)

In both cases the cost was considerably lower than equivalent plants at local garden centres so I suppose I got what I paid for – poor quality at a cheap price.

A bouquet beats a bucket every time. I have also had some disappointments with planted flowers in curious containers.

In the days when few people had a telephone, and even fewer had telephone directories covering other towns or counties, the Interflora service was a very good idea. You could go into your local florist, order your choice of floral arrangement to be sent to another place on a specific day, write out your message, and pay over the counter. The florist used the Interflora network to transmit the order and Interflora did the settlement between the two florists. Once the Internet took hold this process became increasingly obsolete as customers had accesss to much better information, payment systems, and competition in the market. At the same time a number of major retailers added a limited range of floral bouquets and arrangements to their on-line business. Most of the trade for floral gifts and the birthday business has probably gone this way, but the floral presentations offered by the retailers often do not suit people’s needs for important events like weddings, anniversaries, and funerals, where a bespoke arrangement is required and where timing is of the essence. It is unfortunate – but not the end of the world – if a St. Valentine’s day tribute is late [or delivered next door!], whereas for a special occasion reliability is paramount. Christmas, St. Valentine’s day and Mother’s Day have tested the major retailers, their delivery agents have struggled with the volumes and there have been many stories of disappointment. Sending flowers early is always best for birthdays so they look their best on the day and it gives a little slack in case of mishaps. But for the big celebrations or commemorations there remains a need for a good supply of local florists who can prepare the right arrangement and deliver it to the right place at the right time. I doubt that an intermediary such as Interflora can really meet this demand nowadays, but local florists do need to do more to develop their websites and improve their floristry competence to match the artistry and presentation skills of the corporate suppliers; they have the advantage of local knowledge and personal service but sometimes lack that extra level of imagination and originality that their corner of the market requires.

There are over 8,000 floristry businesses in the UK employing around 17,000 staff and the industry is worth about £1.5 bn.

GO says:
5 April 2015

I would recommend Bunches. I have been ordering online from them for a while now, but I think you can do it by phone too. They don’t do same day but their delivery is quick and the quality of the flowers is very good. Also they are very reasonable, especially when compared to Interflora. I’ve been told that the flowers that I send last really well.

Amy says:
5 April 2015

I have long given up on Interflora, because there is no way of knowing what is sent out. It seems to me that there should be some way of providing the customer with a photograph. At local level this could be easily accomplished with a Polaroid, but the florists are not interested. Either I purchase what I want from a supermarket or garden centre and deliver personally, or, more usually, I order on-line. The latter has the big advantage for me in that I can usually access Fair Trade or British flowers & plants.