Friday, 8 March 2019

Mothers Day v Brexit

As if giving us the weekend of the clocks going forward (when we really could do with more hours, not less) this year we also have the added benefit of that 'B' word; that's right, "Brexit" happens on the Friday of Mothers Day weekend - aren't we being spoiled?

I was brought up to never discuss religion or politics - wise words that I still adhere too now; mostly (we all have (and are entitled) to our own opinions and beliefs) and whether you believe in something, or don't, whether you voted in, out or to shake-it-all-about, is absolutely nothing to do with me, just as my beliefs and which way (or if) I voted are nothing to do with anyone else. I've seen friends and families torn apart because they were unable to accept what a loved one believed in or how they voted during election at some-point-in-time (the irony of a live-and-let-live person cutting out a family member because they voted a different way to their parent has not been lost on me). However, I'm not here to talk about other people's issues; I'm here to talk about how Brexit is going to affect my little business tucked away in the outer rims of Fareham.

Exactly how will it affect my business?

The honest answer to that is:- "I haven't got a clue". At this precise moment-in-time, I really don't think anybody has. 

What I can tell you is that my wholesalers have done (are still doing) everything they possibly can to ensure we are still able to purchase flowers. They have customs officers in place, have filled in ream-after-ream of paperwork and have ensured us (the florists) that how we order will not be affected at all. However, they have absolutely no control over our borders - or those on the continent - and as such we have no idea when we will be able to get flowers after the 29th March this year. This week there has been some kind of strike action in France which has affected flowers coming through the ports; if we leave with a "no deal" in place (which is looking more-and-more likely) then what might happen is anybody's guess. Yes, we will be able to get flowers in the future and I am sure in exactly the same way we do now, but in regards to Mothers Day flowers, and orders for a couple of weeks after it's going to be a free-for-all. There is every possibility we (and you) won't notice any difference whatsoever; there is also every possibility everything is going to be thrown into complete-and-utter confusion.

I think even if we are able to finally hammer out a deal, things will still be extremely chaotic for a few weeks, and so I have to prepare the shop (and all my lovely customers) for the worst. 

As a result, I will not be able to guarantee any flowers, or orders for Mothers Day after Wednesday 27th March (and even then I think I'm leaving it a bit later than I should), so if you were/are planning on placing an order for Mothers Day, please do so ASAP. I also need to make you aware that while every-other-year (and on a daily basis) I order my flowers to come in the same day they are going out for delivery, this year I will have to do something I've never done before and I will have to get the flowers in the Thursday before, just so I know I have what I need and won't be letting anybody down (I know a huge proportion of shops will get all their stock on the Monday before; I'd never risk that early) the supermarkets have already got most of theirs in and are keeping them in chillers until the week of Mothers Day to ensure they have enough - no, I will not be doing that. Having to order them for the Thursday is hard enough for me.

After Mothers Day (if we make it to the other side ok) then I will most likely still have to put some restrictions in place; please, do not hold this against me (or any other florist - shop, or business). This is an unprecedented never-before occurrence, that only our (and overseas) governments have control over. The last thing any of us want to do is to let anybody down, and I know we will all do everything we can to avoid that from happening, but after some of the vile abuse I was subjected to the day before Valentines Day (and on the day itself) because some members of the human race had left it too late for me to order exactly the flower they wanted, I need to prepare you all (and myself) and arm you with the knowledge things may be a little "iffy" for a few weeks.

Here's hoping a deal can be reached and this whole blog entry can be filed in  the "Completely Moot and Irrelevant box" far away in the depths of cyber space.


Tuesday, 29 January 2019

A (typical) day in the life of

a Florist :) 

I know I've mentioned (complained; yes, I know I've complained :) ) before about how the general population have a pre-conceived idea about what we (florists - at least myself as s florist; other's may well vary) do all day. This very morning (Monday evening as I start this - it could well be Friday evening before I finish it) someone has asked me "So, what exactly do you do all day?" to which I replied "as little as possible, obviously" smiling. 

It's a good question really, in the grand-scheme-of-things. What do I do all day?

My day begins at 7am when I first check for any online orders which have been placed overnight; I do this just-in-case there are any which need to go out on the first delivery run (Chris (our driver) will organise his routes the day before, however, I know he always checks between 7.30 - 8 each morning for any extras which may need to be added to his routes). Of course, between me checking and arriving at the shop more can be (and often do) placed. 

I arrive at the shop around 7.30am (give-or-take a few minutes depending on traffic). The first thing I do upon arrival is move all the flowers the wholesalers have left that morning, from inside the shop to the workroom. I then unlock the office, fire up the computer, and do the most important thing - I put the kettle on. By then the computer is good-to-go, and I double-check no orders have arrived in the half-an-hour since I last checked, and flag up all those I need to reply to during the day. Then I head into the shop, removing any flowers which have been in stock for 48 hours (this is very rare as I tend to sell-out pretty much by the end of each day; the bonus of being able to buy from my wholesalers every day). 

Once the flowers are removed, I set about making up the orders for the first delivery run, usually finishing just as I need to open the shop at 8.30. This is also when I remember I boiled the kettle over an hour ago, so whizz out to the kitchen, reboil it, add everything to the cup (the milk last, always the milk last) walk through to the shop, pop the cup on the side and put all the planters out the front of the shop so that people know we are open. I then head back in, make up the next round of delivery orders, before conditioning the remainder of the flowers I've had in that day, and adding them to the vases already in the shop. At this point I see my tea on the side, the teabag still in it and no steam rising from it. I pop the teabag in my little compost bag (these all go home with me and into my compost bin) and I drink down cold tea (not nice but usually by this point I am gasping). 

When all a day's morning orders are ready (usually around 10 - 10.30) I then sit down with my breakfast (mini shredded wheat and oat milk being my preferred choice right now). As I eat those I log onto the shops bank account (terrified at what I may not find) and pay any bills which need paying, alongside checking everything that needs to be cleared has done so. Then I add any online orders to the daily diary, checking I've remembered to attach the photo's to each order. I photograph all orders after I have made them, the photos being attached to the correct order in the diary. I do this for 2 reasons. 1) because unfortunately there are some florists out there whose scruples leave a little-to-be-desired, and I have (in the past) had another shop remove the card from a funeral tribute I made and delivered to the funeral directors before them, and place it onto the tribute they have made. Luckily I'd taken a photo of it that day before it left the shop as I was working on a new selection guide, so when my very angry and distraught customer came in to complain about the tribute with her card on, I was able to show her the one I had made; she remembered seeing it at the funeral and I was able to placate her (this (sadly) has happened on more-than-one-occasion); it has happened also with a birthday hand tied bouquet we delivered, although the card wasn't removed, but the recipient had received a few bouquets that day and had thanked my customer for the wrong bouquet, sending her a photograph of flowers which were totally different to those which I had made for her. Having a photograph really has covered my back many times. Number 2, is because I have a lot of customers who have standing orders with us, and I like to make each fortnights (or each months) flowers different to those they have had previously. Being able to check back to see what I sent means I don't repeat the same colours/flowers as before. Once I've checked all of those, I then reply to any emails which need an urgent response (as urgent as I am able). I'm usually back at my workbench by 11 to make up that afternoons orders.

In between making up orders I serve customers (often stopping in the middle of making an order up to make something for them to take away with them - while-they-wait) and field phone calls (way-too-many of which are people trying to sell me stuff I have no need for, or would be interested in). 

The afternoon sees me making up funeral tributes for the following day. I don't like to have to make them the day before, but they'd never be able to be delivered on time the next day if I didn't. Every shop I've ever worked in has also made theirs up the previous day. On average I will make 16 hand tied bouquets, 4/5 traditional bouquets, and a dozen sprays, sheaves or posies for funerals; there is always at least 2 'specialised' tributes to be made as well (pillows, hearts, birds, angels etc). I also prep for any funerals; ie making the ribbon edging that goes around the 'specialised' tributes, soaking the foam needed for the next day, and carving/sculpting any bespoke tributes which I need to have ready. 

As soon as I have everything made I will then sit and reply to the rest of the emails. At some point during the day I do try to log on to our social media pages to post an update in them (often not getting anything posted for days). I begin with Instagram (because that then shares to Tumblr and Twitter directly for me) before moving onto Facebook, G+ (in-a-way I'm glad they are closing that one down). Pinterest gets uploaded if I remember (it's not as quick as the others). I also have our main google business page to keep on top of (they email me if I don't) and LinkedIn. How some shops are able to post on their social media many times each day is beyond me. During this time I also try to check facebook to see if anyone has messaged me on there (I do have an automated response on there saying to email or call the shop if it's urgent as I don't always get time to check FB). 

Invoices and receipts are also typed up and emailed at some point during the afternoon.

At least 1 hour everyday is spent chatting with people; on very rare occasions they will make a purchase, although most are not (and I don't believe have any inclination to be) customers; they just like to 'pop in' for a chat. Having spoken to friends-in-the-trade this seems to be a common theme among florists. Maybe it's the colours, the scents, or the fact we all have friendly faces!!! but we do find ourselves treated as a local 'drop-in' centre.

Friday afternoons are different to the rest-of-the week for we don't have funerals here on a Saturday; we do, however, have weddings and so Fridays are all about preparing weddings. Church, table and reception decorations will be made on a Friday afternoon, as will (occasionally) bridesmaids tied bouquets; because these can be stood in water overnight it makes no difference if they are made the day before, for the flowers unmade would be in water overnight anyway. 

By the time everything is done-and-dusted, it is usually time to go home, so I lock the doors and pootle off. Once I've done what I need to do at home, I then sit down and order the flowers I need for the next morning, check  through to see if anything has come in via the website (I re-check this about 11.30pm too as  I am able to order flowers up to midnight for next day delivery from my wholesalers). 

Saturdays the shop is only open until 12 noon. This is when weddings will be made and completed, as well as that days (everyday) orders. After 12 is spent with appointment customers (brides and families who are unable to get down during the week to organise funeral flowers for their loved ones). I use a Saturday afternoon to type up any quotes I have to email out. I also take all of the shops vases into the kitchen, pop a drop of bleach into them, fill them with water and leave them until Monday to ensure they are clean and any bacteria in them is killed off. 

Sundays are much more relaxed as I can work to my own time scale, however, I still have to come in and makeup any funeral items I have for Monday. 

So, there-you-have it. This is what I do all day. Oh wait; I've only shared with you a "typical" day. I've forgotten about the "not-so-usual" days. Weddings don't just happen on Saturdays any more; oh no, they happen any day of the week (I'm really not keen on early morning Monday ones, if I'm being totally honest). Then there is Valentines Day; that's not "typical" (thank goodness!) and if it falls during a weekday can create all kinds of chaos, as Valentines orders are in addition to our everyday orders and on average we make around 200 orders for Valentines day. This is also one of the very few days each year that I do refuse to book a wedding in for. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday I also complete a full water change for every vase in the shop. That means every single vase gets emptied (I use the water to give all the shops plants a drink so it's not wasted) bleached, scrubbed and refilled. Once-a-month I change the window display; this results in the shop having to be re-organised too as I have to find homes for everything I take out of the window. 

On very rare occasions I will shut the shop for an afternoon - it's so inconsiderate of doctors and dentists not to work on Sundays, however, I then come back to the shop later that evening to makeup all I've not been able to get sorted before I've left early.

I would not swap my job for any other in the world - except to be a tour guide in an old house, or caves - I'd quite like to do that for a living, as long as everyone was cheerful and children behaved!!. I get to work with beautiful flowers every day. I get to let my imagination run free so often; I am challenged (mentally so very often!!) many times each week (who doesn't like a challenge?). Each day (even now after all these years) I still learn something different regarding floristry. I consider myself to be truly blessed.





Monday, 7 January 2019

Beware the wolf

in sheep's clothing.

Before I get into my waffle, I would like to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2019. May it bring forth all you could wish for. 

Yet again, over Christmas (as has happened to use more-times-than-it-should), there were people ordering flowers (mainly online, but some via the telephone) who believed they were calling our shop, when in fact, they were calling others who just happen to use our business name in the keywords on their paid for adverts. Thankfully, I am able to point the customers who have called me to complain, in the right direction, however, what about all those people who haven't bothered to make a complaint, who think they have placed their order with me? How many people out there right now are telling their friends and family not to use my business, when they've not even received their flowers from me? It truly makes my blood boil, especially when more than 95% of the (so-called) florists people believe they are calling, placing an order with, have never even stepped foot into a flower shop. For those who use another shops name to generate more business to yourselves, I say "Shame on you". I also pity those who are genuine florists that have to do it, for their businesses must be struggling if they need to poach from competitors in nearby areas. I would like to shove flower stalks in very delicate places to those who use local businesses names, when they are nothing more than people sitting at a computer desk in a call centre, who have most likely never even stepped foot in a florists. 

I know a lot of people choose to order online because it is quick, easy and convenient; I've been known to use the internet myself, but please, please, please, check that you are using a local shop, someone who actually knows the difference between Eustoma and Estonia!! It may take you 10 minutes longer to scout around, but not only will it be worth it for the person you are sending flowers to when they are hand delivered by a driver trained in how to handle flowers (ours often sings to our recipients too - although I'm not sure that's really such a good thing); those flowers the driver is handing over, will have been created in the shop, on that day, from flowers which arrived direct from the markets on that morning, but you can also rest assured that the money you spend will go on the flowers you have ordered. Nobody sitting in a call centre is going to skim 30% from the total yo have paid for their "admin fees". Local florists, independent florists, do the admin work themselves and don't need to charge you extra for doing so. Using a local florist means your flowers won't have been sitting in a warehouse elsewhere in the country for a few days, before being placed in a box and sent out with a courier, who has umpteen other deliveries in his van, and not a single clue about how to handle flowers so they arrive in perfect condition. It may take you an extra half-an-hour but a little research can be the difference between your loved one receiving flowers that have made-their-day, to ones which will have you reaching for the phone to call in a complaint.


Of course, there are some out there who claim to be florists having completed a 6 week evening course at a local college; not everyone is genuine, but that's where the internet can be a wonderful thing. Never use a shop who has generic images on their website; choose one who has their own work on there, that way you get to see what they are capable of making. Anyone, including those of you reading this who haven't the first clue about flowers, can start up a website, find generic copyright free images on the web and take orders. There are so many companies out there these days who claim to be florists but are nothing more than people sitting in offices taking calls over the phone. 

I did a google search for florists in Fareham. The top 3 in the list are not, that's not independent florists, and not one of those 3 is in Fareham. Number 1 is somewhere in London; Number 2 is eflorist who are a call centre in Hampshire (they do have some shops on their books who they will sometimes send orders to - none of these are in Fareham - however, most of their stuff (like Interflora) is sent from a central warehouse elsewhere, via a courier service). The 3rd is also a call centre with no link to floristry whatsoever (in eflorist defence 30 years ago they did know a little about flowers). The reason those businesses have come out on top of the list, is because they are paying to advertise on google; they are doing their best to dupe the general public into handing over their hard-earned money to them. They are not in any way, shape or form, independent florists, and they most definitely are not in Fareham or any of the surrounding areas. Make sure if you wish to use a local shop, someone who knows the area, who employs a driver to personally hand-deliver the flowers to your loved one for you, that you are in fact using a local shop. Check out their address - all local shops will have their premises address on their website; check out their phone number. If it has the local dial code you are more likely to be calling a local shop (although as you will see in the paragraph below this is (sadly) not always the case). More than 50% of the "Florists" in the google list below are not florists. Only ourselves and Rawsons are. 


I did the same for Portsmouth; not one of these shops is local. Flowers Same Day have Interflora images on their website, and although they have a local number and a list of roads your flowers will be delivered from, there is no actual address for any shop in that list. Clicking on the link about staff (who by-the-way are telesales staff - not florists) will take you back to their main page. Clicking on the link saying "Local Florists - Just like ours" does nothing.  However, dig a little deeper and you will see the reason they have no address for you to visit them at any of their so-called shops in Portsmouth, is because they are based in Carlisle; in rooms above a tanning salon and nail bar (I love google maps :) ).

Of the other 2, Bloom and Wild are based in London, and Lilian Rose (who again, have a Portsmouth number) are based in Cheshire; these companies are nothing more than "Order Gatherers" which means they are all call centre. You will call a Portsmouth number which will be forwarded to their call centre in Cheshire. It's so wrong this is allowed to happen, yet sadly it is not illegal. 


I was so hoping to get through this year (and at least this month) without having to moan about something, or someone, but alas, call centres masquerading as florists, taking people's hard earned money under false pretences is something which requires my complaining :) More importantly it is something which potential customers - wherever they may be wanting to order flowers anywhere in the world - need to be warned that not-everything-is-as-it-seems. If my moaning here saves one person being duped into handing over their money to someone who is not whom they believe, then it will have been worth it.