Monday, 17 November 2014

Hello Monday

Goodness; what a start to a Monday morning. I’m only glad nobody from the “ooh I’d love to do your job, it must be so lovely to play with flowers all day” brigade never came in this morning. I may have battered them with a gerbera stem. 

8am: Clive leaves with a funeral tribute that has to be delivered to a directors in Portsmouth by 9am at the latest. Allowing for the fact it’s Monday and wet (which is always a recipe for disaster on our road networks) the hour to get there was practical. By 8.35 when he hadn’t even reached the M275 and was sat in stationery traffic, he phoned me to give the directors the heads up that he was on the way but was currently sat in traffic (they give us the latest time for a delivery but I think sometimes they tell us to be there a lot earlier than we need to be to allow for traffic themselves). Hoping someone would be there at that time (they’re often not) I rang and was lucky enough to get through, to be told they didn’t have a funeral today with the name we were given. I double checked I had the right directors (and did) so asked the woman on the phone if she was sure? She was; she also checked every 11.15 funeral they have between today and the 1st December just in case we had got the date wrong. All her checks drew a blank, so I thanked her for her help, and proceeded to ring the customer who ordered the flowers; I got an answerphone so had to leave a message. I then told Clive to hang tight and I’d get back to him as soon as I could. 

Hanging up the phone to Clive, the shop phone rang, so I answered hoping it would by my customer with the funeral details, but what I got instead was a very upset lady (who has every right to be) asking why her flowers weren’t delivered on Saturday? Thankfully the order wasn’t coming from our shop; it was an order that I phoned through to a shop in Essex. They’d accepted the order and taken my money for payment, so I went through the usual checks with my customer – had they spoken to the recipient over the weekend to know the flowers hadn’t arrived? Had I got the right address? And several others I use to verify the information – to find the answer was “yes” to all my questions. I asked her to give me half an hour to sort out with the shop that had the order what may have gone wrong. When I phoned the shop they admitted they had forgotten all about it – not something that happens often, thankfully, but I had to admire their honesty, even though I was pretty angry about it. I do realise they are only human, and occasionally mistakes happen. They offered to deliver today instead and promised to send something as an apology as well as adding more flowers to the order. My customer was obviously disappointed when I rang her back to explain what happened, but thanked me for sorting it for her.  

This still left the funeral to sort and see if I could find out what happened. I phoned all 4 crematoriums in the area to see if they were dealing with the service. I rang every funeral director (from Chichester to Southampton, via Gosport and Waterlooville) I could think of (including all the ones that belong to the co-op but still pretend to be independent, as well as ringing the co-op too). I drew a blank with everyone. Once I’d exhausted all the options I could think about, I then set to getting on with today’s jobs.

One of those jobs found me out in the kitchen bleaching and scrubbing the vases. We have an alarm on the shop doors that buzzes in the kitchen for me, so I know if someone has come in while I am out there. Either this didn’t work, or someone left the door open when they went out of the building (it's an easy enough thing to do when there's so much going on) because I suddenly sensed something at the same time as hearing a noise from behind me. Spinning round I saw 2 lads (late teens early 20’s) about to get to the lobby area at the back of the shop. They can’t have seen me because when I asked loudly “Um, what are you doing” they both jumped and started to walk back down the corridor and into the shop. I followed and then saw another one stood by the shop door – I have no idea if he was just hanging back or keeping an eye out for people that may be coming along. One of them answered “we saw the door was open and nobody was in here so wanted to check everything was ok”. I would truly love to believe them, but I have never seen them before in the area, they looked exceptionally guilty when they knew realised I was there, and they couldn’t get out of the shop quick enough. If they were really worried I think they might possibly have hung around a bit longer to explain themselves a bit better. After they’d gone and I shut the door I checked all the security cameras which definitely seems to back up my theory more than work in their defence. 

All of this happened before 9.30 this morning; I’m hoping it’s not a pre-cursor to how the rest of the week will continue.

Post note; our customer got back to us on the tribute we hadn’t been able to deliver with the correct details, and we were able to get the flowers delivered to the funeral with just minutes to spare – but at least they were where they needed to be in time.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Back to normal - whatever that is

Before I get into what’s been going on in Moonstones world, how many of you noticed my deliberate mistake on the last blog? A dozen or so of you have messaged me about it, but what about those of you that sat back and kept quiet? It’s had over 7000 views so surely just the few I’ve heard from can’t be the only ones? 

For those of you that didn’t pick it up, when I was talking about not buying from businesses that have spelling mistakes on their website I deliberately spelled a word wrong (or should that be spelt?). Which one I hear you ask? I spelled Their with a t at the end so it read Theit; I just wanted to see if you lovely people were actually reading what I was saying, or just skimming over to see if I might come up with something of interest J I think now maybe I should have run a competition and awarded a bouquet of flowers to someone from a random draw – that is something for me to think about in the future.

Once again I have a big thank you to make to all of you. As most of you that follow this blog and who are friends/fans on our FB, Twitter, Tumblr and G+ pages know, I got to go on a little jaunt for 17 days, and you – my wonderful customers – continued to show the shop (and our very own Becky) just how truly wonderful you are by continuing to place your orders, pop in and buy your flowers from us while I was away and Becky was left in charge. It was her first time at being left for longer than 4 hours and didn’t she do well? (all I could hear as I typed that was Bruce Forsyth). I have had so many lovely reports and comments from customers about her and that she kept up the standards everyone has come to expect from us. Don’t let on but I am really very proud of her; I knew it would never be a problem and that she was/is more than capable, but for so many of you to also let on how great she was has been so good. Not just for her ego (that is getting a bit too big if I’m honest) but for me as well. It means I have taught her well and am now lucky enough to be in the position of not having to close the shop if I need some time off (she’s back in next Tuesday afternoon for those of you asking, as I am out demonstrating for the local WI) at least I hope she can come in, as I haven’t actually asked her yet. Yes I did have a wonderful time away; thanks for asking. 

The great thing about travelling was all the florists I got to meet along the way – one in a small town even offered me a job, which was very tempting (apparently being from England I would up the shops novelty factor and bring in more custom) but how could I leave you all behind? You’ve stuck by me for the past 8 years and helped me build the business up to the success it is now; I couldn’t just up and leave you all behind – or could I? Mind you if the shop in Jackson Hole WY had been opened when I passed through and she had offered me a job, I could be sat here now explaining to you all how – and why – I am leaving. J A millionaire’s playground it may be, but it’s also a beautiful little town and if you get the chance to visit, you should take it. 

Once Halloween and Remembrance Day is over (have you seen our Halloween window by night?) then I will be having a bit of a shunt around in the shop and an autumnal (pre-christmas) clean up. If there is something in the shop right now that you know you want and have been putting off buying it, then I suggest you pop on down and grab it while it’s here, for when I clear out I will be ruthless and a lot of stuff will be going to make way for new stock. I’m going to get my paintbrush out and give the walls a refresh as well as purchasing some new (hopefully nice coloured) stands for the fresh flowers too.  A change is as good as a rest they say, and as I am limited (space wise) on what kind of changes I can make, I will do my best to freshen things up a bit. Nothing worse than going in to a shop and it looking the same as it did 18 months ago. I’m still trying to find some nice vases and pots at sensible prices that can’t be found in every other florist, gift shop or home wares store. The company we bought from in Spain a few years back have stopped making their pottery in the range of colours we found to be so popular – one whole range we had sold out in 3 days – so I can only assume the Spanish tastes aren’t as they are over here. Again if any of you know of a range you would like to see, or of a supplier that has something a bit different, then drop us a line and let us know. We’re always on the lookout.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Would you complain?

It's very rare that we (as a business) will diss another florist, as it's not a nice thing to do in public, however I feel we may have good reason to, and wondered if you were me, what would you do?

This week we found ourselves in the position of needing to send flowers to someone we know, but as they are out of our area we needed to source a shop local to the recipients. Having used a shop in the area before, we chose to use them this time; we have never had any complaints relayed back to us about them - however we are now wondering whether that was just because our customers (or their recipients) were being too polite - as we have found ourselves in the position of having every reason to complain. 

Now before giving an order to another shop I always check out their web page - I am a nightmare for spelling errors and if a shop has many of them on theit site I won't use them; I think if a business can't take the time to check they are getting things right on their website, then how can I trust them with my money and place an order with them? (having said that I did notice a mistake on our own site recently that hadn't been picked up when it first went live so I do make small allowances). The shop in question do have a lot of generic pictures on their site (something we have none of; each and every  picture you see on our site has been made by one of us in the shop) but they also had a few of their own work which looked good enough for me to put my trust in them.  This I now know was a big mistake and they are a shop that we will avoid at all costs in the future.

The flowers we needed were for a sad event, for people with very classical tastes, so when I came across a green and white handtied in water on their site (a generic image for the Direct2Florist relay service they belong to that they should have been able to fulfill with ease) it fitted exactly what we wanted, and would be perfect for the recipients. See the image below for the flowers I chose. 

As you can see the flowers are mainly white with beautiful foliages to tone, giving an overall impression of a green and white theme.  I understand there are times when we need to substitute flowers (we have to do it often) but we always choose something as close to the flowers that have been requested. This bouquet consists of White Lilies, White Roses and Green Single spider chrysant blooms. Classical, Elegant and perfect for the occasion. 

Now see the image below for the flowers that were received

Admittedly the recipients have removed them from the wrapping (I have been told by the recipient that they were wrapped in nice cellophane and looked lovely when they arrived) but do any of those flowers look like the ones in the picture of the flowers we ordered??  Is there any hint of purple in the bouquet we ordered?

After much consideration we have contacted the D2F relay service this shop is a member of, as the bouquet was one of their basics that ALL their members should be capable of, and we have contacted the shop in question too - we are still waiting for a reply from either of them (complaint was lodged on Tuesday with D2F and Wednesday with the shop) it is now Monday.

It saddens me that something like this can happen and I know how disappointed I feel being let down in such a way; I can only imagine how one of our customers would feel if this was to happen to them.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A day of 2 halves

I'll admit a phone call I received on Friday morning not only upset me, it also angered me greatly. I don't normally get angry with customers as I was taught the old rule that "The customer is always right; even when they are wrong" but the lady I spoke to was so very rude to me there was no way I could not be angry. In the ladies defence she was phoning me with a query regarding the price of a funeral tribute, and having lost so many people that have been close to me I do understand how traumatic it can be, and that you aren't always quite yourself. However; there is also no excuse for bad behaviour and downright bad manners. 

"What did this lady do?" Well she had been onto our website and seen a tribute on there that she liked and wanted a price on.  It does state on our site that we can only deliver the items in our own area, so before I quote anyone over the phone, I do ask where the funeral is taking place - in this instant it was somewhere in south london - so I asked if the lady wanted to collect the tribute on the way to the funeral. She was quite rude as she told me "I live there so why would I travel all the way to you for it. Just give me a price". This is when things got a bit fraught as I tried to explain that unfortunately she would have to contact a shop nearer to where the delivery was to take place for a price, as I was unable to quote on behalf of another shop. Again she spat at me "just tell me how much". Six times I went through explaining how I was unable to tell her what another shop would charge, as I have no idea of their pricing structure - if she was to call a certain kind of shop they could charge her 3/4 times more than I would; if she was to call someone that's just visited a few evening classes at a local college, or sat in on a demonstration somewhere, who buys their flowers from a supermarket and works from their dining room (yes sadly there really are businesses out there claiming to be florists that haven't got a clue, and think they know what they're doing because they've been to a demonstration) then they could charge half the price I would - this is because they don't have a shop premise and therefore don't need to pay any of the charges we do. Again she replied "just tell me how much"

All the time I was explaining how I was unable to tell her what another shop would charge, I was offering to help the lady source a shop that should be able to help her; I also told her that if the shop hadn't previously made the tribute she wanted I was happy for them to copy mine and contact me for details on how to make the tribute. Again I got "just give me a (insert a swear word here)" 

In the end I decided maybe it would be best to just quote the lady what I would charge so I replied "obviously I can't guarantee the shop price will be anything like the price I would charge, but if I was to make it for you I would charge you £......". At this point she told me to do something quite unpolite to myself and hung up. I was so shocked by her behaviour and so angry at the way I was spoken to I did phone her back (I would never have been rude to her and planned on saying "I'm sorry I think we got cut off" for her reaction but she never bothered to answer). And you all thought this was such an easy job didn't you? That I get to make people happy and play with flowers all day? Welcome to  the reality of it.

However; later that day I had a customer in the shop that was so happy with the flowers I had made for her she not only cried (in a good way) she also gave me the biggest hug I think I've ever had, so for every bad there is a good; or often in my case way more good than bad. 

I also that day had another local funeral director in the shop wanting to make me his recommended florist, on the condition I hand over a huge percentage of any money I take from the people they send to me; he got told exactly the same as the others that have approached me before - I will NEVER pay anyone to recommend me; I explained he's more than welcome to send people  my way IF he believes my work is good enough (I do have a very respectable funeral director that does send people to me because of my work) but that I will not pay him to send people to me. I find it shocking that he may now go to someone that has no training and will be recommending them only so he can take extra money. That to me is so very wrong. 

Goodness this is turning into a long post; I hope you've not all nodded off by now? Actually this next part will just be some photos' of the gorgeous wedding we did on Saturday (I got to make the pedestals for the church and reception on Friday tea-time though so they count as the nice part of Friday :)   The brides and bridesmaids were made Saturday morning, and the colours were just wonderful - so nice to do something different. 

Top table arrangement

Top table with pedestals - there were also 2 pedestals placed in the church that matched the ones in this photograph

One of the bridesmaids bouquets - just to show off the gorgeous colours

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Same Day Delivery

A conversation with a customer yesterday morning (she wanted to order a bouquet at our very minimum price)  – who phoned at 9.30, and wanted me to guarantee I would get the flowers delivered to an address 5 miles away by 10.30 – got me thinking (that’s never a good thing).  How many other industries offer a same day delivery service? And what price do they charge IF they offer this service?

After an hour or 2 google searching, and many, many, many phone calls, I was able to find that other than florists (and Argos who charge a small fortune and only if the local store has what you want in stock) offer a Same Day Delivery and even fewer offer to get your delivery within an hour – there are several courier services that will collect your item and deliver it for you; I got quotes from over 25 of these to see what they would charge to collect flowers from the shop, to the address the customer wanted us to delivery to. The BEST quote I got was £27.50 from Royal Mail ( I charge a flat £3.50) – most were over £40 - but NOT one of the companies I tried would give me a timescale as to when they would get the order delivered.
Had I had a driver available I would have done all I could to get the flowers out there, but alas both of them were already out on their delivery routes, but I told the customer I could guarantee to get them there by 12; this wasn’t good enough, and sadly when she took her rudeness that one step further, I suggested she ring someone else to see if they could help (no idea if anyone else was able to or not).

So there I am, little old me, offering to get flowers delivered the same day for a charge of only £3.50, but this wasn’t acceptable. NO other company would offer that service for such a small amount – if they indeed offered at all. 

When did it become to norm to expect a florist to drop everything for that one order? What about all my other customers that had placed their orders days, weeks or even months before? How about the 2 funerals we were out delivering at the time (along with weddings they are the ONLY things we guarantee delivery one). Was I expected to put those on hold to sort out the one order that had just been phoned through? Please try and remember that while we will do our very best at every opportunity - which we do at a minimal cost to you (compared to any other industry – you can pay £2000 for a new TV and still be charged £30 for it to be delivered to you) - there are times when it is not physically possible for us to get something made and delivered within an hour. We are after all, only human; some things are just out of our reach. 

While on the subject of delivery, those of you that have ordered online this week – yes our online ordering is working again (for handtied bouquets only at the moment) will have noticed there is now a set delivery charge of £3.50 on ALL orders. It pained me to have to begin charging when before we may have waivered the charge, but after sitting down and working out how much it was costing (Drivers wages, Fuel, Tax, Insurance, Running Costs, Repairs and Servicing) I saw in black and white that we were losing money (something we cannot afford to do if we wish to stay in business). Even now we are not charging anywhere near enough to cover our costs, but after sourcing how much other businesses charge, I worked out that £3.50 keeps us still far cheaper than our competitors, and will go some way towards helping with the costs involved if we wish to offer a full delivery service.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Happy New Year

a bit late as we are already well into 2014 (where does the time go?) but I couldn't write the first entry of 2014 without wishing each and every one of a year a very Happy and Healthy year; may it bring all that you could wish for. 

It feels like it's been forever since I was last able to sit down and share with you all what we've been up to, but it is thanks to our lovely customers that I've not had the time to keep you all updated. Yet again you showed us how lucky we are - by using us for your Christmas flower gifts - and we are humbled and honoured by your continued support and loyalty. 

So what plans do we have for this year? Well the first one is to get the website updated; it's looking a bit tired and messy in a few places, so we have been working hard on new images, a whole new (easier) online ordering system that will allow orders to be placed for all occasions and not just the tied and bouquet section as before; we will also be cleaning up the clutter to make it a bit more user friendly. Hopefully by the end of this month the new site will be live; until then we are still unable to offer online ordering via our personal site  - our linked D2F site is available if you really don't want to speak to us on the phone; they will however, charge you a fee for going through their servers. There's also not as much choice on there, but I know some people don't like to place their orders via the telephone, so it's a temporary option that will enable you to place (and pay for) your order securely online. 

Now those eagle eyed ones of you will notice when the new site goes live that we have had to increase our prices slightly. We've tried as hard as we could to avoid having to do this, but with wholesale prices on the rise, along with every day shop bills (rates, rent, insurance, phones, electric, taxes, fuel etc) constantly rising, we've been left little choice if we wish to pay our bills, and still be here for you all in a years time (sadly so many florists are closing due to spiraling costs and supermarkets, that we want to do all we can to continue providing you with the service you have become accustomed too. We have done all we can to keep the rises as low as possible (and we are still more than competitive when compared to others) but sadly we cannot afford to absorb the costs and allow the business to suffer losses. Hopefully you (our lovely customers) shouldn't notice too much of a difference, but forewarned is forearmed.  The service we provide will remain exactly as it always has.