Everyone knows the tough economic conditions are affecting business owners, especially small business.  I’m optimistic by nature and I really believe things will eventually be alright.  The thing that is really bothering me is how nasty and dirty competitors are becoming.  I don’t know if it is just in my industry but I can’t believe how ugly it is becoming.

I am sure that the average consumer has no clue as to the kind of tactics that are being used to manipulate consumers  to try and steal business away.  I really feel that it is important to bring it out in the open and hopefully educate the consumer on this important  matter.  First let me say, that this has nothing to do with “fair” competition because I believe that competition is what makes our system so great for consumers.  But it has everything to do with business owners that lie to the public, who are cheating the cities out of the much needed tax revenue, & using the internet to make bogus false claims & reviews.

It is just plain common sense to assume that every city out there needs all the tax revenue they can get,  right?  So tell me why, the city can’t collect taxes from a business that claims to be located in my city and tricks people into buying because they think they are ordering from a local business?  When I ask the city, they tell me that they can only collect tax if they have an address in the city.  Now they have a local phone number, so they appear local, they say they are located in our city, but are not, so because the crooks know the loopholes in the law, they get away with stealing business from the local “real”  business, that is located in the city,  you know the kind of “real” business that pays rents, and wages, and taxes and donates their services to the community and the city.

So here is an example:  A so called Kirkland company has registered more that 6 local business locations on Google Maps and other review sites this past week, all supposedly  located in Kirkland Washington, with 6 different names.  The problem is that this business is located in a different city, and operates under a different name.  Actually to be more accurate, they operate under 100’s of different names, in my state alone.   It would be fine with me if the consumer knew that they were ordering from the shop with XYZ name located in XYZ town, but instead they use the names of legitimate local business owners and claim to be us and post bogus business names and phone numbers.  I have yet to find a way to solve the problem.     Is this okay,  I don’t think so!

Now this is not personal, because this particular business pretends to be every other business in our state as well.  They change one letter or add a dash or  a period.  They  add an  “S” to Brittany, or they add a dash  between Brittany and Flowers.They claim to be in Bothell, and  in Woodinville, and in Redmond, in Seattle, in Duvall, the list just goes on & on.  I point this out to  suggest  that when you order on the internet you check the spelling carefully and also be careful you are not being forwarded to a call center or a legitimate business that is using deceptive practices by pretending that they are local.

I recently had someone try to call and thank us for a job that we had done, but it did not go very well, this scam person was advertising in Google sponsored links, and using my company name, with their website information, and phone number so when the customer tried to call me, it went to this fake Kirkland store, which is not in Kirkland at all.

The terrible results of this problem affect us all. I had a lady call me the other day, and she was so cautious but I was actually I really proud of her.  I almost had the order done, when she got nervous because I asked her the address for the Hospice Center where she was wanting to send flowers. She thought I was a fake flower shop. I am sorry but I can’t tell you how to get to every facility in my town and I certainly don’t remember the addresses of every business or home we deliver to.  I was so offended when she said, “I’m getting the feeling  that I need to call a local florist.”   Wow!!! That really surprised me!  I understood it completely, but honestly I was so offended and ticked off!  This lady has obviously been stung a few times when ordering online.   I felt really sad, because this is the fall out of bogus business listings on the internet.  I’ve even had customers that have ordered from this bogus store, call and complain to me that their flowers were not delivered.  They thought they had  ordered from us because this bogus advertiser was using our name on the Google sponsored advertising. I don’t know the answer, but something needs to be done to stop this kind of thing from happening.  Check out Blumenthals blog, ( check my link on the right hand side of the main page for his site ) as he has some great examples of similar things happening to other business owners and even individual families who are falling prey to people who have something against the person, or think it is a funny way to get back at someone personally.  All these review sites, like Fave, Merchant Circle, yelp, etc, all have the same kinds of problems.

There are numerous flower shops located in our town , some of which are  located in their homes,  three true retail florists, and numerous florists who are located elsewhere but who deliver to our town.  I don’t object to someone using their favorite florist that delivers to Kirkland,  I deliver to Seattle and elsewhere, but every one of my customer’s knows what city I am located in, and just where I will deliver my work.  My customer’s actually call me to send flowers out of town because they trust me and they appreciate  my style, they know that I will do just as good of a job out of town as I do in town.   They also know that I always tell them up front if it is too far for me to deliver. I have friends in the business that will take care of it for “me”  and the wire service charges a fee.  It costs you the consumer  an additional 5-10 dollars for me to handle it nationally and you have my guarantee that if the other florist doesn’t carry it off to excellence, you can call me, and I can take care of it for you.  Call me, always, and I will “give” you the name of a local florist, just so you don’t fall prey to these bogus marketers! Call me on my 800 number if you are in the USA and I will find you a legitimate florist!

I am so happy that our local wire service “Teleflora” recently decided to terminate the membership of  this local online nationwide scam artist.   I am continuing the fight, and a group of florists have contacted the Senator in our state who wrote the original bill against deceptive advertising and we are pushing for a law that covers online advertising as well. I’m really tired of the deceptive advertising  and the harm to both the consumer and small business.   Wish us luck, I’ll keep you posted on the outcome.  If you have suggestions, please comment as well.