The Society of American Florists reached out this week to Postmates and Google, asking the companies to remove the courier service’s links from florists’ local Google Listing pages and prevent those links from automatically populating in the future. SAF is also discussing the legality of this practice with outside experts and reviewing similar complaints from small businesses in the restaurant industry.
“In most cases we’ve heard about, the Postmates links have appeared without florists’ knowledge or agreements with the courier service,” said SAF’s CEO Kate Penn. “The links redirect consumers to the Postmates’ website, where consumers can input a customized order and are promised timed delivery — e.g. flowers in 45 minutes.”
In an email to Postmates and Google My Business executives, Penn stressed that, while some florists may want to supplement their existing delivery infrastructure with a courier service, “that should and must be the florist’s choice … Anything short of first getting express permission from the florist to have a presence on its local Google listings page is in essence hijacking what would have and should have been a direct order from the consumer to the florist and their offerings.”
Worse yet, Penn noted, “because the consumer is redirected from the florist’s local Google listing to the postmates.com site, the florist has no control over the pricing or the online experience and offerings.”
SAF is also reaching out to government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, on the legality of such listings.
At press time, SAF had not yet received a response from the FTC, Google or Postmates — and florists who took steps to try to proactively remove the links themselves were facing long wait times, when they received a response at all.
“From what we understand, it can take up to a week to get your listing removed, which is why we are pushing hard for a faster resolution to this issue from Postmates and Google,” Penn said.
Retail florists began noticing the automated link in the leadup to Valentine’s Day — one of the busiest times for the floral industry.
Sam Bowles, general manager and creative director at Allen’s Flowers and Plants in San Diego, said his team spent more than an hour on the phone with a Google customer service rep this week attempting to remove the link.
The exercise was “incredibly frustrating,” he said, with Google first directing the Allen’s staff to contact Postmates and then, in a follow-up email, suggesting action in 14 days — a timeline that offered no comfort to Bowles as his team moved into final prep mode for Valentine’s Day.
“[The Postmates link] definitely gives consumers the impression not just that this is a way to order but the way to order [from local florists],” Bowle said. “Last Valentine’s Day, I had at least two very negative reviews where it turns out the customer never dealt with us, but instead was ordering through Postmates. We had no control over pricing or the experience, but customers definitely thought they were going through proper channels and it reflected on us very poorly.”
In Louisville, Kentucky, Robin Michler, co-owner of Michler’s Florist, Greenhouses & Garden Design, was able to get the link removed earlier this month — but only after repeated efforts, via phone and email, and multiple conversations and attempts at dialog with both Postmates and Google.
“I did get it removed, but it is a hassle,” Michler explained. “It required more steps than it should. I can see the benefit for some florist partnering with businesses like Postmates [for occasional courier services], but I don’t think this is an ethical way for them to get into the florist delivery business.”
Based on feedback from Michler, Bowles and other floral professionals, along with insight from outside industries and SAF’s own research, the association is advising florists who do not want a link to Postmates on their Google listing to:
- Review Google Listings. Check to see if your shop has a Postmates live link.
- Contact Postmates. Tell Postmates to remove its link from your Google Listings page, via email as well as by calling them directly, (888) 815-7726.
- Contact Google. Submit the same message to Google via email: firstname.lastname@example.org and also call Google My Business Customer Support (844-756-8495). We’ve heard from one florist who was able to successfully remove the link on his page earlier this month after reaching a customer support rep.
- Update your own “Order” URL on the business listing. (While you can’t remove the postmates.com URL, you can add in your shop URL, so it’s listed first.)
- Communicate. Remind customers that the best way to delight friends and loved ones with flowers on Valentine’s Day or any day is via direct contact with your shop. SAF suggests this verbiage to post on social media, along with a photo of your designers in action:
Quick Valentine’s Day reminder! For our best service and the highest quality Valentine’s Day gifts, always order directly via our website, xxxx, phone , (xxx) xxx-xxx, or by stopping into our physical store at XXX Main Street. Third-party courier services operate outside of our business.
- Train. Be sure your staff is aware of potential orders from Postmates and other courier services. Create a plan on how to handle such orders, including response strategies for any disappointed customers who place orders through unaffiliated courier sites.
SAF will continue to push for a response from the companies and update the floral community on this issue. In the meantime, if you wish to have the link removed, “we urge you to keep persisting – and please reach out to SAF to share your story or get help deactivating the link by emailing email@example.com or logging onto safnow.org and using LiveChat to connect with an SAF staff member,” Penn said.
Katie Butler is SAF’s senior vice president.