Brian's Blogs

The Arrogance of Serenata Flowers

It never fails to amaze me sometimes how some firms ever manage to stay in business. I’m not talking about problems with cash flow, which affects all businesses at one time or another. No. I’m talking about the cavalier way in which they treat their customers, expecting them to return to use their abysmal services, as if they have a god-given right to assume that their business will carry on regardless of how bad the service is that that they offer.

A classic case in point is Serenata Flowers - – whose corporate arrogance beggars belief.

Serenata Flowers is a sister site of Serenata Wines, Serenata Chocolates, Serenata Hampers and Serenata Plants.

Their web site sounds enticing (even if their grammar is appalling!): “London florist Serenata Flowers delivers beautiful fresh flowers in the UK. As an independent florist, we cut out middlemen and offers cheaper flowers by buying flowers direct from the best growers and flower auctions around the world. Our flowers are fresher that what you will find in traditional flower shops in the UK, since we buy flowers internationally delivered to the UK and shipped out via our Free flower delivery service the same day.” (sic)

As an afterthought, it adds “For last minute flower deliveries we have partnered with local florists throughtout England, Scotland and Wales to offer same-day flower delivery” (sic)

On the web site it also lets you know that Orders placed within a certain time frame will be accepted for the following day…

… while they also give a “guarantee” that they will deliver on time, every time

As I wanted to send some flowers to someone with a 60th birthday in two days time I decided to try them out giving a full 48 hours notice. Unfortunately, the web site crashed twice as I was placing the order, and also “decided” to include a paid-for card when I had not checked the paid card check box. I wrote to them:

Hi - your web site has been really bad this evening and has twice forced me to return to the very beginning of the order process. I did NOT want a paid-for card, and although I checked the free card box, it still added a paid for card. Please will you amend this order to include only a free card and not a paid-for card. Thank you.

I received a reply from Lily Calyx, Serenata’s Head of Customer Services, saying “Further to your recent contact with us regarding order Q3854996 in which you informed us that you wished to change the products in the order, we wish to inform you that we have organised a refund of £2.99 back to the payment method used when placing the order. Please note that it may take 1-3 days for the refund to show on your statement."

All well and good, you would think … except that when I clicked on that link above it took me to correspondence between Serenata and another of its customers who was complaining about late delivery. (It’s no use trying to click on that URL now as Serenata removed the page after I complained about their “security”!) So much for their Security and Privacy promise!

As I hadn’t heard anything from the intended recipient two days after the flowers should have arrived, I decided to check Serenata’s web site, where they have a tracking facility.

What’s this? The “parcel” is still in the depot ready for dispatch? I wrote to them immediately:

Just what is going on with your web site? I placed this order to arrive on January 26th but STILL your site [on the 28th] says the order is at the depot awaiting delivery! Please CONFIRM that these flowers were delivered on the date specified and which I paid for. I am in Beijing, China, and have relied on you to carry out this order properly but I have had nothing but problems with your web site. Can you please tell me what time of days these flowers were delivered?”

Exactly one hour and 45 minutes later, Franny Cook from Customer Services Admin replied:

I can confirm that your bouquet was delivered on 28/01/13 at 15:05. Please accept our sincere apologies for the late delivery of your flowers on such an important occasion. As the flowers arrived late we would like to offer a 20% discount off of a future order. Simply use the voucher code ’##### [number hidden]’ when you place your next order.

Were they trying to be funny? Did they honestly think that I would be using their service again when they had failed to honour their contract the first time around? I wrote back again…

This is simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!!! You failed to deliver on a very important occasion and to expect me EVER to use your abysmal service again just beggars belief! I am absolutely furious. Your web site stated categorically that you would deliver on the 26th. And it took a complaint from me to actually trigger some action from you guys to deliver it at all - two days late! This is absurd. Kindly rebate the 20% off what you have already charged me straight away and stop this nonsense. I am absolutely disgusted!

This time Hannah Mills in Customer Service Admin wrote back: “Please be advised, we have recieved (sic) a response from the couriers: Good Afternoon,Thank you for your enquiry. Unfortunately due to the extreme weather we had Friday night, Saturday morning, the driver was unable to deliver this, it has however been delivered today. We do apologise for any frustration and upset caused on this occasion.”

Just a moment though… doesn’t their web site state categorically that “we cut out middlemen”? So what are couriers if not middle men?

And sure, there had been snow that weekend; but it hadn’t stopped my daughter being able to drive some 200 miles to get there. I wrote back again:

You are now adding insult to injury. The fact that my daughter was able to drive all the way from the Midlands to this address for a family reunion on the 26th shows that the roads were passable and your courier company is not telling the truth. Your company entered into a contract to deliver the flowers on the Saturday morning. You failed to do so. Worse still you didn’t even let me know. Neither did any action even start to be taken until after I had contacted you on the Monday afternoon UK time ... it was midnight here in Beijing … asking what was going on. I now repeat - I expect you to make compensation for the embarrassment caused me and the fact that you failed to honour your contract. If I have to escalate this believe me I will do so. Do not fob me off with excuses. I want to know what you now intend to do to bring this miserable episode to a conclusion.

Mark Davis, their Customer Service Manager now took up the baton …
Thank you for your email Apologies for any upset or embarrassment caused. As advised by my colleague, this was delivered late due to the bad weather that we experienced and unfortunately this is something that was out of our control. We appreciate that some of the roads in the area we accessable [sic], however some of the roads were very icy and as a result of this the driver was not able to make any deliveries that day. As stated in our terms and conditions, we are unable to offer any form of refund or resend due to the non-delivery as this was out of our control and cannot accept any responsibility for this inconvenience.

Yet again, your favourite blogger wrote back…
When you took my money you confirmed delivery on January 26th. And your web site states categorically "Our Guarantee - the freshest flowers guaranteed delivery on time, every time". It was only on the Monday afternoon AFTER I had complained that your team should get off its collective backside to send out the delivery that you made any effort to deliver, even though I now understand the roads were perfectly clear in the morning. Your website also goes on to say "Our Guarantee - If you are not 100% happy with your Serenata experience, we will offer you a full refund or replacement..." Well I am certainly NOT 100% happy so please organise a full refund without any further delay.”

Note that wording of theirs – not we MIGHT offer… but we WILL offer.

But this time Faith J wrote back… “We do understand your frustration, however the issue may have been enroute to your recipient that the weather had affected the roads for delivery, rather than the roads near to your recipients address.” Errr… can you say that in English, please, Faith? “…during adverse weather conditions … we cannot accept responsibility for the late delivery of the order. Therefore, in the event of adverse weather conditions, we aren’t able to refund or offer re-delivery of affected orders.”

She also manages to avoid the fact that along with all the other “guarantees” on their web site it states categorically “in the event of non-delivery on the selected delivery date, we will either refund you in full or redeliver your order – it is your choice, just let us know.”

So, dear blog readers; where we are at the moment is a stand off with Serenata basically saying “Get lost dear customer. We have your money and you can carry on singing for it.”

But those of you who know me well know that I will not give up. I intend to post this account on my Blogger pages which typically get around 300 regular readers every week. I will inform Serenata of the URL so they too can enjoy reading all about themselves.

If I get no satisfaction from them, it will then be posted on my main web site which gets around 3,000 visitors every week. Failing that too, it will then get onto Facebook… well, you get the idea…

Oh, and dear Serenata customer service agents, you might care to know I am a journalist and I have a track record of embarrassing companies such as yours into starting to give real customer service rather than trying to hide behind the small print (which in the case of your web site you conveniently hide on your Help page).

I will of course continue to give you, my blog fans, full up to date coverage of how this develops.

Oh, and as of the time of writing, Serenata's tracking service still says that the flowers are in the depot!

Addendum 1. - 31/01/2013
Five days after the flowers should have arrived and three days after they did arrive, Serenata's web site still lists them as arriving in the local depot ready for dispatch!

Addendum 2. - 31/01/2013
Message from Katie Upton in Customer Service Admin: Dear Brian, Thank you for your email. Unfortunately we are unable to view the link as security setting will not allow us to, if you could please forward your comments to us directly we will do our best to assist you.

Oh what a shame! I will write to them again, this time with the link to both web sites that currently carry this blog entry!

Addendum 3 - 31/01/2013
My reply to Serenata: "What a shame about your security settings. I would suggest that now as well as yesterday's blog entry:
you also try to get in to:

Of course, you could hide once again behind your security settings, but this episode is not going to go away!

In the meantime, as per your web site's advice: "Our Guarantee - If you are not 100% happy with your Serenata experience, we will offer you a full refund or replacement..."
(Please note the wording: not we MIGHT offer… but we WILL offer)
So as you know I am very unhappy with what has gone on, I would now like to claim a full refund for this order. I await your reply.

Addendum 4 - 31/01/2013
One of my blog fans informs me that she was so insensed by this blog that she wrote to Serenata's web site to complain of their poor service! Thanks Suzie. Much appreciated!

Addendum 5 - 01/02/2013
Lily Calyx picks up the baton one final time: "Further to your recent contact with us regarding order Q3854996 in which you informed us that your order was delivered unacceptably late, we wish to inform you that due to the 100% satisfaction guarantee, that we have organised a refund back to the payment method used when placing the order. Please note that it may take 3-5 days for the refund to show on your statement. We would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the poor experience and inconvenience caused."

Bravo Lily! Finally common sense prevails. I won't now be leaving polite messages on your FaceBook page; nor will I be posting comments about you on my FB page either. Herewith the matter rests!

Oh, and your web tracker still lists the flowers as being in the warehouse ready for dispatch!

Addendum 6 - 12/03/2013
I am getting oh-so-tired by the endless spam messages that Serenata continues to send out to me. Does anyone really expect me to use their services again? Be warned dear blog readers - once they have your eMail address Serenata will stop at nothing to spam you for every possible occasion they can think of!

Oh, and your web tracker now lists the flowers I ordered as "Out for delivery"

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