ProFlowers Freezes Over $100 By "Verifying" Customer's Card

Anne tried to send some flowers to her stepmom last week, but changed her mind after she saw the final price, which at $64 was too much for her budget (the tulips she picked out were listed at $29.99, but all the additional fees doubled the price). ProFlowers sent her an email offering her a discount if she’d complete her order, so she went back but discovered the tulips were sold out, and she abandoned the shopping cart a second time. Now her bank account has over $100 in “pending charges” because ProFlowers pre-authorized the full amount of each transaction and they can’t seem to reverse the authorizations. It’s been a week and she still doesn’t have her money.

I’m sure you’ve been flooded with Valentine’s Day flower delivery disasters, but here’s a disaster that happened without me even placing an order:

On the 13th (day before Valentine’s Day), I went to Proflowers.com to send some flowers to my stepmom. I intended on getting the cheapest arrangement because I don’t have a lot of disposable income, and it turned out to be tulips for $29.99. So I proceed in processing the order, and get to the confirmation page, which displays my total as over $64 (9.99 for rush delivery, 9.99 for the vase, blah blah blah), so I close out of the window (there is no “Cancel Order” button) and go about my business. A little while later I get an email from ProFlowers saying they noticed I didn’t complete my order, and they’ll give me a free vase and 10% off to complete it. So I log back in, go through the whole process again, and get to the confirmation page, and the total is about $54.

Still not what I was hoping, but if I wanted to pay less, I shouldn’t have waited. So I hit confirm, and it tells me they’re out of the arrangement I wanted to get, and I should choose another, more expensive arrangement. I feel overwhelmed and a little scammed, so I close the window again, and order them from somewhere else.

I get yet another email promising the same free vase and 10% discount, which I ignore.

Yesterday, I log into my bank to find two pending charges on my debit card for the totals for the orders I DID NOT CONFIRM on the ProFlowers website. I immediate call customer service ($100 is a lot of money to me, and to not have it is very hard). The woman in customer service sounds genuinely concerned, takes all my information, apologizes profusely, and assures me I’ll get a call soon from someone who can fix this.

I wait all day, no phone call. I miss a call at work (today, 4:16 p.m.), from ProFlowers, telling me to call a number for someone who can take care of the charges on my account. I call them back, and a woman again apologizes profusely, and starts to take all of my information and tells I’ll get a call soon from someone who can fix this.

I said, but I’ve already submitted this claim and gone through this process. They HAVE called me, and told me to call this number and someone would help me, and now I’m just having to start all over? Meanwhile, there’s over $100 seized in my checking account that I absolutely did not authorize?

She was, again, profusely apologetic, and asked me to hold while she researched another method of recourse, and continued to apologize when she said this is the only thing she can do. I asked her what was going to happen when I keep going through this process and the charges naturally drop off my account, and she said, “Honestly, that’s probably what’s going to happen.”

So, not only has ProFlowers captured and processed my credit card number without my consent, they’re giving me the runaround until the problem resolves itself.

Somehow, not okay in my book.

No longer a ProFlowers customer,

Anne

Yesterday, Anne sent us an update that things were still unresolved:

FYI – after six phone calls and seven days, the charges for over $100 are still pending on my account for orders I didn’t place. Even one of their account specialists told me they “need to modify their card verifying process so it just takes a $1 or something.”

Because the banks were closed yesterday, they told me to call back this morning (a week after the charges were made) and they would take care of it, except the phone number is going straight to voicemail. I’m now overdrawn in my account as scheduled payments have come in.

Comments

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  1. chiieddy says:

    I hate to say this, but really you should not be using a debit card for online purchases. If this were a standard credit card, it would count against your limit but it wouldn’t effect you being overdrawn.

    Credit cards are not purely evil. They offer the consumer protections they don’t get from a debit card. If you’re responsible and IMMEDIATELY submit a payment (you can often do this free through your bank) for what you purchased, there will never be balance problems or interest charges. Just use your card responsibly!

  2. rmz says:

    I wonder how long it’ll take for that ProFlowers-shilling commenter from a few days ago to pop up in here.

  3. PatrickIs2Smart says:

    I feel your pain… United Airlines has $600 of authorization on my Discover card, even though the charges for the tickets have already posted individually. Discover said that they authorized they full amount, but then billed each ticket separately. So now I wait 10-15 days for the authorization to come off…

  4. rjstsas says:

    I deal with this all the time. I write programs that send authorizations to the credit card processors. The issue is two fold, getting the authorization to early in the sale and the bank, not ProFlowers needs to release the authorization. ProFlowers may send the reversal, but, unfortunately, most banks do NOT reverse the authorization when the transaction to remove the authorization is sent.

  5. Amelie says:

    The bigger problem, is why are merchants allowed to do this in the first place. It seems illegal to take someone’s money without their permission.

  6. SchecterShredder says:

    If it’s not illegal. It should be.

  7. Howie411 says:

    I almost had an issue with Proflowers this Valentines day. Purchased some roses and for some dumb reason they dropped them off at the apartment management office instead of my g/f apartment. I flipped out and sent numerous emails to Proflowers, in the end they credited me back the shipping cost.

  8. DeeJayQueue says:

    @chiieddy: because someone always says “use a credit card instead” or “debit cards suck don’t use them” in every thread involving a credit card.

    I don’t know about her situation, but it can be tough to even get a credit card these days. Start with the fact that every time you apply for one your credit takes a hit, and every time you get denied for one your attitude takes a hit. If your credit is less than stellar it can be very difficult to open a new account, and some people just don’t want to use credit for anything, regardless of whatever consumer protection the cards offer. That’s her choice to make.

  9. Toof_75_75 says:

    @rmz:
    The only thing I was shilling was the good experiences I’ve had with them. I’ve never had this problem, so I didn’t have anyway to mention this. If this had happened to me, I’d be pissed off too.

  10. NoWin says:

    @zouxou: …not illegal, and they haven’t “taken” the money, and the customer agreed to it in the debit-card/EFT disclosures. It’s call pre-authorization. This is just a temporary block on access to the funds. (Usually 3 business days, but your bank pre-auths may vary)

    Buuuut, bottom line – never use a debit card for online transactions.

    Remember: a debit card is like cash; you give out that number – consider it gone, or at the least, in a temporary block.

  11. MeOhMy says:

    @zouxou:

    It seems illegal to take someone’s money without their permission.

    In the pre-debit card days, they weren’t “taking your money.” The problem is that debit cards changed the game but it’s still done the same on the transaction end. The solution would be to come up with a way to verify that the funds are available without actually leveraging them. I can stick an ATM/Debit card in an ATM and check my balance without losing all of my money for the rest of the month so it seems whacky that there isn’t a better way to do it.

  12. sleze69 says:

    Isn’t this bank fraud? They effectively removed $100 from her balance without her authorization.

  13. darkened says:

    @Troy F.: I don’t see why they need to authorize the charges excluding for things like pumping gas where the final price isn’t determined because it’s not like a bank will ever not authorize the charge. That’s why they have over draft and over limit fees to make sure people exceed them…. Oh wait putting these holds on peoples funds and credit limits makes it easier to exceed them… Well that explains everything.

  14. mookiemookie says:

    They’re not just verifying the card, they’re verifying that the cash in the account for the amount of the purchase is actually there.

    Still sounds a bit shady that they did this before the OP actually submitted the order though. That’s wrong.

  15. ProjectGSX says:

    @SLEZE69:

    The money has not been removed. Its just frozen until the pre-auth clears.

    As others have said, don’t use your debit card online.

    Of course, my finances are tight these days and using a debit card is the preferred way to shop to make sure I keep things in order. It’s not easy.

  16. catskyfire says:

    I’m puzzled. Most places online, you go to an order confirmation page and THEN you go to a payment page. Is this place somehow reversed, where you hand over payment information first? In which case…run.

  17. bobosgirl says:

    That’s not really the point. She DID NOT complete the purchase. ProFlowers shouldn’t be pre-authorizing anything until she finishes ordering and completes. This is like going to the grocery store and having them scan your credit card for $400 on the way in because you MIGHT purchase that much, and then that charge is there- even though you only spent $50. @chiieddy:

  18. SWFL_Dan says:

    I love using my debit card for everything, but I also never, EVER put my card number in until *after* I’ve been quoted a total price.

    There are 2 places I use a credit card (you can get a secured one if you can’t get a regular one) – online if they ask for my card number before giving me a total, and at “pay at the pump” gas pumps, because they might authorize $1 or $150, you never know. You can get around that by going in and pre-paying.

    @DeeJayQueue: “some people just don’t want to use credit for anything, regardless of whatever consumer protection the cards offer. That’s her choice to make.”

    Yes, it is her choice to make. This sort of situation is also the consequence of that choice. There’s a balance – cars, for example. On one hand, yes, the car makers should make them reasonably safe. On the other, you should wear the seatbelt.

  19. bobosgirl says:

    @NoWin: So if they can hold funds for 3 days, and they’ve now done it for 7- how does this change the fact that she DIDN’T purchase anything? She never completed the transaction, and they shouldn’t be verifying and preauthorizing funds until she has agreed to purchase.My Visa card told mejust now- no way. Not only has what ProFlowers done is against Visa/Mastercard rules ( and the CS rep says yes, that does apply if that card has either of these logos on it), but it borders on illegal. She didn’t complete the order- and they had no right to “pre-authorize” any amount at all.

  20. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    I will guarantee you ProFlower submitted the refund right away but the funds are being held up by one of the banks. We have this problem all the time. Banks take the money we issue as refunds, hold it for 2-3 days, and then put the money in their customers’ accounts. In the meantime customers are mad because they dont’ have their money but there is nothing we can do aobut it because we processed the refund. Banks do this millions of times a day, hold onto the money for a couple days, and make a windfall in interest payments. And both the merchants and customers get screwed in the process.

  21. Rae12401 says:

    You have to realize the fundamental difference between credit and debit. With credit cards, a bank (or company) is basically extending you a loan. So when the company you are purchasing from authorizes an amount on your credit card, they are asking the lending company if they are willing to loan you that much. If the company agrees, they will “hold” that amount (or deduct it from your spending limit) until it’s actually charged.

    With a debit card, there is no loan involved. The bank that you have your debit card (checking account) with is not going to advance you anything. So when the company you are purchasing from authorizes an amount on your debit card, the bank is going to “withdraw” that money from your account. The company that authorized does not own that money yet, but the authorization indicates that they will be taking possession of it in the near future (when it is actually charged).
    If the bank did not “withdraw” those funds, then someone with $100 in their account could “charge” much more than that in small amounts and the either bank would be stuck paying the companies, or the companies would end up not being able to receive money for their services (theft).

    Remember, debit cards are just like writing a check. Once you’ve written that check, consider those funds gone. The downside of the ‘convenience’ of not having to write that check and mail it to your e-commerce company you’re ordering from and waiting for that check to clear is that your funds are debited immediately.

    There’s nothing illegal about this. It’s part of the terms you agree to when using a debit card.

    If the amount “authorized” ends up not being “charged” by the company, then your bank will replace those funds as per their own terms and conditions. You’ll have to check with your bank as to what those terms and conditions are.

  22. MeOhMy says:

    @darkened:

    Oh wait putting these holds on peoples funds and credit limits makes it easier to exceed them… Well that explains everything.

    Touche. That’s what I get for trying to apply conventional logic to banking.

  23. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    There is not a reputable shopping cart system in the world that allows a merchant to get a customer’s credit card number if the customer didn’t hit “submit payment” or something like that. Just typing your card numbers into the page is not enough to give the merchant your card numbers. Somehow in the process this customer authorized payment. She may not have thought she did but she did.

  24. ninjatales says:

    ProFlowers has a nasty habit of almost doubling the initial price. $39.99 roses will end up turning into $60 with all the shipping fees and additional taxes.

  25. LuvJones says:

    Isn’t it theft or fraud of some kind because she NEVER purchased anything from the site? She stated that in the article. SHE DID NOT CONFIRM THE ORDER WITH THE SITE. So essentially they are “authorizing” money that they are not entitled too. For products that were never bought.

    Let’s pretend we go into a B&M store and put stuff in a basket THEN decide you don’t want those items, should the store be able to “authorize” your card for those item left in the basket. No.

  26. Annewhodidntlikeproflowers says:

    Hi everyone – I’m glad to see a lot of conversation about the problem I had with ProFlowers and thanks to Consumerist for researching and posting my submission.

    I wanted to expand on my story – I use my debit card online for countless transactions, but the concerning aspect about this particular experience is that i didn’t confirm my order. i got all the way to the confirmation page, saw the total, and opted out. While my card was never actually charged (and to ProFlowers’s credit, their customer service reps usually sounded genuinely concerned and polite and eventually gave me a $75 comp for my next order), I had over $110 of the money in my checking account unavailable because of an order I didn’t place.

    Even their service reps expressed disdain for this, and agreed that most vendors verify a card by holding $1 – not twice the total of an order you didn’t place.

    Again, thanks for your comments, and thanks to Consumerist. Hopefully ProFlowers will update their transaction system to be a little less ivasive.

  27. jennej says:

    I ordered flowers from ProFlowers for my mom for her birthday last year. I paid using Paypal. The flowers were never delivered, so I called and they told me they were sorry, but the arrangement I’d ordered was discontinued and that I would get a refund. So not only did I not have anything for my mom on her birthday, but *I* had to call *them* to find out that the arrangement was discontinued. I waited about two weeks and there was still no refund, so I called and emailed several times. Each time I was promised that my refund would show up shortly. After about a month had passed, I filed a Paypal dispute. My money was refunded within 1 business day after that. I will definitely never do business with ProFlowers again.

  28. SadSam says:

    I’ve generally been happy with ProFlowers’ flowers but agree that the whole bait and switch price is annoying.

  29. Benstein says:

    Proflowers is the spamiest company I have ever purchased from. I had to add them to my block list because there spam messages are so friggen annoying.

  30. macinjosh says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: I would think the two emails from PF that said “hey, you didn’t complete your order.” would refute that.

  31. NoWin says:

    @bobosgirl: debit card vs credit card; the logo on the card is non-relevant to the issue. It’s HOW the card is used (as a debit or as a credit).

    Again: eft disclosure rules.

    Again: use a debit card – you’re going to get pre-authroized once you click that account sequence in and go to the next page. How and how much is pre-authorized is dependant upon the merchant (probably in print, albeit small, on the website) and the disclosure rules of the customers bank.

  32. kityglitr says:

    I really hate to say this, but any time your credit card is authorized, the business basically cannot do anything about it. No business on the planet has the ability to un-authorize a credit card once it has been authorized. At that point, all blame points to your bank. Your bank sets the number of days you must wait until an authorization is removed from your card. A good bank would verify with the customer AND the merchant that the purchase was not actually made and drop the authorization… however, I repeat, the merchant has NO CONTROL over this! I work in a hotel and see it all the time. People reserve a room with a credit card (or even worse, a debit card) that we must authorize before they check-in, then they decide to pay with cash or a different card and are confused by the “pending authorization” that remains on the card for anywhere from 5 to 10 business days. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to explain to a distraught customer that there is nothing at all that I can do about it. I tell them to call their bank, and remind them not to use a credit card in the future if they aren’t making the final purchase on that card. Debit cards are even worse in that a mere authorization results in frozen funds. Sucks.

  33. vermontwriter says:

    That’s the problem with ProFlowers. They don’t give you a total until AFTER you’ve given your card information. I won’t shop with any online merchant that does not give shipping and delivery charges right up front before payment info is entered.

  34. DrGirlfriend says:

    @SWFL_Dan: I agree about not putting in any card info until a final price comes up. What I’m not sure about is at what point a merchant authorizes your card — I thought it had to be after you clicked on the “complete order” button. It doesn’t seem like the OP completed her order at all.

  35. microcuts777 says:

    On a side note: My debit card purchase from ProFlowers.com is still pending today. I actually ordered the roses almost 2 full weeks before Valentines Day. My wife loved the roses but I still have a $98 charge pending on my account, which to me seems a little weird…

  36. timmus says:

    I find it weird how several days ago there was a string of about 10 messages applauding ProFlowers — yet I see nothing like that in here. Was that thread a pre-Valentine’s Day astroturf by ProFlowers?

  37. spryte says:

    Funny how everyone is all gung-ho on using credit cards for everything and anything, but then on posts related to credit card debt people get all high and mighty about not having debt and that people with credit card debt don’t have the right to spend two cents on anything, blah blah yadda yadda. It must be really nice to be so well off financially that you can use a credit card for every incidental purchase and then also pay it off in full every month. Not all of us are so lucky. I use a debit card for online purchases specifically so I don’t increase my credit card debt, which I thought was a good thing. I’ve never run into a situation like the OP’s and in fact have never had any sort of problem due to using a debit card.

  38. bobosgirl says:

    Again- she DID NOT purchase and according to USAA bank ( I called this morning before posting to ask) ProFlowers had no right to authorize ANY charge, even a penny. My suggestion? File a complaint with her state’s attorney general’s office, consumer fraud division. ProFlowers sent her 2, not 1, but TWO emails saying she DID NOT complete her order. They are allowed to charge ONLY when you complete your order, and you get that impending message “Your order is processing.”As I said, it’s like going to the grocery store and them charging you what they think you may spend as you walk in the door.@NoWin:

  39. ecwis says:

    @spryte: It’s called self-control. Some people have it, others don’t. You should use a credit card the same way you use your debit card (ie, you shouldn’t spend money that you don’t have).

    And this is really the banks fault that she hasn’t received her money back.

  40. barty says:

    I had the same thing happen with ProFlowers last week. I tried placing one order, then another, to find that both items were out of stock when it came time to verify the order. I look at the bank statement the next day and not only is there the charge for the last order that finally did go through, but two others for the amounts that I never even ordered! I looked again a day later and the two other amounts were gone, but it was still a little shocking to see my balance about $170 lower than it should have been.

    I think because of this incident, I’m going to pass on ProFlowers next year.

  41. erica.blog says:

    Authorization charge shouldn’t go on before any agreement to purchase is made — bad, bad, bad ProFlowers!

  42. Toof_75_75 says:

    @timmus:
    I was one of the people who was praising ProFlowers, but as I mentioned earlier, I was praising their quality products. All of my experiences with them have been very good and all of the flowers I’ve bought from them have been beautiful. I have never had this problem and have always received excellent deals through the use of coupon codes or referral codes.

    I would agree, though, with everyone who is writing that it’s a little suspect that you could end up getting overdraft fees for considering purchasing flowers or because they didn’t have what you wanted in stock. That is something Proflowers should probably look into fixing. Hopefully the power of the Consumerist will boom its mighty voice into the ears of the people over at Proflowers.

  43. jimda says:

    never never never use a debit or credit cardover the phone or internet. if you do this can happen to you.

  44. YouPeople says:

    She dodged a bullet. I ordered a $49 bouquet for my wife’s valentines day present, which cost over $100 after adding in the 2nd day shipping fee, the guaranteed *on* the second day fee, and the guaranteed morning delivery fee.

    When the flowers arrived, IN THE AFTERNOON, they showed up in a plain fed-ex box, with the gift card affixed. inside were the flowers and vase, but it was left up to her to assemble the actual bouquet and get water for it.
    I know you can’t ship a gallon of water in a vase, but sticking one of those green florists sponges in there and putting the thing together would have been a nice touch.

    I’m calling a local place next time.

  45. Kendra says:

    Here’s a suggestion:
    Never enter any credit card information unless you are 100% sure of your purchase.

    “testing the waters” – enter false info.

  46. anankesf says:

    The problem I’ve been running into more often recently, 3 times in the last month, is when my account gets pre-authorized twice for the same purchase. Neither the merchant or the bank has been able to do anything about this situation. Every time I get told that I just have to wait until the pre-authorization falls off.

    Once I was told by drugstore.com that the first pre-authorization was made. “because we didn’t have the merchandise in stock”, so when they actually got the merchandise they did the second pre-authorization. Of course when I asked why they were charging me for merchandise they didn’t even have in stock I didn’t receive a very satisfactory response.

  47. fearlessRich says:

    I am a Web site software programmer and have worked with the various credit card processing modules of our purchase process.

    @stanfrombrooklyn: Regarding your comment, “Just typing your card numbers into the page is not enough to give the merchant your card numbers.”
    That is not quite true. Since AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) has become such a hot tool used to create nifty sites, it is now possible for a Web site to be sending everything you type into a credit card number input box to the retailer long before you click the submit button. So, don’t be so sure that the company hasn’t received what you’ve typed into a page just because you didn’t hit the Submit button.

    @kityglitr:
    It is not necessarily true that the merchant has NO CONTROL. Our system uses fraud protection to make sure the user types in the correct address and security code along with the credit card number. The way our processor does this “fraud protection” is to actually push through an authorization (after the purchaser has agreed to purchase). If the bank says that the address or security code are incorrect, we do not complete the purchase. However, there is now a hold on the customer’s card for the amount attempted. It sucks, but that’s how it works. If the customer brings it to our attention, we are able to call the bank and have the authorization (hold) immediately removed IF the bank’s policies allow it. Some banks do, some banks don’t. But it is always a pleasure when we can tell the customer that the bank will be releasing the hold immediately. Otherwise, the bank will release it after their proscribed waiting period… usually 2 days to a week or so.

    Just wanted to share what meager knowledge I have no this topic.