Bad Transcription Means 1-800-Flowers Card Implies Dead Grandma Had Diarrhea

Douglas, a reader of the New York Times’ “Haggler” column, decided to send flowers with a lighthearted message to his grandmother’s funeral instead of attending. He sent them through 1-800-Flowers, dictating his message for the card to the customer service representative who took his order over the phone: “FAR WELL GRANDMY YOU HAD A GOOD RUNS.” Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

When you want flowers sent at the last minute or shortly before before the day’s delivery cutoff, you have no choice but to call the vendor directly on the phone, like it’s 1989 or something. That means dictating your message, unless you have access to a fax machine.

He had no complaint about the flowers, but was unhappy with the message. Anyone who read the card could probably figure out what he meant, and they would be confused, insulted, or just amused.

This card was supposed to say, “Farewell Grammy, you’ve had a good run.” Douglas noted that the customer service representative wasn’t a native English speaker (though that doesn’t always mean that the call center is in another country) and seemed to have trouble taking the message down. Douglas saw the mangled message when he received a confirmation e-mail.

Here’s the first consumer lesson in this story: Douglas e-mailed his complaint, but sent it to the return address of the order confirmation e-mail. That’s usually not an address that can receive messages. When the Haggler contacted 1-800-Flowers, indeed, they had never received a complaint about this order. They issued a full refund for the flower arrangement once they learned of the error. “We offer extensive training to our customer service agents, which provides them with the opportunity to help our customers express themselves perfectly with our thoughtful gifts,” a 1-800-Flowers representative told the Times. Or make inadvertent poop jokes at a funeral.

A Parting Sentiment, Lost in Translation [NY Times]