Beware online firms posing as local florists

When sending flowers for Valentine's Day, many go online and look for a florist located in the town where they want to send the flowers.

A site for a Palo Alto florist, for instance, shows a nice woman in one photograph and a nice flower shop in another. But when you dig deeper into the website, it turns outs that is based in Los Angeles.

"There is a lot of activity on the Internet, there is a lot of activity in print media where folks are trying to take the allure or the attraction that local florists have," says Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski.

He's sick and tired of this type of thing and got a new law passed. "What the law says is if you are going to use these local names, then have a local address there," he says.

If you don't, the assemblyman says you can be sued.

Dirk Lorenz of Fremont Flowers and Gifts worked on the legislation with the assemblyman.

"We want to make sure no one is deceiving the consumer into thinking that they are dealing with someone locally when they are not," Lorenz says.

Lorenz believes he has lost as much as 20 percent of his business to this type of marketing by out of area companies.

"This practice has led to more florists going out of business, more brick-and-mortar florists -- and we are losing our network of same-day delivery florists. It's affected our business dramatically," Lorenz says.

Lorenz pointed out an Internet listing of a florist in Fremont that has a local phone number and no address, but there is a map. When we checked out the location, it was an apartment complex, and no florist was there.

Another site for a Fremont florist also did not include an address but had a map. But again, the location did not have a florist on the premises.

We called both listings and received the same recorded announcement for florist concierge.

Back on the Internet we found Oakland's One Stop Flower Shop, San Francisco's One Stop Flower Shop and San Jose's One Stop Flower Shop. All three sites had different telephone numbers but all linked back to an address in Vancouver, Wash.

We made multiple contacts with the sites mentioned in the report. None responded to a request for more information. The law on the use of local names went into effect on January 1.

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