Ice Age

Written by Gay Smith

Dilemma: How to defrost a (floral) Neanderthal mentality

I live close to a very cool store that is part of a local chain in Portland, OR. These stores specialize in locally grown meat, poultry and produce. They offer everything from bulk flax seed and hemp massage oil to organic Air-Maui pineapples. Displays are beautifully merchandised including informative signage, product samples, origin info, no-questions refunds–the works! Yes, they offer flowers, too.

Perusing the flower display, I introduced myself and asked how they handled the flowers. Welcome to the Pleistocene Era! Buckets are not washed since “we change the water every other day, so they really don’t get dirty.” A chop ‘n drop tap-water routine best describes the processing routine “because the bouquets move so fast, treated water doesn’t matter.” When I asked if she gave flower food sachets to consumers, she replied. “No…I don’t believe they make any difference in vase life so I don’t carry them.” Finally, I asked if she would be interested in sampling Chrysal T-Bags for use in her display buckets. I handed her container of 50 (free) T-Bags, whereupon she plucked out one. Nothing I said could convince her to test a few in display buckets.

As I continued through the store, I noticed produce stockers busy filling displays while offering samples of a new orange variety. In seafood, I stared at beautifully displayed salmon fillets while customers listened to an explanation on the difference between Coho and Steelhead. In cosmetics, a clerk engaged me in a discussion about the healing effects of West African Shea butter. The deli clerk discussed the benefits of quinoa and explained that their food containers are biodegradable while offering samples of various salads. As I headed out, the floral clerk was dumping her display buckets and I swear that “clean” water looked green and nasty to me.


  1. mharwell December 30, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Uhg! That’s sad! Must be nice that her business is supposedly so great. The flowers are probably selling so quickly because they aren’t lasting more than a day or two. So the customer needs to buy more often!

  2. mactech1 January 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Gay-welcome to my world. The locally grown/fresh markets have quality and freshness as a differentiator for everything except…flowers. I’m not sure about the exact business models for different stores. Certainly, stores with vendor-managed inventory and unmanned floral departments are tougher to educate. But manned floral departments should be looking to do everything they can to distance themselves from big box stores.
    Personally, I use flower food (yes,Chrysal) on everything that comes in the door-even flowers from my yard–as sick wilted flowers do nothing for me. I haven’t penetrated the psyches of people who think otherwise.
    I made a short video of flower quality and sent it to a regional director of farmer’s markets in my area. So far, the local boutique growers who display at these are a little more open minded. I’ll let you know if I have any success, as they would be a good group for you.

  3. janalee January 30, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I am the florist for a chain grocery store, and we use ALL the professional products available. We’ve been using T-Bags for years and offer individual packets of preservative to all our customers.

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