The day the rain ruined everything: florist offers refunds to dejected Valentine's Day romantics
Horrendous traffic caused by heavy rain in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, along with load-shedding, saw South Africa’s leading online florist fail thousands of its Valentine’s Day customers on Thursday.
It was NetFlorist’s biggest fail since it opened for business on Valentine’s Day 20 years ago.
"We should have planned around those downpours better," MD Ryan Bacher told TimesLIVE on Friday. "We are in fix mode now - whatever it takes".
Not since 2013, when NetFlorist failed to deliver about 3% of its Valentine’s Day orders, has it had such a difficult day. On Thursday the fail rate was more like 8%-9%.
"In 2013, we got about 18,000 orders; this year it was double that.
"So that’s a huge number of people we let down and our staff of 250 are very dejected today. This will hit us hard."
With 60% of NetFlorist’s Valentine’s orders being in Joburg and Pretoria, the heavy downpour affected the bulk of their deliveries on their biggest day of the year.
"On Valentine's Day our orders are 15 times what they are on a normal day," Bacher said. "We start planning in September, and we had about 12,000 temporary drivers trained and ready for action, but we just weren’t prepared for the conditions out there.
"They were supposed to get to our pick-up points by five in the morning, but it took some of them two hours to get to those points. And when they eventually hit the road with their deliveries, they got stuck in a traffic nightmare.
"I don’t know how we can plan for conditions like those in future, but we have to find a way."
NetFlorist wasn’t the only online florist affected by nightmarish traffic on Thursday.
Joburg-based Dipalesa Flowas tweeted on Friday morning: "We would like to apologise for the poor service we delivered yesterday. We apologise for not communicating properly with you when we received challenges. We are in touch with everyone affected to remedy the situation."
Customers who were let down by NetFlorist will be refunded, Bacher says.
"We’re legally required to, but it’s also the right thing. We have to refund if that’s what the customer wants. We don’t argue."
"NetFlorist ruined Valentine’s Day for a lot of people, including mine," tweeted Marné Jacobs on Friday. "A generic apology and late delivery will not save them, they better come back in a big way or I won’t even think of using them ever again."
For many of the let-down romantics, their anger was compounded by not being able to get hold of NetFlorist by phone or email, and the company’s Facebook page was flooded with their complaints.
Charlie Hammick wrote: "I have tried calling all the numbers on your website, nothing is being answered, and I’ve sent so many e-mails. My order still has NOT been delivered. It’s a surprise gift to the love of my life for Valentine's Day, which is ending in like four hours. When I placed the order, it said it would be delivered today. I know it’s Valentine’s Day and things are hectic, but then hire extra cars and drivers, or at least let your customers know that things are running late or can’t happen anymore. All I feel this Valentine's today is HEARTBROKEN because of NetFlorist."
Others complained about the poor quality of the flowers that were received.
Bacher said customers weren’t able to reach the company by phone or e-mail because their systems couldn’t cope with the deluge.
"We’d employed extra call centre agents, but there were just too many calls for the system to cope with."
The best way for customers to communicate with the company currently was via e-mail, Bacher said.