Chris Hassaan Francke placed an order with local flower-delivery startup UrbanStems on Monday to deliver a surprise Valentine’s bouquet to his girlfriend after she got home from her grad school courses. Francke, who works as a bartender in DC, arranged for the delivery between 5 pm-10 pm, so it would greet her when she got home late that night. But the flowers never arrived. At 9:46 pm, he received an email from UrbanStems that said the company “had a large surge this morning that caused flower brownouts throughout the day. In other words, we screwed up today.”
As it did with other customers in DC and New York, UrbanStems refunded Francke and gave him a $25 additional credit. Still, many Washingtonians have vented about the company on social media for messing up on the most important flower holiday of the year because arrangements came late in the day or not at all.
UrbanStems co-founder Ajay Kori says he can understand the disappointment after a compromised flower delivery. In his apology letter to customers, Kori wrote “We started UrbanStems because I was once almost broken up with over birthday flowers that never arrived. This makes it all the more disappointing to me that we failed you in the same way yesterday, and I could not be more sorry.” Kori explained in this email that the company “underestimated” what it would need to handle Valentine’s Day.
In a phone call with Washingtonian, Kori wouldn’t say how many orders UrbanStems received for Tuesday, but he did say volume was ten times what it is for a typical day. He declined to give a figure on the financial hit the company was taking but did characterize it as “very significant.” As well as the refunds and credits, UrbanStems, which has 80 employees across five cities and 40 at the DC-area headquarters, won’t take any more orders for the rest of the week while it contacts each of its customers to try and make things right. Kori even gave out his personal cell number in his apology email. “My wrist keeps buzzing,” he says.
“It’s not really about the money,” says Francke, who was celebrating the first Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend. “I don’t think she expected anything to be there but it would have been a nice surprise.”