I Won $20?

This morning I got an email notification of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit. I thought it was related to a notification I received almost a year ago about a suit brought against several moving companies, including the movers I had used in my last move. That lawsuit was over extraneous fuel surcharges added to moving charges right at the time gas was approaching $4/gallon (for the first time). This particular suit means hundreds of dollars in settlement monies for each plaintiff, once settled. Of course, these things sometimes take years. So, naturally, I was intrigued and a little excited. Had a settlement finally come through?

It turns out the lawsuit, filed back in my home state of California, was against 1-800-Flowers. I had placed a couple of orders through them during the specified period in 2006-2008 that the suit covered, and I was now entitled to 2 $10 vouchers. Look out! $20! In vouchers, not even cash!

According to the lawsuit, 1-800-Flowers added $10 shipping charges to orders where no shipping was even remotely involved. The orders were electronically sent to a local florist, whose delivery charges were already included in their agreements with 1-800-Flowers. (Sometimes, 1-800-Flowers actually does ship flowers; I've received flowers from them via UPS.) This meant that 1-800-Flowers was making $10 additional profit off of these orders. Most companies would get around any potential lawsuits by calling them "shipping and handling" or "processing fees." Something legally fluffy to cover their corporate asses. But, 1-800-Flowers didn't, and some person in California noticed. And decided to sue.

Which makes me ask, why on earth would you spend the money and legal resources to sue over $10? How many orders did you make through 1-800-Flowers during that 18 month period that had this extraneous $10 charge added to it to justify hiring a lawyer and suing the company? What are the lawyers getting out of this? The settlement is in VOUCHERS. Coupons. No cash is exchanging hands. Someone on the plaintiffs' side is losing money.

Meanwhile, 1-800-Flowers is making money off of the settlement. As I said, no money is changing hands. 1-800-Flowers isn't cutting a gazillion $10 checks and mailing them to customers. We've been given coupon codes to use when we place our next order. So, they made $10 when they shouldn't have, and to "pay us back," we get $10 off the next time we do more business with them. In order to get our $10 "back," we have to spend money. We paid them money we shouldn't have had to, legally, but to get what is rightfully ours back we have to spend more money. The plaintiffs are coming out the losers. I "won" two $10 vouchers, and I can't even use them within the same 6 month period, let alone on the same order. And we can't use them during the 7 days prior to Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. Gee, I wonder why.

How many plaintiffs are going to call or log onto 1-800-Flowers and order something because they have this voucher, thinking they're getting ahead? I long ago stopped using 1-800-Flowers because I send flowers to one person: my mother. It is much cheaper and easier for me to call up the florist practically across the street from her house and order directly. When I spend $30 there, I get twice the flowers that I do through 1-800-Flowers, voucher or not.

Basically, this is a good demonstration of a frivolous lawsuit. Who won, legally? The plaintiffs! Who won, in actuality? The lawyers (on both sides) and the defendants. Yay for American Civil Litigation, where everyone's a winner!

1 comment:

  1. We local florists agree the settlement is terrible for consumers, but the basis of the lawsuit wasn't frivolous.

    Shoppers were told shipping (delivery of the flower arrangements) was 'free', but it wasn't in the cases of designs delivered by local flower shops.

    A large group of local flower shop owners petitioned the US Federal Trade Commission about the issue in 2007. You can read more about it in Free Flower Shipping: Molnar v 1-800-Flowers.