EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Customers nationwide are accusing a New Jersey company of posing as a local florist.
They say instead of getting the flowers they ordered, they’re left with disappointing bouquets and broken hearts.
When his local florist closed, Brian Woodruff, of Toms River, ordered a $70 “Ruby Romance” bouquet for his wife from TroysFlorist.com.
“When I send her flowers, they’re usually nice and bigger. They’re big,” he told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.
His wife ended up receiving something worth a fraction of the price.
“Very simple, very cheap, very disappointed,” Woodruff said.
It was the same story when Susan Hatch, of Texas, thought she was sending a $100 “Beauty in Bloom” for a relative’s 105th birthday.
“Googled ‘local florists in Park Ridge, Illinois’ and they came to the top of the search engine,” Hatch said.
Each time CBS2 searched for a “local florist” — from Plano, Texas, to West Milford, New Jersey — Troys Florist was one of the top results, boasting it’s a “family-run business” with a “huge loyal following within the community.”
A former employee who asked we hide her identity says orders nationwide really go through a house on Route 18 in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
“How would you find the real local florist?” Rozner asked.
“The same way like the people do. We go on Google,” the former employee said. “So once you put in your order for, let’s say, $100, we send it out to a local florist.”
But they allegedly called in a much cheaper arrangement, she says, at the discretion of owner Perry Kessisiades, who would keep a cut of the money as his commission.
“He would be on top of us in order to make that percentage everyday,” the former employee said. “Anywhere from 40% up was perfect.”
She says she was fired after complaining about two weeks’ worth of pay she was owed. She says she earned $15. She also alleges that arrangements under $60, some for funerals, were never fulfilled.
Legitimate flower shops told CBS2 confused customers ended up posting bad reviews about them.
Mario Milewski, the owner of Christy’s Florist, located across the street from Troys, says he stopped doing business with them months ago.
“That put my business, my name at risk, my reputation,” he said.
CBS2 showed him some of the arrangements people have been getting.
“Absolutely terrible. My kids can do a better job,” Milewski said.
At least 350 customers nationwide have complained to the Better Business Bureau, mostly in the last year. It’s given the company an F rating.
“We’re assuming our letters and our notices about the complaints that we have on file are reaching the business and they are choosing, for whatever reason, not to answer,” said Melissa Companick, president and CEO of the New Jersey Better Business Bureau.
CBS2 tried to get some answers. First, we walked in undercover and were told, “It’s an online company.”
Minutes later, Lisa Rozner approached with a mic, saying, “Excuse me, I’m looking for Troys Florist. I don’t see one flower in here … I see three people inside this business. Not one person wants to come to the door to answer why this business is being marketed as a local florist shop in Texas, in Minnesota, even in Hawaii.”
CBS2 also went to what ex-employees say is an affiliated restaurant down the street.
A woman there said, “Perry’s out of the country, actually.”
She also said CBS2 had inaccurate information about Kessisiades’ ties to Troys Florist, but the New Jersey Division of Revenue lists him as the owner.
He registered a sprawling Colts Neck mansion with a backyard pool as his home, living lavishly while angry customers say the company offers a measly 10% rebate.
Customers have disputed the charges with their credit card company to get a full refund.
“I’m going to stick to a local florist that I know, face to face,” Woodruff said.
Similar to customers’ experience, CBS2’s multiple calls and emails to Troys were never returned.
A Google spokesperson says it’s actively investigating whether Troys is violating company policy and could take action.
Google says if people believe sites might be spamming their results, they can report them here: support.google.com/webmasters/answer/93713?hl=en
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs says it has received at least 48 complaints against the business but it cannot confirm or deny whether there’s an investigation.