All illustrations by Adam Waito
For the past two years I managed customer service at a national flower company. I only had to threaten to call the police on angry customers twice. As you can imagine, February 14 is the worst: it's a day when "you fucked up my engagement" is considered a mild complaint.
Every year on Valentine's Day we delivered hundreds of bouquets, almost all of them the unimaginative red-roses-and-chocolates combination. I was never a fan of the holiday, but working 16-hour days was a nice change of pace from an otherwise boring gig, and seeing florists forced to draw penises on cards and boyfriends jokingly mention their partners' thongs in messages almost made the lack of sleep worth it.
I got used to being blamed for breakups, and customers caring more about their money than their partners. For Mother's Day, kids usually just want something nice sent sometime soon, but on Valentine's it's like watching gremlins being fed after midnight. Vicious husbands and boyfriends look for any reason to complain about the boring gifts they're giving. Requests like, "Can't you just write the card message for me? You're a woman, you know what they want," were common. But between recommending our most Instagram-able flowers and acting as a personal therapist to worried couples, I witnessed a few truly unique scenarios.
Poems are hard
Last year, I got a call and the customer on the other end sounded like an elderly lady. She asked me for step-by-step instructions for ordering online, but the internet was obviously not her strong suit.
After claiming to get errors on our website she finally caved and decided to place her order over the phone. Between chatting about the weather and picking out the appropriate bouquet, she told me she's calling on behalf of her son: a deployed soldier who couldn't get to the phone himself, but wanted to surprise his girlfriend on Valentine's.
As we got to the last stages of the order, the lady was getting audibly more anxious. I figured she had errands to run and hurried the process along to the last step—the card message. She didn't answer. I asked again and she responded with a deep sigh. Stressing the message was from her son, she said, "Roses are red / Violets are blue / Poems are hard / And so is my penis." I giggled and she hung up without another word.
Death at a Valentine's Day
If there was a lull in phone calls I would often help the overworked florists. They usually asked me to write card messages and stick them in the appropriate bouquets. One time, I got to work and saw two names from orders I had just taken. Feeling personally responsible to get everything right, I carefully penned both messages and attached them to the bouquets.
Later that day, I got an angry phone call from one of the two customers.
It turned out I had accidentally switched the messages, and the woman on the phone was not happy about it. One of the orders was sent to a new widow by her family and instead of deepest condolences, she received a profession of undying love.
"How could you put a Valentine's card on a funeral arrangement?" she asked as I sheepishly blamed the florist. Dripping with cold sweat, I called the second customer and explained the situation. The world's coolest girlfriend calmed my anxiety and made a bad joke about undying love. The florists never asked me to help again.
Don't read the card message
Gay couples sending each other flowers on Valentine's Day is nothing out of the ordinary. A sweet man called me to send two dozen roses to his boyfriend's work and I happily obliged. The order was sent out as scheduled but the boyfriend wasn't at work to get it. Not giving up, the driver dialed the recipient and asked for his home address. We train our drivers to never mention the gift is flowers to avoid ruining a possible surprise, and this case was no different. The gentleman provided us with an alternate place of delivery and we thought nothing of it until the owner of the company, who was helping with the phones, came out of his office laughing hysterically.
Apparently, he'd just fielded a phone call from the recipient's wife. She was fuming and wanted to know who sent the flowers to her husband. We didn't cave even after she begged, pleaded, and cried for us to tell her the name. She said this could end her marriage, but the owner still didn't budge and reveal the name of the gay lover. After she hung up in a rage, we looked up the full order. The sender's name was signed at the bottom of the passionately loving message. We did not hear from any of the three again.
During Valentine's Day, there's a lot of stress on drivers to be punctual, often not leaving them much personal time to eat or even go to the bathroom. They start making deliveries first thing in the morning and only return to the warehouse in the late afternoon. This is, after all, the biggest money-maker of the year for florists, and more deliveries means more cash. Most staff working during the holiday run exclusively on energy drinks, but drivers get the worst of it.
"I don't know how to tell you this," were the first words one client said to me over the phone. After awkwardly beating around the bush and insisting to speak to a manager, the caller finally told us the problem was with the driver.
Her delivery was going according to plan. She was at home and answered the door right away. The driver gave her the correct order and she loved the flowers. But after getting the gift, she peeked out her window and was shocked by what she saw. The driver, unable to hold it until he reached the nearest gas station, unbuckled his belt, pulled down his zipper, and took a leak on the lady's driveway.
Flowers with greens
When making a delivery to an office building, drivers often leave the flowers in the mail room. Employees then distribute them to the recipients and the driver saves precious time. When I got a Gchat from one of our agents in Pakistan saying the driver left a package in a mail room, I wasn't surprised. I told Sharjeel to alert the recipient like he usually would. I watched three dots disappear and reappear in the chat window and wondered why it was taking so long to type, "OK." Sharjeel told me I didn't understand what he was trying to tell me.
He fielded a call from a disgruntled mail room employee who got our number from the business card attached to the flowers. He struggled to explain to Sharjeel why he was calling just as much as Sharjeel was struggling to comprehend the situation. As the mail room employee prepared to bring the flowers upstairs to the intended recipient, he noticed something beside the bouquet. He wanted to know whether the bag of weed, undoubtedly left behind by the driver, was part of the package. The driver never fessed up to the mistake and we told the caller to flush the drugs. Whether he actually did, we'll never know.
Can I see your ID?
A love story for the ages. A shy bouncer called us to send flowers to a stripper he had a crush on at his place of work. He picked an extraordinarily expensive bouquet and wrote a sweet message, obviously nervous about the grand gesture. Endeared by the devotion, we put extra effort into the order. We already envisioned a happy relationship and a rom-com starring Owen Wilson.
Although his name was on the card, the stripper had little idea who the sender was. She called us to ask his name or phone number, but for confidentiality reasons we had to clear it with the bouncer. Nobody wanted to be the bearer of bad news so everyone in the office pulled straws. With a deep sigh, my co-worker dialed the number. She explained the situation to the gentle giant and told him not to give up. But, like most people on Valentine's Day, he ended up heartbroken and out a hundred bucks.
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