1-800-Flowers Blooms on Undercover Boss

1-800-flowersOf all the people to blow your Undercover Boss secret identity, the last person you'd expect would be your brother, who just happens to be the CEO of the company. But that's what almost happened on the season finale of the popular CBS reality show Undercover Boss, which focused on Chris McCann of 1-800-Flowers.

Since he appears in commercials for the company, founder and CEO Jim McCann was just too high-profile to pull off an Undercover Boss gig, so his brother Chris, the president and COO, convinced Jim that "little" brother should go instead. But, "maybe because he just wanted to make sure he was in the show," laughs Chris, his brother Jim decided to show up at one of the flower shops where Chris was working undercover.

"I had to keep my head down and stay away from him," Chris said. "We look enough alike that someone might get suspicious." And Chris's cover had already been jeopardized when a store manager thought he recognized him at an earlier gig.

Then Chris was thrown off even more when his brother said he wanted to take some flowers home to his wife, and that "the new kid" should arrange them. "I'm in my 50s, and he's calling me a kid," Chris said. "He said he was doing it to have a little bit of fun with me, but I think he was doing it just to drive me crazy."

Learning from the experience

It's a good thing the stunt didn't completely blow the production, because just being featured on television will probably help employees of 1-800-Flowers more than the employees from any other episode. While taping, Chris discovered that there was a serious misconception about the company, and it was hurting business: Most people believe you can only order online or over the phone, yet there are actual 1-800-Flower brick-and-mortar stores all across the U.S.

"We actually started as your neighborhood florist," Chris McCann recalled. "We had 12 shops when we launched our online business in '91. We're still a full-service neighborhood florist in many areas."

He noted that 8 percent of their business is done online, but their next wave of growth is going to come from neighborhood flower shops -- like Sheryl's, whom he worked with in Waban, MA. She had run her own shop for many years, but went to work for 1-800-Flowers because she saw more room for growth there. When McCann went undercover, this new store was struggling for business. After the show, Sheryl joined forces with their local marketing group to increase store awareness. "She's become an integral part of the community -- parents stop in after they drop off their kids at school. It's wonderful." McCann says he'd like to create more jobs with more shops like this across America.

Adapting to the economy

1-800-Flowers has not been immune to the recession. Last year was the first year the company had to do some trimming, and didn't make its financial goals. The entire floral industry has been suffering of late. McCann reports that seven years ago, there were 33,000-34,000 neighborhood floral shops. Today there are about 18,000.

1-800-Flowers is branching out, if you will, developing Cheryl's Cookies and Brownies (nine stores and counting), The Popcorn Factory, and the brand new 1-800-baskets.com. Their goal is to carry gifts for everyone, for every occasion

Fannie May Chocolates is also part of their company, and it was in the chocolate factory in Canton, OH, where McCann had an I Love Lucy moment with a conveyor belt and some chocolate-covered peanut-butter pretzel nuggets. A worker named Nicole, who gets to work every morning at 4 a.m., did her best to try to straighten him out; but it's likely that this year, the plant will process a few pounds less than their annual 10 million pounds of chocolate. McCann promised Nicole that she would be included in future goal-setting discussions with upper-management to ensure that the people who actually have to meet those goals are taken into consideration. Also, McCann was so inspired by Nicole's work ethic that he set up an incentive program, which will start this summer, to reward people who surpass those goals.

Valuing the employees

McCann was constantly impressed by everyone he worked with: Dee, whose warm personality and personal connections with the people in the neighborhood is the key to the store's unmatched success, and Pauline, who brought years of expertise, skill and creativity to her floral arrangements, but felt that 1-800-Flowers' bouquets were a bit dated. In the end, Dee was delighted when McCann told her they were going to name a bouquet after her, Dee's Paradise, and Pauline was overjoyed when he invited her to help design next season's arrangements.

Jose, a 19-year-old production manager at the store in Brooklyn, NY, showed amazing enthusiasm, resourcefulness and energy, and stood out as someone who would make a great franchise owner some day. What made his success even more impressive was that he started working at the age of 14 to help support his struggling family. McCann promised to become his personal mentor, meeting with him once a week, and offered to pay the first $25,000 for Jose to open his own franchise, once he was approved. This would make Jose the youngest franchise owner in the history of 1-800-Flowers. Jose immediately called his mom to tell her the news.

"We're fortunate to be working with a company where the goal is to make thousands of people smile everyday," McCann said. His Undercover Boss experience made him recommit to see that the employees are smiling too, with everything they need to move forward and lead happy, productive lives. "We take smiles very seriously," he noted.

-- See salary info for a retail store manager and a florist.

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Very useful information. Thank you for sharing it.

September 17 2013 at 4:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


July 06 2012 at 9:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Can't believe big bald brother has audacity to be in the new ads. I also will not order from them for many reasons. Little bro should take off and start a business of his own. THEN I'd buy from little bro. My heart goes out to all the small shops that got put out of business by them. You most likely served your communities with much tenderness and care, of which this joker knows nothing about. Maybe you should all get together and raise money to incorporate and create your own large chain. Call Chris and ask him to head it up for you. Sounds like you'd put1-800 out of business if you did.

May 02 2010 at 8:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm so sorry Danny.... My mind works faster than my fingers do on the keyboard. It was so very nice of you to bring it to my attention. My mistake was not exactly a grammar mistake though – more a simple typo. (I very well know the difference between "be" and "been," - both forms of the same verb, "to be," one being present tense and the other past tense.)
The WHOLE POINT of my original post was that I hoped it was merely a typo on the part of Lisa Johnson Mandell when she used the word “adopting” in place of the correct word “adapting.” As I am sure you are aware, they mean two very different things. My implication was that I hoped she knew the difference in the meanings of the two separate and distinctly different words and had merely had an “oops” moment on the keyboard – one her proofreader should have caught before the article posted online. Unfortunately, I don’t have a proofreader…unless you are applying for the position(?).
No pots, no kettles – Are you always so sweet and polite and considerate of the feelings of others?

April 14 2010 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

800 Flowers screwed up delivering flowers to my mother on Mothers' Day TWICE to an address they had delivered to many times before. They won't get a third chance in spite of a discount coupon that went directly into the trash.

April 14 2010 at 2:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dees Paradise, is exactly like the one we have been making for years called Garden Of Grandeur,same kind of flowers in both same colors, the only difference is the vase,Dee's id olive green, Grandeur is white.

April 14 2010 at 1:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They did name an arrangement after one of their employees.....'Dee's Paradise'.

April 13 2010 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The older brother IS a JERK. He did a stupid thing that jeopardized the basic concept and trivialized the plan. He's a bully and he needs to be told off. What a creep.

April 13 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After watching this show I thought Jim was a total narcissistic jerk who got a thrill out of putting down his brother and expected the viewers to see it as sibling rivalry. I also noted the man didn't want to part with a dime and the new procedures they came up could only put money back into his pocket. Pure selfishness.

April 13 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why would anybody continue to support these big companys ? Knowing what we know today . ( Can you spell greed ? ) Go to your local hardware or grocery store etc. & see the personal attention you'll get . I rest my case .

April 13 2010 at 3:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bill's comment

When I had my Flower Shop, be for 1800 ran me and a lot of other local shops out of Bissness. I took pride in what I sold and respected the people who bought from me. Two things stick out in my mind, now first be for I tell you, think for a second and ask your self would 1800 Flowers do this.A eldery lady that lived in a small apartment complex,would order Easter Lillies, and pointasittas every year for her neighbors. 7 total, I always order 8 from my warehouse.You should of seen the look on her face when I delivered them and then knocked on her door, Telling her don't you deserve one to.This was my gift to her, for being a good customer. Second a young woman can into my shop, her young daughter had just died from Lupus.She was looking for a nice but cheap casket arangement.I knew she didn't have much money.I told don't worry we'd work something out.I made the best arangement,I'd made in years, using Black Magic Roses.Baby breath.And delivered it to the church.With a card telling her, we don't always have to exchange money sometimes you do what your heart feels. Paid in full. So sorry if my spelling is bad but My mind thinks faster then I can type.

April 14 2010 at 1:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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