Tulip scam: Most bulbs sold at Amsterdam, Lisse flower markets won't grow

Flower market in Amsterdam
Flower market in AmsterdamPhoto: Phototraveller/DepositPhotos

Most tulip bulbs sold at the popular flower markets in Amsterdam and Lisse never bloom, according to a study commissioned by the municipality of Amsterdam and the general association for flower bulb culture KAVB. "Research shows that there is structural deception of consumers when selling tulip bulbs at the Flower Market and the so-called 'Bloembollenboulevard' along the N208 in Lisse," the KAVB said in a statement.

The researchers bought tulip bulbs at both locations, the latter of the two translates to "Flower Bulb Boulevard," and tried to cultivate them. Only one percent of the bulbs bought in Amsterdam and two percent of those bought in Lisse blossomed. Moreover, it turned out that no tulip bought in Amsterdam matched the photo on the package, and nearly none of those from Lisse looked like the advertised flower.

Often the bulbs that are not sold before their expiry dates are not removed from store shelves, the city of Amsterdam said in a statement. An unsuspecting customer might purchase an expired bulb six months after its best buy date. "Someone who buys them and puts them in the ground, or even patiently waits until October to plant them, gets no results." The dried-out bulbs will not take root, something bulb sellers should know, the city said.

The KAVB is furious. "Millions of tourists and day-trippers are the victims of this every year. The tulip is our national symbol and the bulb sector is an important sector for the Dutch economy. As an association we think it is very bad that scammers structurally mislead consumers and damage the image fo the bulb sector", said René le Clercq, general chair of the KAVB.

The municipality of Amsterdam, the KAVB and the municipality of Lisse asked the Dutch authority on consumers and markets ACM to investigate and tackle these abuses. "The flower bulbs are our cultural heritage with which we can welcome 1.5 million visitors every year", said Kees van der Zwet, an alderman in Lisse. "Then it cannot be that the Bloembollenboulevard sells products that do not blossom at all."

“The municipality of Amsterdam is concerned about deceived consumers and the damaging effect this has on the image of the Flower Market and the image of Amsterdam," said Amsterdam Centrum director Ilse Griek. "I think it is important that fair trade takes place, and that entrepreneurs keep their sales promises to Amsterdammers and visitors. ”