Expensive Flowers Are Better Than No Flowers On Valentine's Day

According to enterprising scientists, people buy last minute Valentine’s Day gifts to avoid a fight, rather than to express love—as any lazy lover can attest. The marketing researchers devised three experiments to prove that our susceptibility to negative advertising is directly impacted by how long we wait to whip out the wallet.

For example, one experiment had participants consider a trip to Europe (the experiment was conducted one month before the end of summer). Some were asked to consider a last-minute summer vacation, while others were asked to consider a vacation over winter break, several months away. They were then presented with ads from a fictitious Web site, PriceAlerts.com. Some ads were framed positively: “Give yourself a memorable vacation!” and “Get the best deal!” Others were framed negatively: “Don’t get stuck at home!” and “Don’t get ripped off.”

Consumers who were planning a last minute trip were willing to pay $178 more for a vacation, on average, when presented with a “negative” ad as opposed to a “positive” ad. Conversely, those who were planning a trip that was still a ways off responded to the positive ads and were willing to pay $165 more for a promotion-framed vacation than a prevention-framed vacation.

Advertisers can muck with our sense of time to increase the attractiveness of “prevention-oriented” products like insurance or dental care.

Faced with an imminent purchase, consumers are confronted with the possibility that they may not fulfill their purchasing goal. Prevention frames note this possibility of a negative outcome and offer the product as a means to avoid it. Thus, under a time constraint, consumers are more motivated to purchase a product that helps achieve the minimal goal of preventing a negative outcome than they are to purchase a product that helps achieve the maximal goal of promoting a positive outcome. When a purchase is temporally proximal, a product that is “not bad” might, therefore, appeal more than a product that is “good.”

The lesson: think about your Valentine’s Day gift now so you don’t end up buying a kitschy battery operated doohickey at the last minute on the subway.

Valentine’s Day: At the last minute we buy not for pleasure, but to avoid pain [SciGuy]
Time Will Tell: The Distant Appeal of Promotion and Imminent Appeal of Prevention [The Journal of Consumer Research via SSRN]
(Photo: Sister72)


Edit Your Comment

  1. yourbffjill says:

    My guy and I celebrate Valentine’s day about 1-3 days after. 75% off chocolate? Super cheap roses? Sign me up!

  2. nrwfos says:

    @yourbffjill: I like your way of thinking. I’m not a “romantic” that treats one day as a celebration of LOVE. I am much more attracted to the deals I (and DH) can get after the event. I’ve even suggested that we try the “Orthodox Greek Christmas” day
    of celebration so that we can have a great Christmas without going bankrupt. It’s just the practical side of me.

  3. ElizabethD says:

    Guys, trust me. ALWAYS bring or send flowers, preferably roses. Damn the expense and the cliché.

    I am not a frilly girly-girl type, but on Valentine’s Day and our anniversary there had damn well better be a vase of beautiful flowers waiting for me! Believe me, unless your beloved has violent alleriges to flowers, you cannot go wrong.

    And forget about candy; by February we’re all frantically counting carbs and calories in prep for bathing-suit season.

  4. AuntNi says:

    @ElizabethD: You are so right! My DH is normally a good guy, but a few days away from Valentine’s Day, he always brings me a dozen roses, making a huge deal out of how he didn’t want to pay full-price on V-Day. Tip to guys: never brag about how cheap you got your wife’s V-Day present, if you want to reap the benefits of said present!

  5. yourbffjill says:

    Seriously? Guys, trust ME. If you want someone who’s not so shallow that they insist you get them the same stupid full priced bouquet every year on certain dates, then go ahead, shop for a bargain, get them something thoughtful any day out of the year, and if they dump you for it, breathe a sigh of relief because you definitely dodged a bullet.

  6. ShortBus says:

    There’s no hard and fast rule. It depends on what kind of woman you’re with–and there’s a whole spectrum of them out there. Some will get pissed if you spend a lot on them for V Day, others will get pissed if you don’t. But I’m the practical type and tend to be with the similarly-minded women.

  7. snoop-blog says:

    i bought my wife a dooney and bourke. chalk up some more brownie points here!

  8. darkclawsofchaos says:

    @yourbffjill: why can’t women be like you, I mean a lot of guys think that way, hell I mean he love is there, but they want you to listen to those evil corporations and throw money away in the prospect of love. A few of my friends are practical but the majority is still under the false illusions of romance. Though my friends tell me thats whats keeping me from those cute looking blonde bubble heads.

  9. whitecat says:

    Here are a few tips for you guys buying flowers:

    Roses are too expensive on Vday. They mark them up about 500% in February and the mass production and huge shipments ensures that you get crappy roses that won’t last.

    Buy orchids instead. Orchids are elegant, exotic, sexy, and they last for weeks – compared to Vday roses, which fade and droop in a few days.

    If you must buy roses, DO NOT buy from the supermarket. Go to a florist or a wholesale floral warehouse and get the freshest.

    Buy just the flowers, not the arrangement in a vase – it’s another ripoff. Don’t have them delivered, take them yourself, if you can.

  10. flowergirl says:

    @whitecat: agreed (mostly- personally, i dislike orchids). I work in a high end flower shop; roses are much more expensive (for us as well – we’re not price gouging here) and the quality is poorer than at any other time of year. for the $100 you’d drop on a dozen roses in a vase, spend the same amount but instead ask your florist to create an arrangement based on your gf/wife’s favorite flower, or color. a dozen roses is BORING done to death and stuck in the mud, show her you thought about her personally. Also, and I can’t emphasize this enough, order your flowers for a couple days before or after. The day of Vday, everyone working in the flower shop hates you. Sorry, that’s just the way it is after 3 contiguous 14 hour days in rose thorns up to your knees. You’ll get vastly better service and much better flowers days before or after the 14th. My personal favorite part of Vday is when I get to start saying, “I’m sorry, we ran out of red hours ago” and watch them panic….

  11. UpsetPanda says:

    Orchids, lke @whitecat: said are inexpensive compared to the roses…sometimes a few orchids with some hydrangea or something a little less expensive would really liven up a bouquet. The flower market is largely designed around special occasions and holidays, but if you go against the grain and still want to give something, that’s a good way to go.

    I alwas keep a few vases in my house…not only do I like flowers (instant brightness to a room) but then flower companies and florists can’t charge you $15 for a $5 vase.

  12. Melt says:

    I always order way ahead of time for Valentines day. Most sites like 1800flowers.com let you put in orders up to 3 months in advance. So order up, use a promo code and save some money while not forgetting to do it…

  13. bmwloco says:

    Since courting, and now in 6 years of wedded bliss, I’ve always given my wife a Hershey Bar and a bottle of Night Train on Valentines day.

    So far, so good.

  14. ahwannabe says:

    Guys, remember that scene in Sense and Sensibility where–oh that’s right, you never saw it. Okay, let me sum up: Kate Winslet is reclining on a sofa, and Alan Rickman comes in with some fancy hothouse flowers, which she recieves politely but cooly. Then this other guy (can’t remember actor’s name, sorry) comes in with a bouquet of wildflowers he picked himself, and her whole face just lights up. That’s the way you do it.

  15. burgundyyears says:

    @ahwannabe: LOL! I’m guessing that movie did not take place in Michigan. Fresh wildflowers in February indeed…

  16. ironchef says:

    I do it for the bootie call.

  17. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @ahwannabe: That’s more because Winslet’s character, being all of seventeen at that point, thought Rickman’s character was a decrepit old man, while she had a giant flaming crush on the wildflower guy.

    The real lesson is: if the girl likes you already, you can get away with a cheap last-minute gift and she’ll think it’s thoughtful. If she doesn’t, you’ll have to spend a lot more money to get her attention, and it still might not work.

  18. loueloui says:


    DH? David Ortiz brings you flowers on Valentine’s day? You must be special indeed. He really should be spending that time getting ready for spring training though.

  19. Alexander says:

    We got married on Feb 11 so we celebrate our anniversary/valentine’s day together. I am a lucky one though, as even before marriage my wife did not care much about valentine.

  20. savdavid says:

    My partner agree not to give each other anything. Free is best.

  21. jrdnjstn78 says:

    I can think of a ton of other things I like to get then some flowers on Valentines. I’d be happy getting cheesecake for Valentines!

    why not buy her a rose bush and she pick her own flowers every Valentines.

  22. MYarms says:

    I boycott Valentine’s Day. Its a stupid made up holiday used to drum up business for our failing economy. Instead I spend that day with one of my friends whose birthday is feb 14th.

  23. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @MYarms: Valentine’s Day is not a made up holiday. If you had said it is overly commercial and contrived I could possibly agree with that – although I like it.

    “Saint Valentine’s Day is a saints day commemorating Saint Valentine on February 14. It is the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other. The holiday is named after two men, both Christian martyrs among the numerous Early Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

  24. ahwannabe says:

    @MARTHA__JONES: Or to go back even further:

    “February 14th & Juno Fructifier or Juno Februata:
    The Romans celebrated a holiday on February 14th to honor Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses as well as goddess of marriage. In one ritual, women would submit their names to a common box and men would each draw one out. These two would be a couple for the duration of the festival (and at times for the entire following year). Both rituals were designed to promote not only fertility, but also life generally.
    February 15th & Feast of Lupercalia:
    On February 15, Romans celebrated Luperaclia, honoring Faunus, god of fertility. Men would go to a grotto dedicated to Lupercal, the wolf god, located at the foot of Palatine Hill and where Romans believed that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf. The men would sacrifice a goat, don its skin, and run around, hitting women with small whips, an act which was supposed to ensure fertility.”

  25. Mr. Gunn says:

    I agree with the florist, A dozen roses is done already. Think of something new.

  26. theblackdog says:

    The BF and I are skipping the flowers and candy for our first Valentines Day making teddy bears for one another at Build a Bear Workshop.

  27. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @theblackdog: Awwww…

  28. evilinkblot says:

    My gf hates Valentine’s Day even more than I do. The last two years we’ve just hung out.