Every year, after the major flower-giving holidays, readers send us photos of what they ordered and what they actually received. It’s a dismaying scene, and what we really want is to never publish another of these features again. That’s why we’re sharing what we’ve learned about the flower business from readers and from florists in the 10 years that Consumerist has been around.
Go directly to your local florist
While you might see a deal advertised online though a national wire service that promises a dozen red roses delivered to your sweetest for $50, this deal has a catch. The local florist that actually fills your order may end up losing money on the deal.
Wire services were useful thirty years ago when you didn’t have easy access to contact information for a florist near your faraway loved ones, but that’s no excuse today. Just make sure that the local florist you contact is real (more on that in a bit).
Tina Semock, a florist in the Chicago area, explained to us that she isn’t part of a floral wire service like FTD or Teleflora because it simply doesn’t work out for her economically.
“The site will tack on a $10 or $15 ‘service fee,’ which you would think goes for delivery,” she explained to Consumerist. “That goes right in [the wire service’s] pocket. The florist doesn’t see any of that… You’re paying $20 or more just to place your order online.”
That’s right: you could be paying the wire service 40% or more of the total just for the privilege of not bothering to look up the phone number or website of the nearest florist to your loved one’s home or office. Don’t do that.
Avoid the fake local florist trapImage courtesy of Ashley
You’re sending flowers to your mom, who lives in Omaha, so naturally you type “Omaha florist” in Google to find a nice local florist. You end up on a landing page that lists hospitals and schools in Omaha, and that says they deliver to Omaha, so you place your order. You’ve fallen into the fake local florist trap.
These sites pretend to be florists local to your recipient, but are actually affiliate sites that skim a percentage off your order and then pass it along to one of the national wire services, which in turn takes more money off the top. The actual florist filling the order gets even less money… and the quality of the flowers they use will probably be crappier in turn.
How can you avoid this? When searching for a florist in a city in that city or town, make sure that their website gives a local address and phone number located in that city or town on their website.
Cross-check with your favorite online yellow pages source or Yelp to make sure they’re a real store that really exists. If you’re feeling really ambitious, give them a call.
The 3-D penaltyImage courtesy of Sarah Sphar
Since virtual reality flower shopping isn’t yet a thing, we’re forced to use two-dimensional pictures to shop for flowers. That’s why the three-dimensional penalty is important. It’s why flower arrangements seem so much smaller when they arrive in person.
A florist explained to us that the reason why flower arrangements appear so much smaller in real life. “[A]ll of those pretty pictures you see on [wire service] websites are arranged in a 2-dimensional layout, with all blooms tilted toward the camera,” she explained to Consumerist.
“It’s deceptive – the photo arrangements are done in a way that implies a “round” arrangement (like a ball sitting on top of a vase) – it’s implied that there are more flowers that you can’t see.”
How can you avoid disappointment? Count the flowers.
Both of these photos show a 12-bloom arrangement, but the picture on the left implies twelve more roses on the other side that aren’t there in real life. You expect the arrangement that arrives to be taller and fuller unless you’ve counted the flowers.
Remember, it’s a holiday
It’s a minor botanic miracle that enough roses are ready at exactly the right time, and if the harvest doesn’t come out just right, shortages can mean higher prices. However, a florist with Bloomers in Chatham, NJ points out that maybe you should think outside the dozen roses.
“There’s a lot more to Valentine’s Day arrangements than red roses and baby’s breath,” she points out. Have confidence that your significant other will appreciate something unusual.
Keep in mind, after all, that at a peak flower-ordering time, florists’ expenses and what’s in season will be different. What you order for your anniversary in August and how much it costs will be different from what’s available to them wholesale during a holiday in the winter, and the price will differ accordingly.
Consider calling the local shop you plan to use and asking for a “florist’s choice” bouquet. By giving them the opportunity to make something special with what’s most plentiful on hand, you’ll get a bigger and fresher bouquet than if you chose an image on the website.