Where to Find the Best Value on Flowers for Valentine's Day

By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com

Sending flowers to someone this Valentine's Day? Chances are you've been tempted by coupons and daily deal vouchers for online flower retailers. Even with a Groupon, a bouquet can easily cost $80 or more, so you want to make sure you get what you pay for. At Cheapism we set out to find the best cheap flower delivery site and were surprised to find that not one major online provider lived up to our expectations. Consumer reviews abound with reports of late and unfulfilled orders, unhelpful customer service, and less-than-appealing arrangements that bear only the vaguest resemblance to online photos. Shoppers can very likely avoid these pitfalls and even save money by turning to a local florist instead.

Buying from a local florist is your best bet.

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Valentine's Day prices vary, but when Cheapism priced out standard, non-holiday delivery of a dozen red roses from local florists and four major online flower retailers, we found that consumers can expect to spend about $50 at a brick-and-mortar flower shop, compared with $59 to $86 online. That's about 15 to 40 percent less for local flower delivery. We based our estimate on information from the Society of American Florists, an industry trade association, and a sampling of local florists in New York and California, so consumers may see even greater savings in less expensive markets.

A look at the business models of sites such as FTD and 1-800-Flowers reveals that they often pass orders along to local florists for fulfillment anyway. By contacting a local shop directly, you can bypass these middlemen and any fees they charge for arranging a delivery. A florist who doesn't lose a cut of the profit from your purchase to a referring website should be able to add a little something extra to your bouquet and provide more value for the money.

Finding a well-reviewed florist near the recipient does take a little research on Yelp or Google Maps and a quick phone call to place an order. If you want someone else to do the work for you, and perhaps deliver candy or a gift along with the flowers, consider turning to a site such as TaskRabbit and hiring a vetted assistant to help you out. The service is available in only a few cities, however.

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Still prefer the convenience of online ordering? ProFlowers isn't immune to the negative reviews that plague the industry but has earned some positive feedback online, as well as the highest rating in a recent survey of customer satisfaction with online flower retailers by J.D. Power and Associates. Orders often ship directly from growers or company warehouses, so they arrive in a box and must be arranged by the recipient without the benefit of a professional florist's eye. The pricing also isn't the cheapest (about $74 for a dozen red roses and a vase with standard delivery).

Regardless where you turn for flower delivery, it's a good idea to place your order now if you haven't already. Florists have been preparing for the rush for weeks and orders are stacking up. With Valentine's Day being one of the busiest days in the flower industry, there is no surefire way to prevent mistakes. However, Jenny Scala of the Society of American Florists suggests having flowers delivered a few days before Valentine's Day to hedge against the possibility of a mishap in the madness. She points out that having flowers at the office all week long as others hope for deliveries could make that special someone feel a little extra special.

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