Get the Best Blooms for Your Buck
If you’re planning to buy flowers this Valentine’s Day, pick a good florist using these cost-saving tips from Consumers’ Checkbook.
Friendly reminder: Valentine's Day is coming. Planning to buy flowers for someone special? Make sure you pick a good seller — and that you don't overpay.
There are a lot of petal peddlers out there. And according to consumer ratings, many disappoint with delayed deliveries, wilted flowers, broken promises and arrangements much different than shown online.
Because floral customers often place orders for a product that's delivered sight unseen, it's no surprise that problems occur. Florists must somehow interpret customers' tastes and build a work of art fitting those needs. The best floral shops make this happen with fresh products, prompt delivery and competitive prices.
Through a special arrangement, BECU members can access Consumers' Checkbook's ratings of local florists for quality and price free of charge until Feb. 29 via: Checkbook.org/BECU/Flowers.
For one dozen long-stem red roses, Checkbook's undercover price shoppers found prices among local florist shops ranging from $24 to $78; for stargazer lilies prices ranged from $3 to $12 per stem.
Choose Your Style
If you want an arrangement delivered, seek exotic or unusual flowers or need advice, your best bet is a retail florist. But if you need a typical bouquet, want to arrange the flowers yourself, or saving money is a high priority, you have other options.
Different Types of Florists
You can find different selections of flowers and different levels of service at a variety of vendors. Here are how the most common flower shops stack up for price and customer satisfaction.
Supermarkets and Warehouse Clubs
Supermarkets, warehouse clubs, and other mass merchandisers count on big-time foot traffic, selling flowers to shoppers who stop in to buy a few things, but leave with a cartful of other stuff. What you'll get ranges from basic to full-service.
Supermarkets and big-box stores offer one big plus: price. Checkbook's shoppers found that supermarket prices averaged about 60% lower than those at traditional florists.
In the Puget Sound area, you can by flowers where the florists do. Pacific Floral Wholesale and Seattle Wholesale Growers Market Co-op, both in Georgetown, are open to the public. These wholesalers not only offer incredible variety, but also tremendous savings: Checkbook's researchers found the wholesalers' prices were as low as the least expensive retail florists they shopped.
Good retail florists can help with any flower-oriented need, plus delivery, wire services (where a company sends orders to be fulfilled by florists) and helping with big events like weddings. Their business models and styles range from wire-service-only (with that standard FTD look) to custom shops creating original designs arranged with unusual or exotic flowers in vintage or artistic vases.
Many florists evaluated by Checkbook received high ratings from surveyed customers, but the ratings for some shops prove that a rose is not a rose: Consumers often lodged complaints about late or missing deliveries; wrong items; poor-quality products; lousy attitudes; and wire-service arrangements with fewer (or lower-quality) flowers than ordered.
National Networks, Online Options, and Beware a Thorny Situation
To send flowers to someone outside the area, you have a few choices: ordering directly through a florist in that city; asking a local florist to coordinate things or turning to a national floral network.
Checkbook's take: Work directly with a retail florist — either located near you or where the recipient lives — rather than relying on a national outfit. The best florists keep track of their experiences with florists elsewhere and will follow up to make sure your blooms are delivered.
Another good option: Find a good florist in the distant city. By cutting the local store from the transaction, you avoid wire service charges and other fees.
You'll also communicate directly with the florist who will create the arrangement.
Since using a national service or an order-taking company means customers have little control over the final product, there are many unhappy flower buyers out there. A very common situation: An order-taking service charges a customer too little for an arrangement and sends the order to a participating florist, which rejects it. The service then sends the order to a different florist, and again, after several hours, the job is rejected. Sometimes this continues for days, even weeks. Just as bad, a florist chooses to fill the underpriced order but skimps on flowers. This often happens when an underpriced order is accepted by a disreputable florist willing to take a little money to get rid of old flowers.
Pay With a Credit Card
No matter whom you hire to arrange your arrangements, pay by credit card. If a florist leaves you unhappy and is unwilling to make things right, you can contest the charge with your credit card company and possibly get back your money.
About Consumers' Checkbook
Puget Sound Consumers' Checkbook and Checkbook.org are a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate and help consumers. Checkbook also evaluates local service providers — home improvement contractors, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, stores and more. It is supported by consumers and takes no money from the companies it evaluates. BECU members can try Consumers' Checkbook for 30 days for free and can get 50% off their annual subscription.