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Cheapism: Best Valentine's Day flower delivery

Feb. 5, 2014 at 1:33 PM ET

The ever-popular rose can prove quite pricey for Valentine's Day, so consider your options before ordering. Here, Colombian growers select roses for export in a farm in Facatativa on Jan. 31, 2014.
JOHN VIZCAINO / Reuters
The ever-popular rose can prove quite pricey for Valentine's Day, so consider your options before ordering. Here, Colombian growers select roses for export in a farm in Facatativa on Jan. 31, 2014.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, online flower retailers try to make the most of the annual bonanza by rolling out deals to woo customers. FTD.com is offering half off via Groupon, for example, although that doesn’t account for fees ranging from $16.99 to $29.99, according to the fine print. And what about the quality of the flowers and the service? 

Cheapism.com has looked into the best sources for cheap flower delivery and concluded that consumers are better off rebuffing the major online providers in favor of a local florist or a more inventive approach.

Here’s a look at the options:

Online Flower Retailers: Cheapism found that the going rate for a dozen red roses this year remains relatively high across the board, even for non-holiday delivery. Starting prices range from about $66 through FTD to about $79 through Teleflora. Long stems, filler flowers and fancy vases add to the total. More important than price, though, is value for the money. A recurring complaint: Delivered bouquets don’t come close to what’s promised in online photos. The Consumerist, a blog affiliated with Consumer Reports, maintains a “Garden of Discontent” tag dedicated to this phenomenon.

In general, consumers seem to take a negative view of the national retailers. Cheapism’s 1-800-Flowers review notes that company averages a dismal 0.17 out of 10 in hundreds of reviews on Reseller Ratings. Other sites don’t fare much better. When market research firm J.D. Power and Associates last looked at the category, in late 2012, shipping problems cropped up more than twice as often as in other segments of online retail.

Local Florists. Prices vary, of course, but Cheapism’s estimate for local flower delivery is about $50. That’s based on an informal survey last year of florists in New York and California — two notoriously expensive markets — and consultation with the Society of American Florists, a national trade group. The business models of some flower delivery websites may help account for the lower price point. As a florist explains in Cheapism’s FTD review, the company uses local shops to fulfill orders while pocketing service and delivery fees. Consumers stand to save by cutting out the middleman.

An independent florist is also free to create the best possible bouquet within your budget, rather than cobble together a preconceived arrangement from available stock. If you’re unhappy with the result or the service (certainly a possibility as Valentine’s Day orders pile up), you can deal with the florist directly. A simple Google or Yelp search should yield a reputable flower shop. Consumers can also try the Society of American Florists’ National Florist Directory

Outsourcing Services. Even $50 may sound like a lot when perfectly beautiful blooms cost a fraction of the price at supermarkets and bodegas. All that’s missing is a vase and someone to present the bouquet. Consumers in some cities can turn to a startup such as TaskRabbit for delivery, or even to pick out the flowers. Request a photo to make sure the chosen bouquet meets your approval. The charge is as low as one of the site’s vetted members is willing to accept. You can also send along a favorite treat or personal note, rather than say, “I love you,” in a florist’s handwriting.

More from Cheapism:

What types of flowers last longer than roses — and cost less? 

Best free online dating sites 

Alternative ways to spend Valentine’s Day 

Where to find the best value on Valentine’s diamonds 

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