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Cheap Flower Delivery Guide

Our research entailed reading customer reviews, looking at comparative tests by other outlets, and consulting with independent florists. The major sites hawking cheap flowers for delivery are full-service operations that connect consumers to florists or growers worldwide who can deliver flowers within a day.

But scores of complaints posted online about late deliveries, missing or incorrect orders, and last-minute fees that catch customers off-guard convinced us that no big name is a slam-dunk choice. In the end we concluded that the best way to arrange for cheap flower delivery is to do it yourself.

Flower Delivery Reviews
Online Flower Delivery, Flower Quality
Same-Day Flower Delivery, Flower Variety

Taking the DIY approach does require a little more legwork. It means locating a florist near the intended recipient and placing the order on your own or hiring a surrogate to select the flowers and make the delivery. The final cost obviously depends on the blooms and the arrangement you choose, as well as the location. For the sake of comparison, we gathered prices for a dozen red roses by making visits and placing calls to florists from coast to coast, including several in notoriously pricey New York City, and consulting a representative from the Society of American Florists, the industry's national trade association. We came up with a range of $3 to $4 per stem, or $36 to $48 for a dozen, and up to $15 for delivery when not included in the price of the flowers.

By this estimate, the local florists came out cheaper than the industry leaders. What's more, you're likely to get a better bouquet for your money by going directly to the source. The next-best option we found, despite its relatively high price (about $74 for a dozen red roses, vase, and standard delivery), is ProFlowers. This company sends out boxed flowers (forget about the arranged bouquet) and emerged as the top online flower retailer in a recent customer satisfaction survey by J.D. Power and Associates. Like all the biggest sites, it earns a fair amount of criticism but also some support in online reviews for delivering fresh flowers that last longer than store-bought bouquets. Two other major flower delivery services wilt in comparison. Both FTD (about $66 for a dozen red roses, vase, and standard delivery) and 1-800-Flowers (about $70 for the same) are dogged by grousing over faulty orders and poor customer service. Teleflora seems to be a decent pick, according to customer reviews, but is a bit pricier than the other sites (about $79 for a dozen red roses, vase, and standard delivery).

The online services represent two competing business models. The first, exemplified by ProFlowers, facilitates cheap flower delivery by taking orders (either online or by phone) and fulfilling them in-house, so to speak. These vendors ship flowers directly from growers, or in some cases from their warehouses, to the recipient. The flowers arrive in a box and require home arrangement. The second model, adopted by FTD and 1-800-Flowers, is essentially that of a floral brokerage. Orders placed online or by phone are fulfilled by an affiliated florist near the recipient. The delivered product is a professionally designed bouquet, complete with vase and sometimes ribbons and bows. The lines aren't so clear in all circumstances, however. Teleflora uses local florists for some deliveries and even ProFlowers may turn to a local florist for same- or next-day deliveries ordered through its express service. FTD and 1-800-Flowers also ship many orders directly from growers or warehouses and for these specify that the items will be shipped in a gift box rather than delivered by a local florist.

By contrast, the DIY method lets you deal directly with a florist and assert relative control over the process. You can discuss all the specifics, make special requests, and save the fees that would otherwise accrue to a middleman (i.e., one of the big online sites). You can find a florist in the recipient's vicinity through a simple Internet search or by checking sites such as the Society of American Florists' National Florist Directory. If you're unsure about finding a reliable florist that way, you can outsource the job through a site such as TaskRabbit or Zaarly. One of their vetted members can shop for flowers locally and/or deliver them for you (for a price you set when you post your request). Zaarly can also connect you directly to a shop owner. These start-ups operate only in a limited number of locales, however.

A more local, entrepreneurial approach to cheap flower delivery clearly requires more initiative than relying on the big online purveyors. However, the savings are notable and, based on the reviews we read, the chances are far greater that your loved one will receive a bouquet that meets your expectations. Should you decide to order online, be sure to look for cheap flower delivery deals, which are generally easy to find on sites such as Groupon and especially prevalent in weeks leading up to holidays such as Valentine's Day. Shopping through an affiliate network such as Ebates, FatWallet, or Mr. Rebates can also yield greater savings than usual. While many retailers in other categories offer rebates in the low single digits, cash back for flower delivery sites often tops 10 percent or even 15 percent. If you hire a courier through TaskRabbit, look for a coupon code for $10 off your first task.

Flower Delivery Reviews

After reading scores of flower delivery reviews online and looking at the results of comparison tests conducted by other sources, we determined that the best deals, in terms of service, quality, and price, can be found by making your own arrangements with independent or local providers. We repeatedly came across flower delivery reviews assailing the major players and noting that subsequent orders placed directly with a florist located near the recipient proved far more successful. Comments posted online by current and former employees of the industry bigwigs echo this assessment.

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Flower Delivery Customer Service.

With the DIY approach, there's no single source of flower delivery reviews, although your local Yelp site or Better Business Bureau might prove informative. That said, reviews of the major flower delivery services contain numerous reports by customers who claim to have turned to independent florists after bad experiences with online providers. And while there are certainly some positive reviews of flower delivery services, the overall impression is "buyer beware."

At Yahoo Shopping, for example, more than 300 reviewers gave FTD an average 1.5 stars out of five; nearly 550 consumers at the same site conferred a total of 1.5 stars on 1-800-Flowers; and more than 450 users at the review site rewarded ProFlowers with a slightly more favorable 2.5 stars. Among the litany of complaints across the board: undelivered orders, rude and unhelpful phone representatives, and arrangements that looked completely different from the online description.

Perhaps the biggest bone of contention in flower delivery reviews is unfulfilled orders. By way of illustration, a review of FTD posted at Viewpoints notes that a Valentine's Day arrangement failed to arrive even after nine emails, several phone calls, and one unfulfilled promise of redelivery. The consumer finally received a refund and a tiny arrangement for his wife but took his business to a nearby florist, who delivered as requested. FTD likewise takes heat from a customer posting at Epinions who says he got the run-around from a service representative when flowers ordered for a funeral didn't show up. A frustrated consumer reviewing 1-800-Flowers on Viewpoints found out that the flower delivery service had "lost" her order only after asking the intended recipient about it a week after the supposed delivery date.

At Reseller Ratings, a ProFlowers customer tells of paying twice the value of the flowers in delivery charges to ensure they would arrive on time for his niece's birthday, only to receive an "unable to deliver" message several hours later. Teleflora cancelled one customer's order without supplying a reason, according to a post at Trust Pilot, and a customer service rep apparently couldn't or wouldn't deal with the issue.

To be sure, angry consumers may be more motivated than satisfied ones to post feedback online, and some flower delivery reviews are positive. One post on Epinions reports that a bouquet from 1-800-Flowers was delivered to a new mother several hours after the order was placed. Another consumer applauds FTD on the same site for flexible and attentive customer service and on-time delivery. ProFlowers counts a few enthusiasts among consumers posting flower delivery reviews at Yahoo Shopping. One customer says he managed to find a better deal on rainbow roses than he would have at his local florist by arranging for delivery the day before Valentine's Day and signing up for a 30-day trial of the Easy Saver Rewards program. Yet other reviewers who don't recall signing up for the program have been appalled to find monthly charges on their credit card statements. (The Consumerist highlights one such case.)

Overall we were struck by the preponderance of negative flower delivery reviews and found that many consumers have vowed to buy only from local providers. Brick-and-mortar flower shops earn a disproportionate share of favorable reviews. A search on Yelp for florists in Chicago, for example, revealed a number of 5-star shops to choose among (many of which earn praise for wedding-related services). One consumer who ordered flowers on behalf of her boss for his wife's birthday writes on Yelp that a neighborhood florist suggested a bouquet that fit both the budget and the occasion and won raves from the recipient and her coworkers. Another review on Yelp of a shop in Portland, Oregon, relays a consumer's experience when sending flowers from afar to her daughter's new business. In this case, the florist knew the place and could guess where the customer's daughter would put the flowers. She used that knowledge to craft the arrangement and even sent the customer photos of the finished bouquet.

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While customers often assert that you get better service with the DIY approach, this isn't a sure fix. On busy days, mistakes happen. A florist we interviewed in Queens, New York, noted that during holidays, for example, some florists hire temporary delivery people who aren't professionally trained.

Online Flower Delivery, Flower Quality

Flower Quality.

If you've ever shopped around for flowers, you know that prices change often and vary wildly even for the same types of flowers and the same number of stems. A dozen roses at the corner store or supermarket might fetch $15 while a dozen roses at a flower shop -- unique, dyed blooms, say, or the highest quality picks -- may run well above $100. Is the extra cost worth it? Possibly. Higher quality flowers generally last longer, open bigger, and give off stronger scents. Florists (as opposed to the local grocery store) command a premium because they can assure the flowers' quality: They know how to handle flowers and maintain a well-established supply chain that keeps the blooms in tip-top shape up to the moment they're sold.

Higher prices don't necessarily translate to higher quality, however. A post at Pissed Consumer relates one man's experience sending flowers to his wife to congratulate her on a new job. Having used slightly cheaper online flower delivery services to send her flowers on a number of occasions, he decided to spring for a ProFlowers bouquet, believing the flower quality would be higher. When the order arrived, however, the bouquet was small, the flowers had been crushed, and the arrangement looked nothing like the advertised bouquet after assembly. Customer reviews indicate that none of the leading services has earned purchasers' unqualified trust for flower quality. An FTD customer reports on Reseller Ratings that a $100 order looked downright chintzy and completely different from the online picture. Online flower deliveries are often made by FedEx or UPS, and depending on weather and handling, flowers may arrive damaged or wilted. A consumer who ordered from 1-800-Flowers complains on Epinions about a dead flower in a bouquet. Purchasers often seem to understand that the fault for poor flower quality may lie with the local florist. But as one reviewer points out, a direct call gives you a chance to assess how a shop treats customers before deciding whether to do business there.

Smart Money compared Mother's Day bouquets from online flower delivery sites including FTD, ProFlowers, and 1-800-Flowers, and no provider came up smelling like roses. Arrangements looked sparse and flowers dehydrated, and many buds remained unopened. A local CBS affiliate in San Francisco likewise ordered bouquets from all four sites we researched, including Teleflora. The 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora arrangements arrived with several substitutions and the former was missing a picture frame that was supposed to be included. The FTD and ProFlowers bouquets were smaller than other arrangements that cost the same. The report's conclusion: With online flower delivery, there's no way to confirm the flower quality or selection, so the best bet is to buy directly from a local florist.

Several flower vendors who fulfill orders for online sites asserted in interviews that you can get better flower quality for your money if you buy direct from them. One seller explained to us that he sacrifices a hunk of his profit to the site and may consequently cut a corner here and there to buoy his margin. A different shopkeeper said orders coming through the online system include a price and a "recipe" that he's contractually obligated to follow. But with a DIY order, he keeps all the profit and may throw in something extra to spruce up the arrangement.

Same-Day Flower Delivery, Flower Variety

Flower Variety.

When ordering flowers online, it's important to remember that the images you see are approximations of what the bouquet will actually look like. Although the primary flowers should be comparable to the online picture, the finished product will depend on the local florist's inventory or what's in stock at the warehouse or in the grower's shed. Most online flower sites post a (small) disclaimer alerting customers to this fact.

Still, with some specific items, you'd expect the order to be filled as described. In a test of flower delivery services conducted by Consumer Warning Network, an order for 12 long-stemmed roses placed with Teleflora showed up as a mixed bouquet with three short roses. A number of customer reviews at sites such as Epinions and Yahoo Shopping indicate this is a relatively frequent occurrence when ordering flowers online from the major retailers, including FTD and 1-800-Flowers. Similarly, one ProFlowers customer who posted at Viewpoints felt deceived when flowers ordered for his grandfather's funeral looked completely different from what he had seen online.

With the DIY approach, the florist can let you know exactly what's in stock and discuss which flowers best suit the occasion (you can also shop by occasion and by flower variety when ordering flowers online). If you're not sure what to choose, the florist can steer you toward beautiful, yet not necessarily popular, choices that can make for a unique arrangement. For example, a flower-shop employee answering questions on Reddit recommended Amaryllis as a beautifully fragrant and relatively obscure flower that would please a woman jaded by too many roses and tulips. Another approach is to leave it up to the florist to choose the nicest-looking flowers within a set price range.

Delivery Charges.

The major flower delivery sites come in for scathing criticism in reviews for tacking on myriad service or shipping fees toward the very end of the ordering process. These charges generally vary by delivery method and increase in tiers along with the cost of the arrangement. For example, standard shipping costs $4.99 for orders fulfilled by 1-800-Flowers (as opposed to a local florist) and priced below $14.99 but jumps to $14.99 for the dozen red roses we priced out and can even get as high as $45.99 for orders above $350. For 1-800-Flowers arrangements prepared and delivered by a local florist, the charge is $12.99 for orders under $25 and $14.99 for pricier bouquets. At FTD, fees for fresh flowers are unlisted and vary by type of delivery (e.g., next day, Saturday, etc.) but generally hover around $16. Some brick-and-mortar florists don't charge for delivery, but don't be surprised by a flat rate of up to $15. Jenny Scala of the Society of American Florists suggests asking if the florist is running any specials or would be willing to waive the delivery fee. None of the shops we contacted tacked on an extra fee for weekend delivery, but some florists may charge extra on holidays to cover the cost of temporary staff. If you hire a courier through a site such as TaskRabbit or Zaarly, you set the fee. Be prepared to offer at least $20 on top of the cost of the flowers.

Same-day flower delivery should be easy to arrange online or by calling a local florist. Through ProFlowers, orders placed before 3 p.m. (in the recipient's time zone) Monday through Friday or noon on Saturday and Sunday can be delivered that day for an extra $4.99. FTD offers same-day flower delivery for $1.99 and 1-800-Flowers charges up to $14.99, and each maintains slightly different time restrictions. Teleflora doesn't charge extra for same-day flower delivery. Same-day service through an independent florist depends entirely on the shop, but you shouldn't have trouble finding a florist that can fulfill your request as long as you place an order early in the day. Many offer same-day flower delivery at no extra cost.



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