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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.

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.

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