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Internet Flower Buyer's Guide

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The Internet Flower Buyer's Guide includes a comparison of 9 online flower vendors, plus reports on my experiences with several of them.
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Here's Tweezer's personal shortlist:

Flowers Fast! for florist delivery of complete arrangements.Proflowers
or
Giving Nature.com for cut flowers direct-shipped from growers.

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Comparing Internet Flower Shops: Florists vs "FedEx"

Internet flower vendors fall into two main camps: traditional floral delivery networks and sellers of "grower-direct" cut flowers. ... [More]

Using Flowers Fast!

I ordered a dozen roses from Flowers Fast! for my wife Evelyn. The process of placing the order was painless, and I was pleased to receive an order confirmation by email almost immediately... [More]

Using Proflowers

In January 2001 I placed an order for a dozen roses with Proflowers. Ordering from the website went smoothly and on Saturday, January 27, 2001, my wife received a dozen long-stemmed red roses delivered by FedEx... [More]

Comparing Flowers Fast! and Proflowers

The delivered floral arrangement from Flowers Fast! had a much greater impact than the cut flowers from Proflowers. Let me list some of its merits... [More]

Comparison Table

In January and February 2001 I compared nine of the leading internet flower vendors. Here is what I found out... [More]

Comparing Internet Flower Shops: Florists vs "FedEx"

The big advantage with a florist network is that they hand-deliver a completed floral arrangement. All your recipient need do is set it on a table and admire it.

Internet flower vendors fall into two main camps: members of traditional floral delivery networks and sellers of "grower-direct" cut flowers. Some vendors can do both. The florist networks take your order on-line and send it to a local florist for fulfillment and delivery. The big advantage with a florist network is that they hand-deliver a completed floral arrangement. All your recipient need do is set it on a table and admire it.

For details of my experience with Flowers Fast! click here.

"Grower-direct" cut flower sellers have the advantage in price. The big disadvantage is that the recipient must do all the arranging.

A "grower-direct" cut flower seller sends your order to a flower grower or wholesaler who typically packs your freshly-cut flowers into specially insulated boxes, often with cold-packs inside. The boxes are shipped via FedEx for next-day delivery. I've received roses from Proflowers.com that were sent from South America with the stems placed in individual little water vials to stay fresh (the vials have rubber seals so they don't leak). The obvious advantage of these vendors is price. But, as shown in the table below, there isn't as big a difference as one might think, especially if you buy a vase to send along. Another possible advantage is that their flowers may be fresher, since they are supposed to be shipped within hours of being picked, but on the other hand they may be subjected to rougher handling in transit. The biggest disadvantage is that the recipient must do all the arranging. Your loved one must unpack the flowers, trim them and arrange them in a vase: at least a 15 to 30 minute task.

For details of my Proflowers.com experience click here.

I compared 9 leading internet flower vendors. The table below summarizes each one, including their price for a dozen long-stemmed red roses. Note that in most cases there is a considerable surcharge for the "Valentine's Day" period (February 1-17). Also, the FedEx fees are usually for delivery Tuesday through Friday. Delivery on Saturday costs $5-10 more. Delivery on Monday is discouraged because your flowers spend an extra day in transit.

Using Proflowers

We have used Proflowers in the past with generally good results. As I prepared this Buyer's Guide I decided to order from them again and carefully document the experience. Pictures coming soon.

Placing the Order

Ordering from the website was unremarkable. I placed the order on a Thursday afternoon. It was too late for next-day delivery, so I decided to pay $5 extra and have them delivered on Saturday. I was disappointed that no order confirmation was sent to me, but I did receive shipment confirmation on Friday, along with the FedEx tracking number.

The Delivery

On Saturday, January 27, 2001, my wife received a dozen long-stemmed red roses that I had ordered for her from Proflowers.com. They were delivered by FedEx at about 10am in an extra-strength cardboard box with styrofoam insulation. No cold-pack was included, perhaps because of the january weather. They had been shipped from Columbia.

The flowers were all large blooms with deep red color, arriving in excellent condition except for one bloom, which had fallen off its stem. Each rose stem had been inserted into a small, individual rubber-sealed vial of water. Twelve stems, twelve little vials. An accent of small white flowers was included, but no greenery.

When I placed the order I was asked to supply a personal message for the recipient. The message is computer printed on a nondescript paper inside the box, along with flower care instructions.

Preparing and Arranging

Preparing the flowers required the following steps:

  1. Open box, undo twist tie which holds flowers in position in box and carefully withdraw the bundle of stems from the cardboard packaging.
  2. With scissors, remove the plastic wrapping and rubber bands.
  3. Select a vase, mix the supplied "flower food" with warm water.
  4. Select a large shallow bowl, fill it several inches deep with warm water.
  5. Remove the vials from the stems and place the stems in bowl under water.
  6. Keeping the stems under the water in the bowl, cut them to length.
  7. Quickly place the newly cut flowers in the vase.
  8. Arrange!

My wife was about to cut the stems in air when I remonstrated that the instructions stipulated they be cut under water. This came as a big surprise to her. I don't know how much difference this makes, but don't expect your recipient to necessarily follow these instructions.

The first "large shallow bowl" we tried was not large and shallow enough -- it was too hard to cut the stems without bending them, so we switched to another bowl.

The first vase we used had too large an opening: the flower arrangement was too floppy and loose. The second vase we tried was too light -- the arrangement was unstable. We finally switched some other flowers out of the vase they were in and used that.

Neither of us is particularly adept at arranging. It took a while to get a reasonable balance of the roses and the little white accent flowers. We regretted that no greenery had been included, that would have been nice. But we enjoyed going through the arrangement process together.

I also received an emailed delivery confirmation within a few hours. A very nice touch.

Another Experience

Sometime in 2000, we had a dozen Proflowers roses sent to our daughter. Her experience was that they arrived in only fair condition, and were wilted within a few days. She reports that the stems were not packed in individual water vials as they should have been.

Conclusion

My wife and I are very happy with these flowers -- they look great as I write this (and they lasted for nearly two weeks). It's too bad about the one blossom that fell off its stem. A local florist would certainly have replaced it before even attempting delivery. But if I want cut flowers for my own use in the future I can save even more money and buy them at the local supermarket (1 dozen small red roses for $20-25).

If your recipient enjoys arranging flowers and has flower vases that they like to use, then a shipment of freshly cut flowers may be ideal. Proflowers is a great source in that case.

If, on the other hand, they just like to look at flowers, and would prefer not to engage in do-it-yourself arranging, or if you just don't want them to have to bother about it, then I advise having a florist deliver a completed arrangement. Take a look at Flowers Fast!.

Using Flowers Fast!

My research indicated that Flowers Fast! was the least expensive source for "local florist flowers", i.e. flowers arranged and hand-delivered by a local florist rather than shipped by FedEx. I ordered a dozen roses from them for Evelyn. Pictures coming soon.

Placing the Order

I ordered the flowers on Thursday afternoon for delivery about a week later. The process of placing the order was painless, and I was pleased to receive an order confirmation by email almost immediately.

The Delivery

Flowers Fast! uses the Teleflora network to place your order for fulfillment and delivery by a local florist in your area. As is customary in that business, the local florist called early on the day of the delivery, said that they had "a delivery" and ascertained the best time to come. It is normally the case that local florists will not leave your flowers sitting outside, but will hand-deliver them to the recipient.

At the appointed time on Friday, February 2, 2001, a delivery truck from Unique Flowers (Ross Ave., San Jose) arrived and delivered a truly magnificent arrangement of a dozen perfect roses in a vase with various greens and other accents. We didn't even need to add water.

I had supplied a personal message when placing the order, and was very pleased to find it neatly hand-written on a nice card inside an envelope. This is the classic "florist" approach, and it is far superior to a computer-printed message.

Comparison

A comparison of the experience with Flowers Fast! and Proflowers is in the next section, along with some conclusions.

Comparing Flowers Fast! and Proflowers

The delivered floral arrangement from Flowers Fast! had a much greater impact than the cut flowers from Proflowers. Let me explain why:

  • No need to trim the flowers, find a vase, fuss over the arrangement, etc.
  • The arrangement is really beautiful. Even if we had been supplied with all the accent greenery by Proflowers (we weren't), we couldn't have achieved this (but some people could).
  • The hand-written note that comes from the florist carries a weight of meaning that seems utterly lacking from the printed note that came with the cut flowers.
  • The roses appear to be in somewhat better condition. Certainly none of them are damaged. (The Proflowers arrangement, however, lasted a few days longer)

Conclusion

If you want to impress someone, in my opinion, a delivered floral arrangement is the way to go. The delivered arrangement from Flowers Fast! cost me about $60. In contrast, the "FedEx roses" from Proflowers cost about $53, which included $5 for Saturday delivery, but was without a vase. That's about 15% more money for the delivered arrangement, but I can tell you that my wife Evelyn was more than twice as happy with it.

However, there are some circumstances in which the "grower-direct" cut flowers might still make the most sense:

  • Around Valentine's Day, local florists almost all require large surcharges, as much as $35 here in San Jose! Some of the cut flower shippers do not yet use such surcharges.
  • Floral delivery services are at the mercy of the local florist. Their quality will vary.
  • Some rural areas may not have a local florist, and hence may not be served by a floral network
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Like data? Check out the table comparing 9 leading internet flower vendors. Go there.
Flower Sources
FlowersFast!
Proflowers.com
GivingNature.com
Flower.com
FTD.com
Florist.com
Internet Florist
800-Flowers
TweezerTip™:
BizRate Ratings
BizRate is a service that allows consumers to rate the performance of internet merchants. Ratings are usually done in two parts, the first part being immediately after placing an order. If you complete the initial rating form, then several days later BizRate sends a follow-up email. By then presumably you have your merchandise and can complete the process of rating this merchant.

With flowers, this isn't always reliable. The flowers may have been ordered for delivery some time in the future, or the buyer may not find out if there are problems with the flowers.

For that reason, the BizRate ratings, while a good starting point, may not tell the whole story.

BizRate ratings for each vendor are found in the Internet Flower Buyer's Guide.

Comparison Table

In January and February 2001 I compared nine of the leading internet flower vendors. Here is what I found out.

Name Shop Type BizRate Rating 1-dozen Long-stem Red Roses Price Vase Svc / Ship Local Sales Tax Total Notes
Proflowers Cut flowers shipped via FedEx 8.9 † Cut flowers w/accent. $39.95 $9.95 $7.95 no $57.85 Add $10 for Valentine's period. Saturday delivery $5 additional.
Giving Nature.com Cut flowers via FedEx 8.8 † Cut flowers, w/accent. $39.95 included $8.95 no? $48.90 Add $10 for Valentine's period. Saturday delivery $10 additional.
Arrangements delivered by local florist † Arranged in base w/greens & accent. $89.95 included $13.95 no? $103.90 Price includes Valentine's surcharge. Sat. deliv. incl.
Flowers Fast! Arrangements delivered by local florist (Teleflora network) 8.7 † Arranged in vase w/greens & accent. $54.90 included $5.95 no? $60.85 Add $15 Valentine's surcharge.
Florist.com Arrangements by local florist OR cut flowers via FedEx 8.3 † Cut flowers $45.00 $6.00 $14.99 no $65.99  
1-800-Flowers Arrangements delivered by local florist (BloomNet network) 8.3 † Arranged in vase w/greens & accent. $79.99 included $7.99 no $87.98  
Flower.com Arrangements delivered by local florist 7.9 † Arranged in vase w/greens $79.95 included $8.95 no? $88.90  
FTD Arrangements delivered by local florist (FTD network) 7.7 † Arranged in vase w/greens & accent. $64.99 included $7.99 yes $72.98 Add $15 Valentine's surcharge Feb 1-17
Internet Florist Arrangements delivered by local florist (Teleflora network) NR † Arranged in vase w/greens $59.95 included $6.95 no $66.90 Add $15 Valentine's surcharge Feb 1-17 ($35 in DC, NYC, Las Vegas, San Jose,
Houston & Seattle)

Data gathered from flower vendor web sites, 1/25/01, prices updated 2/2/01.

 
Updated Thursday July 04, 2002 06:30:38 PDT
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