Q: I'd like to send long-distance flowers to my parents for their anniversary but I got burned the last time I sent my wife Valentine's Day flowers. Any advice on what to watch for? -- Bobby Bouquet
A: Dear Mr. Bouquet: I, too, have been burned when sending flowers. They arrived at their destination looking nothing like what I anticipated. In checking out do's and don't's for floral deliveries, I found some pretty awful excuses for what we think are being delivered to our loved ones.
First, when florists claim their online photos look like what you'll buy, it isn't necessarily so. Usually the images are canned at best and, worse, some florists might take advantage of the fact the buyer doesn't necessarily see the end product to shove in some almost dead flowers. If possible, buy from a walk-in flower shop where you can see the actual refrigeration and product placement. Also, most florists will replace blooms that don't last at least five to seven days after purchases. However, you (or the flower recipient) need to take the blooms in to prove their deterioration.
Late flower delivery was the No. 1 complaint about the floral industry in 2009. Complaints abound about not receiving them at all. Even though some florists hire extra drivers during peak seasons, timely delivery isn't always really guaranteed.
It helps to call a local florist instead of ordering online and do so at least a week in advance.
Unfortunately, it's also true that price gouging occurs on Valentine's Day, which may be one reason you feel "burned." Since more than a third of Americans send flowers on this sweethearts' occasion, it stands to reason that a dozen roses costs more then than at any other time.
And according to the Society of American Florists, their members receive more than 50 percent of their Valentine's orders on Feb. 13 and 14.
So if you still want to send flowers in February, what's a couple of ways to make your expressions of love less expensive? First, order at least a week in advance and longer if you can. Secondly, think of short-stem roses rather than long-stem or mixed bouquets with some roses or even orchids interspersed. Believe it or not, orchids can be cheaper than roses when this occasion rolls around.
Lastly, don't give up on your parents or your wife; every woman loves to receive flowers and, if truth be known, men are no exception, either.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. E-mail her at email@example.com.