Florists warn against "too good to be true" Valentine's Day flower prices
COLUMBIA - With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, many people turn to online stores to buy flowers. But local florists and the Better Business Bureau warn that the low prices may be too good to be true.
Kent Anderson owns Kent's Floral Gallery in downtown Columbia. He said when people buy flowers from online stores, those businesses are just clearinghouses, and they often call local flower stores to actually fulfill orders. However, those local stores have no say in the prices the online stores set.
"They will call the flower shops trying to get them to do those really ridiculous prices that we can't do," he said.
In an emailed statement, a 1-800-Flowers spokeswoman said the company offers roses for Valentine's Day starting at $29.99.
Anderson said that price isn't practical for his store.
"It takes a lot of time to call back and say ‘Hey, we can't do a dozen roses for $29.99,'" he said. "For your traditional floral shops, that's virtually impossible to do."
But the low price conundrum doesn't just apply to roses. Anderson said Tuesday morning that one online company called and wanted him to make an arrangement of orchids and deliver it to Ashland for $30. Anderson said the bouquet would have to sell at $67.50 in his store.
"Trying to do that bouquet for a $30 cost, there's just no way to do that at all," he said.
He also cited higher prices from flower suppliers and the cost of employing enough people to handle the demand as the reasons why customers have to pay more for flowers this time of year.
Michelle Gleba, Regional Director for the Better Business Bureau, said the agency sees a lot of flower scam reports from consumers around Valentine's Day.
"Many of them told us that they paid for a beautiful arrangement but they ended up getting disappointing flowers or nothing at all," she said.
Anderson said his shop tends to avoid working with online clearinghouses for that reason.
"We don't want to send out that product and then have a complaint from that customer," he said. "It doesn't go back to the clearinghouse people; they blame the florist that sends it out."
Gleba said the best way to avoid a disappointing flower order is to order early and research the florist. She said it's particularly important to read the fine print and look for anything relating to a return policy, a satisfaction guarantee or the delivery process.
On 1-800-Flowers' website, the company said it sometimes uses FedEx, UPS and the postal service to deliver flower arrangements.
Anderson cautioned against using this method, especially in the winter. He said delivery drivers will often just leave the box outside a door.
"That person's gonna get that box, take it in, open it up and the flowers are gone," he said. "They can't live in that type of weather."
Gleba and Anderson both cautioned against jumping for extremely low prices.
"It's such a good price, but what's the old saying?" said Anderson. "If it's too good to be true, there's something wrong with it."