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You have three basic choices when buying flowers - you can patronize a local florist's shop, place an order through a national wire service like FTD or 1800Flowers.com, or you can send "grower-direct" flowers via UPS or FedEx. Scroll down to the article at the bottom of this page to see the pros and cons of each method.



National wire services like FTD, 1800Flowers.com and Teleflora tack on a service charge (as much as $14.99) and extract a commission fee (as much as 29%) on orders placed through them. If you order directly from your local florist's shop or (better yet) a florist located in the recipient's delivery area, you can often avoid some or all of these fees and get more bouquet for the buck. You can find a local florist at FindaFlorist.com or FTDFlorists.com, but you'll need to place your order by phone or in person to avoid the extra fees.



Avoid bouquets that are stuffed full of cheap "filler" flowers like carnations, daisies, sprays of baby's breath and ferns.



Read the product description carefully to find out whether or not your arrangement comes with a vase - just because the bouquet pictured on a website is photographed with a vase doesn't always mean yours will arrive that way.



Look for Veriflora and/or Fair Trade Certified flowers. The flower industry is known for using large amounts of fungicides and toxins to grow and preserve their blooms and these can be harmful to the environment and to the growers who are exposed to them on a daily basis. Veriflora Certified flowers are produced under environmentally-friendly conditions that help to protect both the growers and local ecosystems. Flowers designated as Fair Trade Certified are also produced under conditions that help to protect the health and standard of living of growers in developing countries.



flowers

1-800-FLOWERS.COM
Classic 'flowers-with-glass-vase' selections like the customer favorite "Fields of Europe" bouquet may be their bread and butter, but 1800Flowers.com also carries more creative fare like this votive, vase and flower combo by floral designer Jane Carroll. They also feature an exclusive collection of floral designs by Martha Stewart.
Delivery Method: Most flowers are hand-delivered by a local florist's shop.
Same Day Delivery?: Yes
Sales Tax: Orders delivered to AZ, CA, FL, NV, NM, NY, OH, OK, TX or VA.
Wire Service Charge: $13.99 (for hand-delivered items)

Delivery Area: USA & International


Teleflora
Check out their "High Style" and "Zen" flower categories for Japanese ikebana-inspired arrangements and other artistic presentations.
Delivery Method: Most flowers are hand-delivered by a local florist's shop.
Same Day Delivery?: Yes
Sales Tax: Orders delivered to OK, MI, AR and orders placed from OK and AR.
Wire Service Charge: $13.99 (for hand-delivered items)

Delivery Area: USA & International


FTD
When Real Simple magazine placed an order for a dozen roses from 11 online companies and rated the results, FTD came out on top with the only "A" rating in the bunch. But it should be noted that since FTD orders are fulfilled by local florists, the quality of your experience will ultimately be dependent upon the expertise of the shop assigned to fulfill your order.
Delivery Method: Most flowers are hand-delivered by a local florist's shop.
Same Day Delivery?: Yes
Sales Tax: Orders delivered to AR, CT, IL, ND and TX.
Wire Service Charge: $14.99 (for hand-delivered items)

Delivery Area: USA & International


Organic Bouquet
These organic and Veriflora-certified flowers are produced without toxic pesticides which can be harmful to the environment and to the growers who are exposed to them on a daily basis. Organic Bouquet is the floral supplier for many natural food stores, including Whole Foods Markets.
Delivery Method: FedEx
Same Day Delivery?: No
Sales Tax: Orders delivered to CA.
Wire Service Charge: None.
Shipping Charge: US delivery is $12.95. Shipping extra on Saturdays. No Sunday or Monday delivery.

Delivery Area: Continental USA


Calyx Flowers
Calyx's arrangements are decidedly more modern and upscale than what you find at the typical flower delivery site - all those tacky mylar balloons and stuffed teddy bears are nowhere to be seen. The bouquets are sent directly from the grower via UPS in a specially designed box with temperature packs. The upside of grower-direct shipping is that bouquets tend to stay fresher longer than those delivered by your local florist. The downside is that the recipient has to unpack and assemble the bouquet and there is a small risk of damage during shipment.
Delivery Method: UPS
Same Day Delivery?: No
Sales Tax: Orders delivered to FL and VT.
Wire Service Charge: None.
Shipping Charge: US delivery is $16.95 plus a $1 fuel charge. Shipping extra on Saturdays and Mondays and for next day delivery. No Sunday delivery.

Delivery Area: Continental USA (no PO Boxes, APO/FPO or US Territories) & Europe




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There are three different ways to order flowers:


1. Wire Service: You can order hand-delivered flowers through a national wire service like FTD, 1800Flowers.com or Teleflora.
2. Local florist: You can order hand-delivered flowers through a real florist's shop.
3. Grower-Direct Shipment: You can order "grower-direct" flowers which are shipped in a box via UPS or FedEx.
Here are the pros and cons of each method:


Wire Services
What are they? Wire Services, like FTD, Teleflora and 1800Flowers, are essentially middleman hubs which take customer orders from all over the country and then redistribute them to local florists in the appropriate delivery areas.

Pros: Convenience is the big advantage here - just find an arrangement you like, click and order. Also, unless otherwise noted, wire-service floral arrangements are hand-delivered by a local florist shop. A hand-delivered bouquet makes a far more personal statement than a UPS-delivered box of grower-direct flowers.

Cons: You won't get as much bouquet for your money if you choose to go through a wire service instead of dealing directly with a local floral shop. Let's say you buy a $50 bouquet. The wire service will add on an additional service charge at checkout (as much as $14.99) and they'll take a percentage of the order's value (as much as 29%) in commission fees. Your order is then passed on to a local florist who will use the remaining value of your order (about $35) to create your arrangement and pay for delivery fees. Another thing to keep in mind is that what you see in a website photo may not always be what you get. Sometimes the local florist who is assigned to your order does not have the flowers and vase shown in the photo in stock, and will make necessary substitutions with what he or she has on hand.

A Real, Local Florist
Pros: Lets say you're in Seattle and you need to send some flowers to your mom in Scottsdale. If you go through a national wire service like 1800Flowers.com, FTD or Teleflora, as much as 30-50% of the value of your order can wind up in the hands of the wire service and not the florist who is filling your order. By placing your order directly with a local florist shop in Scottsdale, you can avoid the hefty service charges (as much as $14.99) and commission fees (as much as 29%) charged by the wire services. If you don't feel comfortable ordering from an unknown florist in another city, call or visit your own local florist. You'll may still have to pay a wire service charge, but you'll save on the commission fees. You can find a local florist at FindaFlorist.com or FTDFlorists.com, but you'll need to place your order by phone or in person to avoid the extra fees. The Yellow Pages and Google can help you find a local shop (either near you or near the recipient), but be careful - you'll be surprised at how many of these listings are purposely designed to look local (with a local area code, a "family-owned" designation etc.) but they actually redirect you to a national call center.

Cons: Some florists shops have their own websites with online ordering capabilities, but many of these sites are simply storefronts for the wire services. Your best bet to ensure you aren't paying any unnecessary fees is to call or order in person. These methods come with their own inconveniences -- ordering in person requires a trip to the store and if you're ordering by phone, it can often be difficult to convey the style and type of floral arrangement you have in mind.

Grower-Direct Shipments
What are they? These are floral arrangements that bypass the local florist shop and are shipped directly from a farmer, grower or warehouse hub. These floral arrangements are usually shipped overnight via UPS, FedEx or DHL.

Pros: Because your flowers are shipped direct from the grower they often last longer than stems that have been sitting in a florist's shop. Also, because these arrangements all leave from a central location, they tend to resemble the product photo more often than wire service flowers, which are subject to the in-stock availability of the local shop fulfilling your order.

Cons: Even though grower-direct flowers are usually shipped in a specially designed box with temperature packs, there can be some risk of damage from rough treatment in transit, freezing temperatures or withering heat. Also, these arrangements require some assembly. You have to unpack the box, set up the vase and arrange the flowers yourself. For this reason, I would avoid sending these types of arrangements to funeral homes or to people who are sick and don't have the energy or the enthusiasm for this extra bit of work. I also think that hand-delivery by a local florist adds more of a personal touch to the whole experience than an anonymously delivered box left on your doorstep by the UPS man. Also, same day delivery isn't available with grower-direct shipments.