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Sending flowers on Valentine's Day shouldn't be done on a whim

If you think the pressure isn't on for Valentine's Day, ponder this heart-stopping tidbit:

More than half of women — 53 percent — said they would end their relationship if they didn't get something for Valentine's Day.

Yikes.

I have a tough time believing that stat from the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association. But whether you've been in a relationship for six weeks or 60 years, you owe it to your significant other to recognize the day with at least a note on a napkin, preferably more.

Consider it the obligatory cost of being a "we."

Of course, you can stand tall against commercialism and the chubby naked kid wielding an arrow. But when the parade of flowers starts, you'd better have a good story or hightail it to the store.

Americans are expected to spend $18.6 billion this Valentine's Day, up slightly from last year. Not surprisingly, men will shell out more than women — $176 per guy vs. $89 per gal — with the caveat that many married folks would rather save up for attic insulation.

Candy and cards top the sweetheart list, and flowers aren't far behind. Florists love it when Valentine's Day falls on a weekday, prime time for guys eager to impress their lady — and everyone else in her office. The fact that the holiday falls on a Thursday this year is especially good because it gives those who can't wait a chance to proclaim their love a day or two before everyone else and get optimal exposure.

"Imagine the water cooler talk on that one!" says the Society of American Florists on its website, Aboutflowers.com.

Easy now.

For those going the traditional route, sending flowers on Valentine's Day can be tricky and shouldn't be done on a whim. Fresh flowers are expensive, especially this time of year, when high demand boosts prices. Getting them delivered on the busiest day of the year for florists could prove stressful if they don't arrive on time or come withered or uninspired.

Last year, the Better Business Bureau received nearly 5,000 complaints against florists, up 18 percent from the previous year. Most complaints alleged that the wrong flowers were delivered or the flowers never arrived at all.

To avoid problems, many florists recommend ordering from a company you know rather than going to an online flower delivery site. Local florists can individualize a design, suggest the best blooms and be held accountable for their product if something goes wrong. They'll probably steer you away from red roses, the least bang for your buck.

"Buying local is always your best option," said Anthony Swick, co-owner of Bay Bouquet in South Tampa. "It ensures quality. We handpick our flowers and tell clients what's available. It's about building a relationship."

Most websites use local florists to fulfill orders but take a significant cut of the sales. Some offer less expensive flowers direct from the grower, but they show up in a box, not in a customary vase.

Be careful when ordering off a picture. Those photos are "inspirations" and touched up to look perfect, Swick said. Unlike a shirt made in a factory, a fresh flower arrangement can't be duplicated exactly.

Some sites list multiple prices for the same bouquet but show the most expensive option in the picture, with all the blooms tightly arranged facing the front. An arrangement that costs $69.99 for 12 stems, for example, might cost $99.99 for 23.

For fun, Google the Garden of Discontent, which recounts horror stories of people who ordered flowers online but didn't get what they expected. The pictures of straggly bouquets are so pathetic, they're almost laughable.

People can skip the element of surprise altogether by going to a flower shop and buying in person. Many florists stay open late on Valentine's Day and have arrangements at all price points ready for purchase. Buyers avoid the delivery charge and the stress of wondering whether they arrived.

And they still get credit from Cupid for a job well done.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

Valentine's Day

by the numbers

$176 Average amount a man will spend on Valentine's Day.

$89 Amount a woman will spend.

$18.6b Amount Americans are expected to spend this year.

Sending flowers on Valentine's Day shouldn't be done on a whim 02/11/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 11:28pm]
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