Plan to buy flowers for Mother’s Day? For some situations, your best bet is a retail florist. But if you’re willing to pick up blooms yourself or would like to save money, you have other options.

Share story

Friendly reminder: Mother’s Day is on May 13!

Plan to buy flowers? Make sure you pick a good seller — and that you don’t overpay. There are a lot of petal peddlers out there — local florist shops, supermarkets, street vendors, online outlets and more. And according to ratings Checkbook gets from Puget Sound-area consumers, many disappoint buyers with delayed deliveries, wilted flowers, broken promises and arrangements far smaller and much different than shown in catalogs.

Because floral customers often place orders for a product that’s arranged and delivered sight unseen, it’s no surprise that so many problems occur. Florists must somehow interpret customers’ tastes, determine what’s appropriate for the occasion, and design and build a work of art fitting those needs. The best floral shops make this happen with fresh products, prompt delivery and low prices.

Through special arrangement with The Seattle Times, you can access Checkbook’s ratings of local florists for quality and price free of charge until May 29 using this link: checkbook.org/SeattleTimes/Florists.

If you want an arrangement delivered, seek exotic or unusual flowers or need advice, your best bet is a retail florist. But if you’re willing to pick up blooms yourself, need a typical bouquet, want to arrange the things yourself or would like to save money, you have other options.

Supermarkets and warehouse clubs

Supermarkets, warehouse clubs and other mass merchandisers count on big-time foot traffic, selling flowers to shoppers who stop in to buy a few things, but leave with a cartful of other stuff. What you’ll get ranges from basic (a few carnations) to full-service.

Supermarkets and big-box stores offer one big plus: price. Checkbook’s shoppers found that supermarket prices averaged about 45 percent lower than those at traditional florists. But there’s a wide spread of costs for the same blooms among different supermarkets. For example, Checkbook found supermarket prices ranging from $10 to $35 for a dozen red roses.

Wholesalers

In the Puget Sound area, you can also buy flowers where many florists buy their products. Pacific Floral Wholesale and the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in Georgetown are open to the public. These wholesalers not only offer incredible variety, but also big savings: Checkbook’s undercover shoppers found prices at Pacific Floral Wholesale were about 65 percent lower than those at local retail florists and at Seattle Wholesale Growers Market they were about 25 percent lower.

Florists

Good retail florists can help with any flower-oriented need, plus delivery, wire services and helping with big events like weddings. Their business models and styles range from wire service-only (with that standard FTD look) to custom shops creating original designs arranged with unusual or exotic flowers in vintage or artistic vases.

Many florists evaluated by Checkbook received high ratings from their surveyed customers, but the ratings for some shops prove that a rose is not a rose: Consumers often lodged complaints about late or missing deliveries; florists showing up with the wrong items; poor-quality products; lousy attitudes; and wire-service arrangements that showed up with fewer (or lower-quality) flowers than ordered.

Checkbook’s undercover shoppers also found big price differences among area florists: Some shops charge more than three times as much as their local competitors for the same products.

National networks, online options, and oh man there are now even florist scammers?

If you need to send flowers to someone outside the Puget Sound area, you have a few choices: ordering directly through a florist in that city; asking a local florist to coordinate things; or turning to a national floral network.

Checkbook’s take: Work directly with a retail florist — either located here or where the recipient lives — rather than relying on a national outfit. The best florists keep track of their experiences with florists in other areas and will follow up to make sure your blooms are delivered.

Another good option: Identify and use a good florist in the distant city. By cutting the local store from the transaction, you avoid wire-service charges and other fees. You’ll also communicate directly with the florist who will put together and deliver the arrangement. On the other hand, you won’t get help from your neighborhood florist or its wire service if there are problems.

Since using a national service or an order-taking company means customers have little control over the final result, it’s no surprise that many buyers run into problems. A very common one: An order-taking service charges a customer too little money for an arrangement and sends the order to a participating florist, which eventually rejects it. The service then sends the order to a different florist, and again, after several hours, the job is rejected. Sometimes this flower-order merry-go-round continues for days, even weeks. Just as bad, a florist chooses to fill the underpriced order but skimps on flowers. This often happens when an underpriced order is accepted by a disreputable florist willing to take a little money to get rid of old flowers.

No matter whom you hire to arrange your arrangements, pay by credit card. If a florist screws up and is unwilling to make things right, you can contest the charge with your credit card company and at least will get back your money.