With the three biggest floral holidays (Christmas, Valentine's Day & Mothers Day) coming up in the next several months, you might be wondering about the different ways to order your flowers. Most people have heard of Pro-Flowers, FTD and Teleflora, but probably don't know exactly what they are, and may even think they are the same thing. But there are huge differences between these services and knowing them will help you decide how you want to send your flowers this year.
There are really three major types of floral delivery services; (1) Courier services aka, "direct-from-grower delivery", aka drop-shipping services, (2) Wire services, aka, third-party delivery services, aka "order-gatherers", aka "the middle man" (3) Local florist delivery services.
An example of the first type, the couriers, would be Pro Flowers. These types of services allow you to purchase flowers through a website at a relatively low cost. The items are generally shown as a pretty arrangement in a vase, and list the types of flowers shown and even allow you to select the type of vase you want. However, the flowers and vase will be shipped in a box and do not come pre-arranged like the picture shows. These businesses operate through warehouses, where flowers are shipped directly from the farms and are held there in storage until they are bunched and boxed according to the specifics of each order. When they are delivered, the recipient is in charge of arranging the flowers in the accompanying vase, or a vase of their own if one was not included in the shipment. This is a fine choice for a lot of people who don't want to spend very much money and are just interested in sending the flowers themselves. But there are two main risks with this method; (1) warehouse workers are not trained in quality control and would not be able to identify damaged/frozen/wilted flowers before placing them in the box for delivery. (2) The person receiving the flowers may not know how to properly re-cut the flowers before placing them in a vase, which may result in the flowers' untimely death.
The second type of service would be what we call the "Wire Services" which include FTD and Teleflora. These are third-party companies who offer memberships to local florists for their services. The florists pay monthly fees for the ability to purchase official keepsakes and containers from the companies, and be able to accept and fill orders placed through the main company website (such as Teleflora.com). This option is nice if you want to save yourself the hassle of finding a local florist to fill your order because the wire service will select it for you based on the zip code you are sending to. The drawback here is that, due to the relationship between the wire service and the filling florist, there are various fees and shared percentages involved that can prevent you from really getting your money's worth. Also, should the filling florist have a question about the order, they would have to get the wire service to contact you, the customer, and it generally takes a lot longer to resolve even the smallest issues.
Working directly with a local florist is really the best way to go. Most of them do have websites where you can order online and many of them carry the FTD or Teleflora keepsakes you might be looking for. Every order is filled by a real person who is trained in the art of floral design. You also benefit by developing a relationship with your local florist. Many companies offer monthly billing accounts, which makes it easier to order and you don't even have to pay up front. Your order history will also usually be saved, so that sending to the same person over and over again is very simple.
We have House Accounts at The Flower Cart, so that our customers can place orders as often as they need to and then they simply pay at the end of the month when they receive their bill. Our customers find this extremely convenient, especially for corporate accounts who might send flowers or fruit baskets four or five times a week. Some of our most frequent customers can call up and have their order placed in less than two minutes. No joke. And a few of our House Account customers submit their long list of orders via fax or email and never even have to call or visit the website.
I would also recommend visiting your local florist in person or even just calling them directly. They will most likely have flowers or gifts in stock that you never see on the website and can offer you personal assistance in selecting the right product to send for whatever special occasion it may be. This way, you really get the most bang for your buck.
Really, there are too many benefits to ordering through a local florist to not make it your first choice when sending flowers. If you want to get in touch with florist, there are online directories, like Teleflora's Find A Florist (www.findaflorist.com), which allow you to enter a zip code or city and see a list of florists in that area. If you give one of these shops a call, you'll get a real person who has probably been in the business for many years, and will offer you great customer service and a product you'll be 100% satisfied with.
And if you need to send flowers in Baltimore, it's a no-brainer. The Flower Cart has three locations in Baltimore, we have a great website, and we have been in business for 50 years.