How to get the best deal on Valentine's Day flowers

Back on Mother's Day we had checked out ProFlowers, 1-800-Flowers, and FTD with our partners at Consumer Reports. So it seemed like a good time to check back in.

We ordered one dozen red roses online from the three big florists. What did we receive? Three dozen flowers. All three of these companies get an 'A' for doing what they say they are going to do.

"It certainly worked. They showed up the day after they were ordered they were a dozen roses that were beautiful. It was a little less personal then I would like if I were getting roses for real," said Lisa Tabb, 7 On Your Side producer.

Here's what she means by that -- the flowers arrived by FedEx or UPS, not a florist. And they didn't arrive ready for display. They were more like a boxed kit with a vase, vegetation, and instructions. You put it all together yourself then add water.

With 1-800-Flowers, there were only the roses. FTD arrived with roses plus green foliage. The ProFlowers roses came with foliage, ferns, and baby's breath. But with ProFlowers, the stems needed trimming before placing the roses in a vase.

Once set up, all had healthy flowers with tight petals. And they all aged well, lasting more than a week.

So what's the catch? Ordering.

"This is the opposite of sticker shock, call it sticker swoon," said Joe Ridout with Consumer Action. "Where a company can advertise a price that is almost surely will not be the price the consumer pays in the end."

The flowers are shown in a vase. But once you order, notice the vase costs extra. Delivery does too.

"It's remarkable because you are taking a product that is extremely simple, a dozen flowers, and making it bewilderingly complex," Ridout said. "You are not just buying the flowers, there are add-ons for vase, there's add-ons for a regular delivery fee, a specified delivery fee in the morning, and other handling fees in some cases. It is remarkable that such a simple product could have so many layers of fees added on to it."

But there are subtractions too in the form of multiple discounts. Some are listed right on the company's websites, some we went looking for on third party websites. Still, others we were given to us just because we were chatting with the online customer service person.

If we subtract specialized delivery fees, which is only fair, our costs ran between $52.63 and $69.92. That is a difference of $17.29.

Notice I am not showing you which one was cheapest. That is because I am not convinced they would be cheapest on the day you search. You need to shop price, discounts, online coupons, and go all the way through check out process until right before you agree to buy. That is really the only way to know the final price.

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