Not long ago, a close family member fell seriously ill. Before flying to see her, I ordered flowers to be sent to her hospital room through a popular online delivery service. There were three sizes of the same arrangement from which to choose. I selected the “Better” one, which, according to the description, included 16 stems and was “approximately 13″ high x 12″ wide.” It looked lovely in the photo. Together with taxes, delivery, and same day delivery charge the total came to $68.97.

FTD Sunshine Bouquet
Shortly afterward I received an email saying that same day delivery was not available. The fee was only three dollars, but it was the principle of the thing, as they say, and I called the company to say I wanted the service charge refunded. They readily agreed, explaining they were having trouble getting first one florist and then another to guarantee arrival of the arrangement. I found that odd as it was only 9:30 on a weekday morning in Baltimore, but I suppose florists do get busy at times other than Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

When I arrived at the hospital a couple of days later I was appalled. It would be generous to say that the arrangement was more like 8″ high by 6″ wide. While the small bucket and several yellow roses likened the bouquet to the photo I’d seen, it was a far cry from the online description. The photo here comparing it for size to an individual box of Rice Krispies says it all.

FTD Cereal Box DeliveryCoincidentally, my cousin from the Bay Area had made precisely the same selection, and she, too, was shocked when she saw her delivery “in person.” When my sister-in-law informed her that I wanted to talk to her about her flowers, she assumed I was going to berate her for being cheap, lending humor to an otherwise infuriating–not to mention embarrassing–situation. (Anne, I’m going to let you pay for lunch next time we’re together, just so I can be sure.)

I called the company and complained. A supervisor agreed to send me a voucher for $15.00, but if it cost $65.00 for the priceless gem above, I can’t imagine what I would ever want to order in the future.

The lesson to be learned? I’m not saying I’ll never again order flowers on the Internet. But it might be wise to develop a relationship with a florist in a few cities where I’m likely to send gifts, and to contact them directly. Years ago I often sent flowers on behalf of the man for whom I worked, and sometimes afterwards discovered that the recipient was disappointed. Let’s overlook for the moment that I found it odd someone would complain about a gift to the giver. My recent experience leads me to wonder what many of those elaborate floral designs really did look like.

And you: Do you know what you’re paying for?