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Beware Ordering Flowers Online

Valentine's Day is less than a week away. Americans will spend $1.7 billion dollars on flowers for their loved ones. If you're part of that bunch, you may wonder -- are the flowers you ordered really worth the money you've spent?

Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen put the "petal to the metal" to find out!

Koeppen spent the last few days ordering flowers -- everything from roses to mixed bouquets -- then had them analyzed by an expert in the business.

She stopped by a flower shop, where they expect to send out more than 600 arrangements on Valentine's Day alone.

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"When do you start planning for Valentine's Day?" she asked.

The store's owner, Thomas Barbagianis, doesn't waste any time -- he says he starts right after Valentine's Day to prepare for the following year.

But when you order flowers, especially sight-unseen, do you really get what you pay for? And do the arrangements really look like the beautiful pictures shown online?

Koeppen decided to order flowers from three different online locations: 1-800-flowers, Florist Express and a local flower shop in New York City.

And she enlisted the help of celebrity floral designer and Director of the New York School of Flower Design, Michael Gaffney, asking him to analyze the flowers once they arrived.

She showed him the "Sweet Delights" arrangement as pictured online at Florist Express.

And what actually arrived was different than what was seen. Total price including taxes and delivery: $93.

According to Gaffney, Koeppen overpaid and should have three of the floral arrangements lined up for that price. And many of the flowers in the arrangement had been replaced with different ones, such as yellow mini carnations.

"Are you sure we have the right order?" Gaffney wondered.

Next she ordered the fun and flirty arrangement from - total price with taxes and delivery: $70.

"Boy, I don't know how they get away with this," he said. "This I would set on a country kitchen table. Maybe. We are missing the boat completely here."

And then the "How Sweet It Is" bouquet from the local flower shop -- and yet again, it didn't look like what was pictured online. Total price with taxes and delivery: $54.

"I think you got the wrong order," Gaffney said.

So how did they do?

"Overall, I am a little surprised," he said.

Even though Koeppen thought some of the arrangements were very pretty, Gaffney says she didn't really get what she paid for.

"We missed the design and the value on most of these," Gaffney adds.

Koeppen contacted 1800flowers, Florist Express and the local flower shop. All of them offered to send new flowers, no questions asked. They all offer a 100 percent guarantee. And the websites do give a disclaimer that arrangements may vary slightly depending on flower availability.

So what's the best way to get the best value when you are buying flowers?

"You should be very specific about what you want in an arrangement. And get to know your local flower shop owner. Ask how often they buy their flowers and what flowers they have in stock right now," Koeppen points out.

And how do you make those flowers last?

Koeppen says that there are three important steps: First cut the ends, then soak the flowers in water for 30 minutes before putting them in the vase and make sure you change the water every couple of days. And then add some bleach to the water to kill off bacteria. Just a couple of drops will do.