​Ordering Valentine's flowers? Don't get shafted

Saying "I love you" with flowers can be a wonderful Valentine's gift, but that message can get wilted if the intended's bouquet is skimpy or shriveled.

Valentine's Day spending is set to hit a record $19.7 billion this year, with about $1.9 billion of that tied to flower purchases, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). But roses definitely do not smell as sweet if they arrive looking less than fresh, which is a common consumer complaint. Each holiday, consumers order from online sites that promote full, fresh bouquets, but the reality can be far from what's advertised.

Online flower sales are set to peak on Thursday, according to Adobe Digital Index. Before consumers order, they should consider a few realities of the flower industry in order to avoid disappointment on the other end. Online photos depict arrangements with all the flowers pointing toward the camera, but the bouquet can look quite different (er, skimpier) in real life. Because of that, it's important to count the blooms, rather than relying on images, according to Consumerist.

There's also the issue of using a middleman versus going directly to a florist. Many experts recommend finding a trusted local florist, who will be able to tell you want types of flowers they have in stock. One common fail is ordering a specific type of bouquet -- say, red roses -- and having the vase arrive with a different color or type of flower.

Floral wire services like FTD or Teleflora add on service fees that can easily mount to $10 or more, while ordering directly from a local florist can allow consumers to bypass that extra cost.

Finding a local florist, can be tricky, however. Searching on Google can turn up affiliate sites that appear to be a local business, but end up taking an additional fee and then send your order to a wire service. One clue to figuring out who you're dealing with is looking for an actual address on the florist's website, as well as reviews from consumers on Yelp.

Prices may rise closer to Valentine's Day, so it's best not to wait too long to order flowers. The average consumer will spend about $41 on flowers this year, according to the NRF.

Flowers can be the tip of the rose-tinted iceberg, however. Would-be Romeos and Juliets may end up shelling out more than $500, if they spend on all the usual suspects, such as a romantic dinner, jewelry, roses and chocolates, according to the Be My Valentine Index from Bankrate.com.

Millennials say they're likely to spend a pretty penny this year, with Nerdwallet finding men in the generation are planning on shelling out about $371, on average. Millennial women, for their part, said they'll spend about $197. Given that millennials range between 18 to 34, often when people are most actively dating, it's not surprising their Valentine's Day spending is much higher than older generations. The average across all people in relationships is $196, Nerdwallet said.