Young Woman Florist Small Business Flower Shop Owner, Checkout Counter © YinYang, the Agency Collection, Getty Images

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and for many that means it's time to buy some chocolate and roses. Online flower retailers promise one-stop shopping for not just flowers and candy but also teddy bears and an array of other gifts. They lure consumers with ads for free shipping, Groupon discounts and other Valentine's Day "deals."

However, found that consumers can expect better value and service from a local florist, where we estimate delivery of a dozen red roses would cost about $50 depending on location, compared with regular prices of $59 to $86 through the major online providers -- a savings of 15% to 40%.

To come up with that estimate, we called several florists each in New York City and California -- expensive markets, so as not to exaggerate any potential savings -- and sought input from the Society of American Florists, the national trade group for the floral industry. More striking than the price difference was the level of customer satisfaction we found with local florists versus online flower-delivery services. Cheapism originally set out to find the best site for cheap flower delivery online and met with overwhelmingly negative reviews of big-name flower shops, including FTD and 1-800-Flowers.

With Valentine's Day yielding 224 million roses last year, according to the florists' trade group, it's no wonder that some deliveries get botched. But we counted few satisfied customers among hundreds of reviews and noted particular ire directed toward the service fees that online sellers tack on to flower orders.

Locating a florist near the recipient and placing an order directly might be a bit more work, but consumers and industry insiders say the return is well worth it. Not only will you save money, you'll also be able to speak directly with a florist who can recommend flowers within your budget and can be held accountable if a delivery goes awry. Another option is to turn to a site such as TaskRabbit, where you can hire a vetted assistant to buy and deliver the flowers for you.

The advantages of a local shop become more apparent if you understand how some of the big-name sites operate. For the most part, they act as flower brokerages, forwarding orders to local florists for fulfillment. Others ship from their own warehouses or directly from a grower. If the florist isn't confined to a standard arrangement posted online and stands to pocket all the profits from your order, chances are he or she will be able to make something a little nicer for the same price.

Act quickly if you're planning to send flowers for Valentine's Day, though. One local florist we spoke with in Queens, New York, already had a pile of orders for Feb. 14 by late January.

Jenny Scala of the florists' society recommends contacting florists early when ordering for any occasion and asking if they're running any special promotions. Try the National Florist Directory or a search on Yelp or Bing Local to find well-reviewed vendors near the recipient.

If the convenience of an online vendor still appeals to you, we found that ProFlowers, which charges about $74 for a dozen red roses, a vase and standard shipping, does earn some decent reviews for timely delivery of fresh, long-lasting bouquets. It also took the top spot among online flower retailers in a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey of customer satisfaction. One downside is that flowers typically arrive in a box and aren't expertly arranged by a florist.

Valentine's Day flowers should arrive healthy, as described and on time -- no points for showing up on the 15th. While ordering from a local florist doesn't guarantee satisfaction, online flower retailers seem to have trouble delivering, and the personal interaction and direct accountability of buying local often leads to a better experience.

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