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Consumer Reports

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    Ordering Flowers Online: Do the Pictures Match What You Get?

    Mother’s Day is near, and if you’re like a lot of people, flowers are your go-to gift. More money is spent on bouquets around mom’s special day (about $2.4 billion last year, according to a National Retail Federation survey) than on Valentine’s Day ($2.1 billion).

    And more and more of us are ordering our Mother’s Day flowers online. Low prices and convenience are the lure: Virtual flower shops can keep prices down because their website is their storefront, and their flowers are often delivered from central warehouses. (Many of them also keep a portion of the sales placed through their websites that they pass on to local florists.) As a result, revenue for online florists has been growing 2.5 percent annually in the past five years as revenue for walk-in flower shops has dropped by 1.2 percent each year during the same time period, according to market research by IBISWorld.

    Ordering flowers online also makes it easy to see a wide variety of bouquet choices. The photos on these sites are lovely: Lush arrangements of fresh flowers in full bloom, expertly styled. The only thing you can’t do is take a deep sniff. But how can you know how the photo compares with the arrangement that actually shows up at mom’s door?

    To find out, we ordered similarly composed and priced multicolor long-stem roses as well as mixed-flower bouquets from three popular online sites: 1-800-Flowers, FTD, and ProFlowers. We selected arrangements that were supposed to be delivered in boxes (which usually means they’re sent from a central warehouse), representing what many consumers might receive during one of the industry’s busiest times of year. Flowers that arrive in a vase are usually arranged by a local florist.

    All six bouquets were delivered on Feb. 11, close to Valentine’s Day, to match the high-demand Mother’s Day moment as much as possible.

    When the mixed-flower arrangements arrived, we were surprised to find the ones from ProFlowers and FTD were in a vase. As a result, we didn’t include the mixed flowers in our survey because the arrangements represented only what people near our office in Yonkers, N.Y., might receive.

    We took pictures of the three bunches of roses in our photo studio. Then we asked 77 staff volunteers to inspect the arrangements and choose which ones they thought represented the best and worst quality, all under the supervision of our lab experts. We followed with an online survey of 162 staffers who were shown the flowers online pictures (we didn’t identify the websites) next to photos of the roses that were delivered, and asked how similar they were on a scale of one (not at all similar) to five (extremely alike). FTD roses got the best scores; staffers liked the ProFlowers bunch the least.

    ProFlowers

    On the left is the photo of the roses we ordered from the ProFlowers website; on the right are the flowers we received. ProFlowers (which was acquired by FTD in December 2014) says on its website that its flowers are hand-picked in fields and sent directly to your door. In our sample of a dozen roses, however, only five were intact. Almost all of our panelists who rated them in person (97 percent) said they represented the lowest-quality bunch. When we asked in our survey how similar the arrangement was to its online photo, 96 percent gave it a 1 out of 5, or a poor rating. When we called ProFlowers to complain, a customer-service rep apologized and sent us another bunch of roses the next day at no additional charge. The replacement roses were full and intact.

    Total price: $56.48
    ($34.97, plus $12.99 for shipping, $5.53 for tax, and $2.99 for “care and handling")


    FTD

    The FTD roses received the best scores from our survey panelists: 95 percent of those who rated them in person said they represented the best quality of the three rose bouquets we ordered. Sixteen percent of the folks who took our online survey said they were extremely similar to the online picture (on the left); another 36 percent gave them a 4 out of 5.

    Total price: $76.01
    ($49.99, plus $18.99 for shipping and $7.03 for tax)


    1-800-FLOWERS

    The roses from 1-800-Flowers arrived in fine shape, but our survey panelists were less wowed by them than the FTD roses. When judging how similar our delivery (on the right) was to the flowers online photo (on the left), 37 percent of our staffers gave them a good rating (3); 37 percent rated them fair (2). Only three of the 77 people who looked them over in person thought they represented the best quality among our rose bouquets. Only two said they were the lowest quality.

    Total price: $65.01
    ($44.99, plus $14.99 for shipping and $5.03 for tax)


    Smart Shopping Tips

    If you’ll be ordering a bouquet for mom online, keep this advice in mind:

    Go to online flower-delivery websites a few times before you order. We were offered additional price cuts and coupons the more we clicked on the sites.

    Don’t forget to factor shipping and taxes into your total cost. Our shipping fees ranged from $12.99 to $18.99 for a dozen roses.

    Consider having your arrangement arrive a few days before a major holiday. You could save some additional money. Delivery costs escalate in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, as they probably will around Mother’s Day.

    Ask your mom about the flowers sent. (She may not want to complain to you, or she may just be glad you thought of her.) But if you suspect there was a problem with the bouquet, ask for a photo. Call the company you ordered them from to complain if you or your mother is dissatisfied with a delivery. All three companies we ordered from will replace your flowers or refund your money if you’re not satisfied. All three also provide the same options if their flowers don’t last for seven days.

    Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Best Cameras to Buy Right Now

    Canon PowerShot N100

    One reason people like snapping photos on their smartphones is that smartphones are "connected" to the Internet, email and message services, making it easy to share their work. This small, portable point-and-shoot uses Wi-Fi to transfer images to phones, tablets, and computers, as well as other PowerShot N-series cameras. It can even upload photos directly to Facebook. It has fun features, too: In Creative Shot mode, it lets you edit your images using various filters and cropping techniques (think Instagram) and save five versions of each shot.

    Nikon Coolpix P900

    With its 83x optical superzoom lens (24mm-2000mm), this Coolpix captures the craters on the moon. Far out, right? To keep your pictures sharp and your video jitter-free, it has an excellent image-stabilization system. And unlike many point-and-shoots, it includes a swiveling liquid crystal display for framing hard-to-reach shots and an electronic viewfinder, useful when bright sunlight washes out that LCD screen. The camera also offers a second zoom control, right on the barrel of the lens.

    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 II

    Though a bit heavy, this fixed-lens Sony nonetheless has benefits that make it an attractive alternative to an SLR or mirrorless camera. For starters, its 8.3x optical zoom (24mm-200mm) is longer than the lens you'll find in most kits. It also has a constant f/2.8 aperture, which delivers better low-light shots by letting more of that glow into the lens over the length of the zoom. By creating a shallow depth of field, even at the telephoto end of the zoom, it also produces more professional-looking images.

    The camera has lots of other nifty features too, including a high-quality electronic viewfinder, the power to fire off 14 frames per second in burst mode, the ability to capture 4K-resolution video, and various high-frame rate video settings for dramatic slow-motion effects.  

    Olympus Stylus TG-4

    A waterproof point-and-shoot lets you go where smartphones dare not tread—like, say, a waterpark or a river rafting expedition. This point-and-shoot is rugged enough to survive a deep dive of roughly 50 feet or a freefall of seven feet.  

    lt shoots photos of very good quality and has a good flash. Plus it can capture images as RAW files, a feature found mostly on advanced cameras. Unlike a JPEG, this uncompressed format isn't processed inside the camera and can yield the best quality images.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

    If you're not put off by the pricetag (especially when the unit is paired with the 14-140mm lens), this wireless mirrorless camera has all the bells and whistles one could want. It captures stunning stills, even in low light, and can shoot 4K (ultra high definition) video at 30 frames per second. It comes with a fantastic, swiveling, touch-screen OLED display and an excellent electronic viewfinder. And, if you don't want to miss a single moment of the drama in that viewfinder, you'll be glad to know the Lumix DMC-GH4 can capture 12 frames per second.

    Nikon D750

    Thanks to a full-frame-sized sensor (24mm x 36mm), this pricey-but-powerful, 24-megapixel SLR can handle a wide variety of lighting situations. Even without a flash, images shot in low-lamp conditions were sharp with no visual noise. The camera has a large, 3.1-inch LCD screen, built-in WiFi, and it can fire off 6.5 frames per second in burst mode.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

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