Trying To Buy A Rose Can Be Trying

A rose by any name should still be easy to buy

Those who have been married for more than 10 minutes will understand why I wanted to send my wife a dozen roses for no reason at all. The rest of you will understand in time.

I drilled down into Yahoo! to find a local florist in Santa Barbara, Calif.-that’s where we live. Yahoo! provided three sites. The first two, Alpha Floral (www.alphafloral.com) and Riley’s Flowers (www.rileysflowers.com), displayed pictures and telephone numbers. Although these sites were minimalist, they communicated a personality, something we marketing consultants refer to as “brand.” They looked professional and offered users a way to simply and elegantly communicate and transact business. The problem? I was in New Zealand on business, and they were closed for the night.

Next up: Santa Barbara Florist (www.silcom.com/~digit/index.html), which offers a wonderful compendium of things not to post on your Website. The first extraordinarily long page contains innumerable fluttering butterflies, darting hummingbirds, blooming roses, a spinning mailbox, and a new age jazz “soundtrack” that alerts everybody in your immediate vicinity that you’re engaging in some serious personal surfing.

Next I searched for, and found, Victor the Florist (www.victortheflorist.com), a shop a short walk from my wife’s office. But the company’s catalog manages to bewilder. It displays a small picture of each bouquet, the title of the arrangement (“A Blooming Melody of Blossoms”), the price ($95.95), and the strange words, “Quantity in Basket: None.” Who would send an empty basket into the world? No one. The “Add 1 to Basket” button clued me in at last to the fact that the basket the site was referring to was in fact my shopping basket. Another rule of Website navigation breached: Clarity-ness is next to godliness.

The second problem: Victor’s desire for almost 81 of my dollars in exchange for 12 of his roses. Understand that no expense would be too extravagant for my wife-but she didn’t marry a fool, either.

So I searched again. A dozen long-stemmers at 1-800 Flowers (www.1800flowers.com) would set me back $59.95. A banner ad for Proflowers.com (www.proflowers.com) at AltaVista, though, offered them up for $29.95. Who says banner ads don’t work?

Of course, that was just the suck-you-in offer. Proflowers also wanted $9.95 for the vase and $7.95 for delivery. But for a total of $47.85, I was well ahead of the game. And, the site only made a couple of mistakes.

At the end of the transaction, Proflowers tried to sell me magazine subscriptions (“Would you like fries with that?”). The site also sent me a couple of very complete confirmation emails, but they included a few extra “20”s and “=”s and “=09″s in the place of simple carriage returns. But the fact that CEO Bill Strauss signed the delivery notification was a nice touch.

Besides, any displeasure caused by site unevenness was eased by the last email I received as a result of my Proflowers purchase: “Thank you Thank you Thank you for the LOVELY Roses! They are so pretty, so fragrant, so romantic.”

Husband points. Yes!