For Mother's Day, how about better flowers for less money?

Back before Valentine's Day,  I heard from a Delaware County florist with a recommendation that struck a chord. He suggested that consumers who buy flowers for loved ones far from home should learn to skip the Web- or phone-based middlemen - companies like 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora - and use the Internet in a more creative way: to buy directly from a local florist close to your recipient's home.

It's a great idea, and worthy of a reminder in the run-up to Mother's Day, the year's other huge boost for flower sales  and probably a bigger one for remote-control sales.  All it takes to skip the middleman is quick look on a search engine and a payment card, which you'd need in any event.

Mike Urban's main point is that the intermediaries make a lot of noise about which one is better (you can read my February column here about the budding Don Rickleses hawking one company's service), but all share one key characteristic. They all add service charges to their transactions - typically $10 to $15 per order. That's money you'd probably rather save, or have put toward more or better flowers for Mom.

I love the Internet - you wouldn't be reading this here if I didn't. But this is one case where the net may actually sap value rather than add it.

So consider taking Urban's suggestion this week. Send flowers to Mom, and meanwhile patronize a local business - in her neighborhood if not in yours.

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