February 02, 2024

Valentine's Day PTSD from a Recovering Retail Florist

Valentine's Day PTSD from a Recovering Retail Florist

Valentine's Day always brings up many different feelings for me.  If you have ever owned or worked in a retail florist, then you can relate to my feelings. 

 I started working in the retail floristry industry in the late 90s and quickly saw the impact Valentine's Day had on the industry.  It's an all-hands-on-deck time that can easily make or break your year. There are no time off requests, no long lunches, no running out for a quick errand.  I think it would be hard to understand the craziness of Valentine's in a flower shop unless you have experienced it firsthand. 

The lead-up and planning are almost as crazy as the day itself. You are forced to predict how many people will want to order fresh flowers for this singular day so you can, of course, make sure to book enough flowers from your growers and suppliers to satisfy the demand. At the same time, you are also dealing with the stress and possibility of over-ordering; being stuck with buckets and buckets of flowers on the brink of senescence for the orders that never came in. Rarely does everything align perfectly and there is nothing you can do but roll with the punches.

In a perfect world, Valentine's Day lands in the middle of the work week and the day is sunny and clear. 

Why a weekday? Weekend Valentine's Days are the WORST.  Everyone wants to send flowers to someone's workplace, and the weekend of Valentine's Day kills that for schools, banks, doctor's offices, and many other places of work. Weekends free up time for people to be more creative and look to other avenues - romantic lunches, spa days, candlelit dinners - which means leaving the flower deliveries behind. 

A rainy or snowy Valentine's Day is also horrible, not because you don't have the orders, but because now you have all the orders that have to be delivered to individual people in less-than-desirable conditions. As you might guess, this often leads to delays and the dreaded customer calls:  "Why haven't my wife's flowers been delivered?  She is leaving the office in three minutes!"  

I'm getting anxious just thinking about it.  

As I mentioned, the two to three days leading up to Valentine's Day are all hands on deck. Your cases upon cases of flowers and greens have arrived and need to be processed (unpacked, stems cut, put in buckets, rested and then cooled). I always had to bring in a refrigerated truck to handle the overflow that my store cooler could not, which resulted in many back-and-forth trips to the parking lot to climb into the truck. Then it was time to start designing.  

The designers start tackling stacks and stacks of orders, trying to remain creative in their artistry while the monotony begins to set in. The mornings quickly turn into afternoons, the afternoons become the evening and before you know it the clock is reading 4 a.m. and you have barely eaten, standing in ten inches of fallen foliage and stems.  

When the day finally comes, you've called in all favors to make deliveries. 

Friends in their own cars, or rented vans…you’ll truly take any help you can get. Mapping out the deliveries is another complicated task. You want to be as efficient as possible, which means separating the deliveries into neighborhoods or areas of towns.  It's a logistical feat. During the day the last-minute calls start pouring in.  

"Please tell me you can still deliver to my Aunt Beatrice.  I promised her roses this year." You try to accommodate all you can but there has to be a hard stop eventually, and you are always going to let someone down.  

Finally, the end is in sight.  You are delirious but strangely feel accomplished and proud that another Valentine's Day has come and gone. It may have been a cash cow.  It may have been a complete bomb, but you've made it through. Yet there is one more hurdle to get through: The day after.  

Every time the phone would ring the day after Valentine's Day, my heart would sink. I knew it was someone whose flowers had spontaneously died and their Valentine's Day was ruined, or a delivery that was forgotten and another day ruined. Once we had a caller go on for thirty minutes about how we had forgotten to deliver his wife's flowers which caused a giant fight and a cancellation of their dinner plans. "But sir, that couldn't be.  I have turned everything upside down and cannot find your order." He had called the wrong florist.

So, that's a Valentine's Day spiel from a recovering retail florist. As much stress as Valentine's Day would bring me, the owner of a flower shop, I honestly wouldn't trade those days for anything.  Those long days and nights were filled with laughs and tears, storytelling and sharing, creating memories that will last a lifetime (clearly).  

P.S. - I want to clear up a misconception. Many people think flower shops inflate their prices, specifically for roses, to gouge customers for Valentine's Day.  The reality is, it’s a trickle-down effect. The prices from the growers and suppliers that florists rely on rise exponentially leading up to Valentine's Day, which leads to dramatic price fluctuations at the retail level. We always did our very best to try and minimize the increases as much as possible and absorb as much of the inflation as we could.  Happy Valentine's Day!