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Valentines Musings

posted Feb 13, 2011, 5:59 PM by Jose Velasquez
Happy Valentines!

Normally I would never post something like this, but since we're back on this side of the world I thought I'd share my thoughts about flowers in North America. 

They are over-priced, under-sized, and cookie-cutter styled. Have you ever compared FTD with 1-800-Flowers and the offerings of "local" florists? They all pretty much offer the same things and at the same outrageous prices, and they've made such handsome profits from unknowing, ignorant, and otherwise hoodwinked customers.

Why do I bother to mention this? I mention this because I used to buy my wife flowers in bulk quantities when we lived in Korea--we often had flowers throughout the house most of the year. And you know what, I never spent more than $30US for enough flowers to fill 4-5 large vases. How did I do this? I bought them at the wholesale flower market in Seoul's Express Bus Terminal--imagine an entire floor of a large warehouse that has about 100 vendors selling nothing but flowers--and the best thing is it's open to the public. 

10 long-stemmed roses for $3.50--I even bargained with vendors when I bought higher quantities and managed to bring that price down to ~$2.50 for 10. Korea does not grow roses in the winter--note the coat in the picture, and note the large bundles of roses to the left--and this is just one vendor. I even manged to buy red Calla Lillies for the insane price of ~5.00US a piece (and they were fresh!). 

All of the flowers at the wholesale flower market in Seoul are imported, just like they are in most North American cities--the crazy thing is the price difference makes no sense. Just like our favorite Chilean wine, we've never been able to figure out how in Seoul it sold for ~$5.50 for a 750ml bottle, but out here it costs $28.00US. Tariffs you say? Korea has some of the highest import tariffs for alcohol, so how is it that Chilean wine that has to travel much further across an ocean and a sea is cheaper over there than it is over here? And lest you think it was fake, please know that we purchased it at Costco--there's no way they would be allowed by corporate HQ to sell bootleg goods. 

While I understand that many of the flowers in Korea are imported from throughout Asia, did you know that 90% of roses in the US come from Columbia and Ecuador? Last time I checked those countries weren't very far from the US--not much further than the Philippines is from Korea. 

Why are prices so much higher in the US and Canada? The usual reply on the net seems to be "supply and demand"--that makes no sense at all, since there is way more supply than there is demand (ever wonder how FTD and 1800-flowers can offer last minute "valentines day delivery"--they haven't run out of roses). The most logical answer is North Americans have been hoodwinked into believing that 12 roses should really cost $100US--that's barely what the people who pick them in Ecuador and Columbia earn in a month. Most of that is profit for the companies selling these roses. North Americans seem content to allow people to rip them off--that's real sad, because it happens with more than just flowers.

My point? Don't waste $100 on 12 roses--find yourself a wholesale market near your area and enjoy cheaper flowers by the dozen. Where are those wholesale markets? There aren't many here in North America, but if you live close to one take advantage of that great opportunity that's near you. I sure miss the flower market in Korea, so I'm always on the lookout for good deals on flowers--if push comes to shove I may look into growing them indoors myself! There's no point paying someone to stay rich while people in Ecuador and Columbia who cut and pack them are earning a pittance. 

There are some online vendors who sell roses for $0.71/each--the catch is you have to buy them in large quantities (min. of 250 roses)--the nice thing is you and your friends can go in together to lower the costs to a nice price of ~$18US for 25 long stem roses. For next valentine's day that may be something to ponder! 

Till my next rambling, or post, or review, this is, hey, hey