Leave ‘I Love You’ to the Pros
The note dangling from the bouquet of roses on your doorstep may have been composed by your crush. It also may come straight from the heart of a copywriter at 1-800-Flowers.com.
“You take my breath away … today and every day,” gushes one of the hundred prewritten messages that greet that flower-delivery service’s customers at checkout. “You opened the door to my heart, which I thought was locked forever,” reads a note that can be added to any bouquet from the Avenue J Florist, a business in Brooklyn, with a couple of clicks.
Another service, UrbanStems, added a selection of timely messages this month, including “You’re the Meghan to my Harry, except our families get along.”
It can be hard to tell our loved ones how we feel. But is it hard enough, really, to justify resorting to the boilerplate messages offered by flower-delivery services? That was the debate on Twitter and TikTok recently, after screenshots of the “I’m Sorry” category of messages on 1-800-Flowers.com went viral. “I am so very sorry; I will work every single day for the rest of my life to make right,” reads one such note, promising effort on behalf of a sender who may be actively avoiding it.
Much has been made of Valentine’s Day — and Christmas, and Mother’s Day, and most holidays, really — as a corporate ploy to commodify love. But rarely have companies’ efforts to capitalize so amused the internet with the baldness of their ambition.
“We certainly didn’t anticipate this,” Jason John, the chief marketing officer of 1-800-Flowers.com, said of the “awesome” online attention.
Mr. John does not think that customers who select prewritten notes cheapen an otherwise romantic gesture. “These words rang true to them, so it was an expression of what they wanted to say,” he said. He compared selecting a prewritten message to sending a preprinted greeting card: “It doesn’t make it any less meaningful or important.”
According to Mr. John, the company introduced prewritten notes in 2010, and keeps the offerings fresh with the help of a “fairly large” team of writers and editors. If a note attached to a bouquet sounds a little too subtle for your taste, the company also sells roses with the words “I love you” embossed onto their petals.
Beyond their role in expediting the ordering process, the messages make for curious literature. Many are at once intense and vague, offering a watery brand of schmaltz that could be applied to anyone on the planet. Others, like the royal riff from UrbanStems, are tempting because they are funnier than what most of us would come up with ourselves.
Similar messages are available all year long. Teleflora has 18 categories of chipper messages, including “Just Because” (“I hope this makes an ordinary day, extraordinary!”) and “Business Gift” (“It’s always a pleasure working with you!”). Even the alcohol-delivery service Drizly makes a dry note suggestion: “Enjoy this gift of alcohol from Drizly.”
But the prewritten notes are especially popular around Valentine’s Day, according to Katie Hudson, the content director for UrbanStems, which has offered them since 2018. In 2019, 15 percent of orders placed the week of the holiday included a note selected from the company’s list — a percentage well above the yearly average.
Ms. Hudson wrote most of the company’s 19 messages herself, dotting them with pop culture references like Tyra Banks and Tinder to make them sound as if they came from a human being. For now, they do, although Ms. Hudson recently used the A.I. text generator ChatGPT to compose much of a blog post suggesting even more Valentine’s Day notes.
“I could see us maybe going into Mother’s Day asking ChatGPT to write us a 160-character, funny, relatable Mother’s Day message and seeing what it comes back with,” Ms. Hudson said.
Prewritten notes may not achieve the same level of intimacy as personalized ones, said Suzanna Cameron, 33, the owner of Stems Brooklyn, a sustainability-minded flower shop in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Ms. Cameron often hand-writes vivid apologies from customers on the notecards that accompany her flower deliveries.
“We got a message recently, and somebody was apologizing for flinging their poo in their apartment,” Ms. Cameron said. “I was like: ‘What? Did I read that right?’”
Other custom-written apologies are less memorable. Katie Mac, 27, a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles, received a bouquet of orange and white lilies on Feb. 16 last year, as an apology from a boyfriend who had failed to acknowledge Valentine’s Day two days earlier. Ms. Mac said she was certain he had written the attached note, which said “I’m sorry, I love you.”
“If the service created it, I would imagine that it would be a little bit more creative,”Ms. Mac said. Still, she said, she preferred almost anything written by her partner to a message selected from the menu on 1-800-Flowers.com.
If Ms. Mac ever got one of those, she said, “I simply would not acknowledge that the flowers existed.”