Plants and flowers are expensive, as any gardener knows. It is often necessary to acquire just a few plants at a time because of the costs. However, now that the Internet is so readily accessible and auction sites abound, there are new opportunities. This article is specific to Ebay and the author’s experiences there buying plants and flowers. Ebay can be a treasure trove to the plant enthusiast, if you follow some rules.
Whether you have something specific in mind or you are just browsing, the first Ebay click after your log in should be to the Home & Garden section. Then click on the link in the left column for Yard, Garden & Outdoor Living. Your next selection in the left column will be Gardening & Plants. Then, select Plants, Seeds & Bulbs. From this point, you have a list of subcategories followed by numbers in parenthesis. Those numbers tell you how many items are listed in that subcategory. Where you go from here will depend on whether you are browsing or have something specific in mind. For example: If you were looking for daylilies, you would select Flower Bulbs, Roots & Corms.
Use the standard Ebay sorting options to help narrow your search, i.e., ending soonest, new today or-my favorite-lowest first. If you have never used this sort feature, it is located in the box at the top of the item list to the right of the words list view. There is a box labeled sort by with a drop down list. Using this can save you time. After all we are searching for bargains, right?
You see something that strikes your fancy and you click over to the item listing. The first thing to check is the item description. Once you have read the description and are satisfied that it is what you want, check the price, the shipping costs and the seller’s reputation. When you check the price, it is good to go out to the Internet to search elsewhere for the item to determine if the current pricing is below what you could purchase the item for elsewhere. NOT EVERYONE ON EBAY IS SELLING DISCOUNTED ITEMS. If the price is reasonable, take a look at the shipping costs.
Once you add the shipping into the price of the item, has the price gone over the roof? Some sellers will list an item with a low price and exorbitant shipping and handling costs. They count on people getting excited about the picture and the price and forgetting to check the shipping costs. Once you bid, if you win, you must pay. It is a binding contract. So, check out the shipping costs before you make your offer. If it doesn’t provide this information on the item page, contact the seller to see if they combine shipping, if you purchase more than one item from them. This can be a real plus, if you plan to buy more. If there is a flat rate shipping fee of say $6.50 and each additional item is only .35 cents, you could save buying multiple items from this seller rather than spreading your purchases between a number of sellers.
Check to see when they say they will ship. You don’t want anything that ships in excess of 30 days from your purchase, unless you are willing to take the risk of never receiving the item and saying good-bye to your money. If you are using PayPal, there are time limits on when you can file a dispute and a claim. If you go outside those parameters, you are out of luck. If you wrote a check and it went out of state—oh well. You have from 30-60 days to dispute credit card purchases, but that is a lengthy process and your money can be tied up until it is resolved.
Satisfied so far? OK, now look at the seller’s reputation. Are they a Power Seller with a score in the upper 90’s? If yes, you have a good shot at being treated fairly and receiving the item or items in a reasonable amount of time. Does the seller have a score of less than 50 sales or purchases and a score below 90? This purchase is a risk. If the price is just too wonderful and you really, really want the item, go and read the recent feedback. If the last few items have satisfactory feedback, it might be worth the risk. If the last few items have negative feedback, you should pass. Disputes and claims are a pain.
Ready to place a bid? Since you are a savvy shopper and already know what a reasonable price is for the item, decide what the maximum is that you are willing to pay. Ebay will tell you to enter your maximum bid. This author has found doing this will sometimes drive up the price too quickly. If the auction ends in 3 days, you have plenty of time to go back and bid again. So, pick an amount above the current bid, but below your maximum and bid with that amount. If you become the high bidder, cool. If not, don’t get concerned right now. The item goes into the bidding section of your my Ebay and you can watch it from there. As the end of the auction approaches (the closer to the end of the auction the better), if you have been outbid, input your maximum bid and see what happens.
A word about bidding. Use odd bid amounts. Why do something so weird? Most people think in terms of even amounts like $1.25 or $1.50 and will bid that way. Going odd can make you the high bidder but just by pennies. Example: Current bid is $1.04. You bid 1.57. Another bidder may have put in a high bid of $1.50 or $1.55. Whichever they bid, you still bet them by pennies.
If you are planning to bid on more than one item from a single seller, let them know. Send an email after your first win, to let them know you are still bidding on their items and that you will request a combined invoice when you are finished bidding. This bidding must take place within a reasonable timeframe. Check the seller’s description and shipping carefully for a timeframe they may have set such as: “all auctions within 10 days.”
Once you win your plants, pay your invoice promptly and know when to expect shipment. If they don’t show, contact the seller and send a copy of the correspondence to yourself. Once your plants arrive, be prepared to care for them. Open the box, check the contents, check the invoice, read any planting instructions. If there is any problem or question at all, contact the seller immediately and send yourself a copy of the contact email. You will need that copy, if a dispute develops with the seller. If everything is in order, which is most of the time, get those plants growing.
Always leave feedback that accurately reflects your experience with the seller, but before you leave anything negative, contact the seller. There may have been a miscommunication or some other glitch that is fixable. Never suffer in silence or lash out in revenge. Communication is a key element of all relationships and in particular when you are communicating through a virtual medium and not face-to-face.
Some specific sellers that have top ratings with this author so far this year are:
This author has saved hundreds of dollars buying plants, and other things, on Ebay. It is simply a matter of being a good consumer, knowing what you want, knowing the seller’s reputation and being willing to take managed risks.
Happy bidding-and gardening!