10 Ways Not to Sell Orchids on eBay

Some of the thousands of orchids listed on eBay Australia

The point of this article is to provide a little insight to those wanting to sell or who already sell orchids on eBay. I am not an authority on either orchids or eBay. I am merely someone who has regularly purchased orchids on eBay (as well as online from commercial nurseries and orchid fairs). Please note I am not sponsored by, affiliated with, or endorsed by eBay.

The introduction and widespread adoption of the Internet over the past 20 years has had a marked effect on the retail world. There is no doubt the likes of eBay have turned many hobbies, including orchid collecting, on its head. Yes, you can purchase a NOID Phalaenopsis orchid in the supermarket here in Australia, along with your milk, bread, Vegemite. However, most serious orchid growers prefer to fill out their collection with known species or hybrid orchids rather than a NOID (no name) plant. Thanks to eBay, anyone with a little know-how can buy an orchid flask, de-flask the young seedlings, grow the seedlings a while before selling the established seedlings online. For the orchid collector, an unprecedented variety of plants are now available to purchase online especially eBay.

So… if you sell orchids on eBay or are thinking about it, here are the top ten tips from me as a eBay orchid buyer.

Inadequate title

A common practice of listing an auction (be it plant or flask) with a very short title, a Cattleya bowringiana var. coerulea is auctioned under a title of simply “Cattleya orchid”. eBay allows very long titles to be used. There is no excuse not to put the full listing even if it is a hybrid such as (species x hybrid) x (hybrid x hybrid) in the title. It’s just laziness.

Inadequate (or inaccurate) item description

This is a pet hate of mine. If you’re going to grow orchids to sell on eBay, you need to accurately describe the plant for auction. Always include a description of the plant including at the very least, the size of the plant and some basic growing conditions. Remember that not everyone has a heated greenhouse or lives in a tropical climate if you are selling a warm-growing plant. Secondly, if the plant is a Dendrobium, don’t add Cattleya or Phalaenopsis (and vice versa) to the title or description, it’s confusing to the viewer and for search engines. Oh, and please use proper English. Don’t use “U” for “you”. Makes it look written by a 12-year old.

Incorrect terminology

You would expect those selling orchids on eBay to know the correct terminology. This is not always the case. The last time I checked, there was no such thing as an orchid “cutting” or “mother plant”. Instead these items should be titled as a keiki, backbulb or simply a mature orchid. Also, orchids have pseudobulbs not canes.

Highlight the auctioned orchid as being rare

Thanks to the Internet, online shopping, eBay and cheap airfares, nothing is rare these days. In fact I find it aggravating that some vendors list all their plants as “rare”. If you honestly believe your listing is rare, perhaps “uncommon” or “collectable”are better words in this day and age. The word “rare” has been well and truly abused and has lost its true meaning as a result.

Show no images of the actual orchid for auction

Unless the vendor is known to me, I will never buy an orchid or orchid flask sight unseen. There are too many sellers on eBay, some are not as trustworthy as others. Do yourself a favour, always include a decent quality image of the plant or flask for auction. If you use a smart phone to take the image, for goodness sake make sure the subject is in good quality light and in focus. It’s not hard. A fuzzy, out-of-focus or dark photo makes you look very amateurish.

Use someone else’s image for your auction listing without their permission

As a photographer who sells the odd image licence, this is a big no-no. Finding any old image on the Internet and using it for your own financial gain i.e. eBay auction, is breaking copyright laws and illegal in most countries. Besides that, it’s just not cool, especially if the photographer has gone to great lengths to set up lighting, backgrounds plus time in post production. If you find an image you like on the Internet, ask the owner (usually the photographer). Most photographers are quite reasonable so long as you do not demand to use the image for free. Flickr is one site with many good quality orchid photos where the image owner can be easily messaged, also Pinterest is worth a look too.

Inadequately pack the orchid so arrives damaged

This is common sense. You, the vendor have an obligation to minimise the chances of the plant being disturbed or damaged during transit. The plant or flask should be well-packed in newspaper or foam packaging inside a cardboard box or tube. Never use just a post bag, that’s asking for a badly damaged plant and subsequent return and/or negative feedback.

Post the orchid immediately prior to a forecast of extreme weather

I have not had the displeasure of experiencing this yet. It’s something more to worry about in the Northern Hemisphere during their long and freezing winters. Here in sunny Australia, perhaps a forecast of heatwave conditions might be more relevant.

Post the orchid out on a Thursday or Friday

I’ve experienced this as a buyer and it makes me uneasy. One delivery of several seedlings received survived at least four days in the post (including two days over the weekend most likely sitting in a mail sorting centre). A plant could dry out within a few days in warm weather. Always send your plants out on a Monday or Tuesday. Most buyers will be happy to wait a few extra days to ensure they receive stronger, healthier plants.

Change the name of the orchid being auctioned

This is dishonest and potentially a criminal offence. Smart buyers should know the most common species or hybrids. Any less common listings with abnormal prices can be checked by buyers on The International Orchid Register so really, no one should expect to get away with this sort of dishonesty. I have included this as it has been known to occur.

Many of these points are common sense but every day I see examples of these on my local eBay Australia. It makes me wonder how some sellers can sell any orchids at all.

If you feel the need to add anything to this list by all means leave a comment.

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