Co-op primer: Tips For Participants
2. Tips For Organizers
3. Tips For Participants
4. What To Do When Things Go Wrong
Tips for Participants
Participants in Co-ops have responsibilities, too; most of which are centered around communicating (both reading and posting information) in a timely manner. Before you post your requested items, understand the terms and conditions (deadlines, minimums, etc.) set by the organizer. Be aware of what is being offered, as the organizer has probably determined the variety, quantity and price. Read everything that has been posted in the thread, especially subsequent posts by the organizer. Make sure you understand what to expect so you're not (unpleasantly) surprised. Are the plants liner-size or larger? Container-grown or bare-root; dormant or already growing?
If you're unfamiliar with the plant's growing requirements, do some research or post your questions in the appropriate forum. It's important to know the plant's individual requirements before you commit to ordering it. Does the plant need full sun, light shade, or full shade? Does it require moist, wet, dry or average soil? Is it hardy in your zone or should you grow it in a container and bring it in for the winter? Is it evergreen? When will it bloom? What type of fertilization does this plant require and how often should it be done? What type of insect, fungal or soil-borne diseases might afflict this plant? Is it easy to propagate and increase the quantity of this plant in your garden? Don't be afraid to ASK; you are NOT the only one with questions! Everyone will learn together, and even the most experienced gardener is constantly learning new tidbits of useful information.
When you decide what you want to purchase, clearly post the item(s) and the quantities. If you change your mind, post your changes immediately. Some people update their original post and put a note at the bottom, some put their update at the bottom. What's important is that you be clear about what you're ordering and any changes.
Changing or canceling your order. If you have any doubts about your ability or willingness to pay, don't order. If you experience unexpected financial problems AFTER posting your request, notify the organizer immediately. As long as the Co-op is still open, changing or canceling an order isn't usually a problem, especially if the Co-op is open for an extended time or there aren't minimums quantities required by the vendor.
If the Co-op is closed but the order hasn't been placed, the organizer might still be able to find buyers for what you ordered, or simply not include those plants in the order (depending on any minimum order requirements.)
In any case, email the organizer IMMEDIATELY if something happens that causes you to back out! Organizers appreciate being promptly informed, and they may have a waiting list of people who are interested in any extras. Or the Co-op participants might have an opportunity to add to their order from these extra items. Don't expect the organizer to hold your order while you work out a way to pay for it.
Once the order has been placed, a financial commitment is made between the vendor and the organizer, and you have an obligation to pay for your part of the total. Canceling at this point could cause a hardship on the organizer if they are not able to find others to take the extra items. If your items aren't claimed by other participants, the order is ultimately your responsibility!
Send your payment. Send your payment as soon as the organizer confirms your order and the amount. At the organizer's discretion, you may have multiple payment options. Frequently payment is made by check, money order or PayPal. When you send your payment include the following:
The organizer may be dealing with dozens of participants and it can become confusing; the clearer you are in your correspondence, the easier it is for everyone. Please remember that adjustments may be required for postage or out of stock items.
Stay informed. Since the organizer may be buying on behalf of dozens of people, the most efficient means of updating everyone is to post all updates to one thread in the Co-op forum. Each participant is responsible for regularly checking the thread for updates and changes in availability, shipments, or timing. One Co-op in which items were quite small resulted in the supplier sending replacement items. The only way the participants knew about this was by watching the thread.
When the order arrives. Open your package immediately, and verify the contents. Notify the organizer that you have received your order. Many people post an update to the Co-op thread. If there are problems with your order - missing items, incorrect varieties, etc. - email the organizer so they can work with you to remedy the problem. Keep in mind this is not a perfect process: mistakes DO happen, and since most Co-op orders are shipped out all at once, it might not be possible to correct the problem with replacement plants or seeds. Try to be flexible and keep in mind the organizer is volunteering their time and effort to create this buying opportunity for the group. There isn't a customer/company relationship between participants and the organizer, so try to have reasonable expectations of what the organizer can/should do to make things right.
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