Trade Me has warned against anyone thinking about using its site for malicious purposes, after a house plant reached $99 million in bids.
Hundreds of bids on two Trade Me listings have pushed the price of a pair of house plants to almost $100m – but Facebook users and Trade Me management were quick to smell a rat.
Two white variegated monstera deliciosa borsigiana each attracted bids of more than $99,000,000 on Trade Me before the listings were withdrawn by the seller.
Users on the Facebook group Indoor Plants NZ said the photos used in the listings were actually taken from the internet.
In the listings' description, the seller said they were selling the items because their family was not into house plants.
The courier price was listed at $25 and the seller did not allow pick ups.
Trade Me members soon made a joke out of the listings, with one user offering thousands of dollars plus a goat for the plants.
Another user wrote: "You have got many thousands of dollars of plants there ... About a grand to two grand per limb."
Trade Me head of trust and safety Lisa Kerr says "you'd be an idiot" to try anything dodgy on the online marketplace.
"We have a team of NZ-based people working seven days a week to keep our site trusted and safe," she says.
"Our team looked into these listings when they were brought to our attention. We can't say much as we take our members' privacy seriously, but we can say the listings have now been withdrawn by the seller."
In a statement, a Police spokesperson said it is aware of the listing and is currently assessing the information.
Second-hand houseplants have been known to fetch thousands of dollars in New Zealand.
Earlier in the year, a sought-after houseplant sold on Trade Me for a whopping $6700, making it the second most expensive indoor plant to be sold on the site.
The philodendron erubescens plant was listed for just $1 reserve, but the seller found themselves thousands of dollars richer after two would-be buyers went head to head in a last-minute bidding war.
A Trade Me spokesperson said the site had seen "massive interest" in houseplants recently.
A New Zealand Facebook group dedicated to houseplants has surged in popularity over the past two years.
Membership for the Indoor Plants NZ group jumped from a few hundred to almost 40,000 between 2018 and today, says group admin Jamie Dobson.
In the past month, 5000 more people have joined the group and since September 15, Dobson has approved 8800 new members from 12,200 requests.
"It's just taken off. The group has grown to just people being interested about plants to now. It is people very interested in learning off each other. It's served a real purpose in fostering a sense of community," he says.
Part of the appeal of house plants is that they are a more time-effective version of a garden for those that live in urban areas, says Dobson.
"Not everyone has a garden. Not everyone has the time and money to maintain gardens. If you live in a city you usually don't have space for a garden. You've also got this minimalist aesthetic which has grown in popularity since the mid 2000s."
While the million-dollar monstera caught the attention of some members of the group, who were quick to share posts about it, there is a place for expensive plants on the page, says Dobson.
"Some people really do spend $5-, $8- or $10 grand on a plant," he says.
"One of the main rules is no price shaming. Don't shame people for the amount of money they are willing to spend on plants. We can remove comments or posts that shame others for spending lots on plants."