Friday, August 7, 2015

The Modern Yard Sale, or... Is Craigslist dead?

The yard sale has evolved over the years. It still exists in its classic sense, and if you’re up for it, is still the quickest way to get rid of a large amount of your unwanted items. However, it’s a lot of work. You have to individually price each item; set a specific date; advertise – in the paper, with flyers, on social media; haul everything out; and staff the event. Kudos if you also serve refreshments, as they also increase your sales.

For apartment dwellers and those of us who are just overwhelmed with the whole concept of such an event, there are a plethora of options. There was your local paper, and maybe a pennysaver (or small town version of it) for print classifieds. Success was always hit or miss with these, and with the internet, the print versions are a dying breed. 

For internet sales, it all started with EBay. Remember when EBay was all brand new and your go-to site for getting rid of your items. You can list them, either for auction, reserve-auction (set your minimum bid), or buy-it-now. You list the item and wait for it to sell. Yes, you pay a commission, but you have a worldwide market (if you so wish to sell internationally).  You will have to deal with shipping, as it is unlikely you will connect with a local buyer.  You can charge those costs to the buyer, but you will still have to factor in your time and decide if it’s worth it to you.

Then came Craigslist. Free. Local. No commissions. Your bare-bones internet classified site. For years it became the next go-to site for just about anything to buy, sell, trade, get a job, or even a (scary) hookup. Craigslist is great, in that you can anonymize your email address, and if you’re careful enough to meet in public and perhaps use things like google voice to protect your personal phone number, can be fairly safe. Then it became riddled with scammers. Offers to pay you a substantial amount to ship the item, just send them your personal information, take a check, and wait for your account to be hacked. Or the endless offers to trade for tattoos or other things you have no desire for when all you want to do is get rid of your stuff. It’s tedious. But it’s still a good alternative in many markets, but lately not a primary one.

Kijiji, EBay’s version of Craigslist is also an interesting option, though admittedly I haven’t investigated that one. I mention it because it’s there, and if you’ve used it please feel free to comment with your experience. I may give it a shot and update this later, but for now it’s worth at least a cursory mention.

Ok, step up with Facebook, which has numerous, to say the least, online yard sale groups. You post in the group and everyone sees your posts. There are SO.MANY.GROUPS. The private groups are closed or secret, the public groups still require you to be accepted, but it’s a fairly simple process. It started out with your basic posts, and new items will show up in your news feed and you comment and private message the seller to purchase. They’ve included a “selling” feature now in these groups, ostensibly to make things easier. Whichever option you use (“for sale” or general posting), members will comment or message you to purchase. This is a decent feature as you have a basic idea of who you are dealing with. Most of them are community based, so you may even recognize your neighbor. You can also screen-shot their profile page and send it to a friend before meeting with someone (just in case).

The response rate on the Facebook groups was very good when they first started out, and in some markets it still can be. Facebooks newest acquisition, Instagram, has been a budding venue for private sales and boutique shops. It’s still in it’s infancy for this type of thing, but if you have a lot of local followers, you can certainly post your items and people can respond. I’ve sold a few items that way, but my followers are not primarily local, your mileage may vary.

But enter now the apps. Close5, Wallapop, OfferUp just to name a few. With these apps you will post directly and most of them have options to enter private conversations so that your meet-up location or contact information is kept private between buyer and seller. They are location-based, so you can post and search within a defined radius of your current location. Often the search feature is limited to your current location and the pre-determined radius you search (generally 5-20 miles), but I’ve noticed a new feature that you can post either your current location, or enter a different one, when setting up your post. That’s convenient if, for some reason, you decide to post something when you’re out on vacation or just out of your neighborhood. They offer good search features for buyers, simple posting features for sellers, and instant notifications so that your buyer’s messages don’t get lost in your spam trap (a la Craigslist anonymized emails) or that mysterious “others” folder (Facebook). The notifications aren’t perfect, so check the app periodically as one might be there and you didn’t get the visual or audio prompt. The posting is simple and straightforward. You can literally post an item as fast as you can take a picture. Easy-peasy.

My personal experience is that these new apps offer faster responses and I’ve, quite frankly, made far more sales through the apps than the Facebook or Craigslist posts. Be prepared to haggle though, some apps, I’ve noticed, have a higher propensity for hagglers than others. Now this could be location-based as well. I will have to update this after my move. And the scammers are entering the apps as well. I’ve already encountered one on Wallapop, though so far that’s the only one.

I have bought and sold many items on EBay, Craigslist and Facebook groups. My experience has been varied, but generally quite pleasant. I’ve never had a difficulty, and for the longest while, items sold fairly rapidly. After noticing a significant slow down of responses, I downloaded Close5 a few months ago and I had a sale in the first 5 minutes. No kidding. And they picked it up within the hour. Most of my items have sold through Close5 recently, though I keep the postings live on all of the above-mentioned sites (except EBay, I’m taking a break from them for now).

I recently downloaded Wallapop, and had offers the first day. Insulting low-ball offers, but offers nonetheless. Oh, and that scammer. So far, Wallapop is a nice app, but in my current market, I’ve only received a bunch of really low-ball offers (less than half the price I’ve posted it). Now I post my items a little high because I know I will get offers for less, and everyone wants a bargain so if I come down a bit, we’re both happy. But offers of $15 for a $50 item – yeah right.

OfferUp is my latest download, and within the first hour I had 2 sales pending pickup. The offers came it a bit low, but not as insulting as the Wallapop offers, so I accepted.

Now my current order of preference for resale is this:

Close5 – Simple, easy to use, up to 4 photos per item, good response rate. It’s #1 for me because of the response rate, not the specific app features. Reason is, you can’t enter private conversation mode until after you’ve accepted the offer – and then your item is off-market, so if it falls though you have to re-list. Re-listing is a one-click procedure, but you may have lost a potential sale dealing with someone who flaked on you. Also, editing your post is sketchy. You can edit the text at any time, but you can’t edit photos – you’re stuck with whatever you put up. All comments are public, and you can’t delete them once you’ve hit ‘send’.

OfferUp – Simple, easy to use, only one photo per item, conversations are private, accepting an offer doesn’t take your item off-line. You can have multiple private conversations on a single item. Nice ka-ching sound when you have a message. Once an offer is made, it shows up with the picture of the best offer (visible, I believe, only to you), so you can still keep it listed as you ponder your offers. You can also use the web version, this one I've noticed has a fully functional web interface, while the others are app-centric.

Wallapop - Simple, easy to use, up to 4 photos per item. Editing your post is simple, and you can edit either the photos or the text. Biggest complaint I have at the moment is the low-ballers and scammers. The jury is still out on this one, but I’m still using it for now.

Facebook Groups – Facebook is flooded with these, and their algorithms are ever-changing, so sometimes you see things and sometimes you don’t. It’s still a good place to cross-post your items, but I wouldn’t count on it to sell items quickly.

Craigslist – Oh Craigslist, still the go-to for many people, especially in large markets. If you’re in a small town you will have difficulty finding buyers and sellers. Many will post in the one for the nearest metro center, and if you’re in between a few, you’ll have to go ahead and post in a few of them. #smalltownproblems. Just keep checking your spam folder.

For all of these: Meet in a public place (hard to do with large items, but you get the idea). Preferably meet during daytime hours. Never give out your personal information. Consider getting a google voice number or some other private phone number for texting/calling.

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