I'm getting ready to move house and that means l'm spending time each day clearing cupboards and finding stuff I no longer want or need. The unicycle in the garage is testament to why I should never be allowed to impulse shop. In the past, I'd have jumped straight to eBay or Gumtree (in the old days it would have been the Trading Post paper) but I decided to give Facebook marketplace a go. Here's what I learned.
Over the years, people have created local buy/swap/sell groups on Facebook. The layout and organisation of those groups has evolved but, initially, things were a little annoying. If you wanted to list an item in multiple groups, you needed to create multiple listings. Facebook fixed that by creating a single listing tool that allowed you to easily crosspost items in groups you're a member of.
I'm a member of a about a dozen buy/swap/sell groups covering my local area and interest groups.
The listing process is very straightforward - far easier than eBay or Gumtree in my view. You shoot a pic or three of your item. There's a simple editing tool for cropping and adjusting the snaps taken with your smartphone camera. You give the item a title, a brief description and set a price. The listing tool gives you an indication of prices for similar items based on your title and description.
Unlike many other online sale sites, there's no need to go through lots of product categories and sub-categories. there are just a few high level groups to choose from.
Once the listing is created, you can crosspost the item to whatever groups you're a member of.
What did I list?
Over the last few weeks I've listed a number of items including a brand new, still in the shrink wrap, 256GB iPhone 7 Plus (which was an unneeded bonus from my mobile carrier), an electronic drum kit, a NAS, a router and that unicycle.
In a couple of cases, the items received very little interest but I was able to "renew" my items a few days later to bump them back to the top of the Marketplace listings. That was really useful as I found some items received no interest when I first listed them but were quickly snapped up when renewed.
Buyers and results
The most annoying thing about Facebook Marketplace is the complete lack of buyer/bidder management. All the interactions are conducted through Facebook Messenger or via comments people leave on items when they appear in buy/swap/sell groups.
That can make simple tasks like working out who contacted you first more complex than they need be. I ended up keeping notes so I could easily track who was buying what and the final price.
People love a bargain and Marketplace really gets the hagglers out in force. With the iPhone, it had a retail priced of about $1600. Remember, it was brand new, in an unopened, still shrink-wrapped box - and I had the original receipt.
I listed it for $1200 and almost immediately I had people offer me $800 for it, insisting they were doing me a favour by getting in quickly. I sold it within a couple of hours for $1200 - which was still a bargain in my view.
With the NAS, I had no interest at all when I initially listed, in the middle of the week. I renewed it on Saturday afternoon and was inundated with offers. I eventually sold it for a few dollars under my asking price.
The other items I listed were all sold at either my asking price or wishing 20% of what I wanted. Given this was about clearing space rather than making a buck (other than the iPhone) I've been more than happy with the outcome. I've reduced the amount of clutter in my cupboards and added some funds to the moving budget.
Room for improvement
The biggest hassle with Facebook Marketplace is managing the massive flow of messages that can come if you list a popular item. For the NAS I sold, I had over 40 messages come in quick succession. Keeping track of that was a tricky as I have people trying to barter, others asking technical questions (like whether the firmware was replaceable with something that ran Plex) and others (who didn't bother looking at the information in the post) asking about the pickup location.
On the other hand, the service is free so it's tough to argue that I should expect a premium experience.
My suspicion is that the popularity of the service will lead to Facebook spinning Marketplace off as a separate service/app, just a they have with Messenger.
The three key things I learned from selling several items on Marketplace were
- List on the weekend rather than middle of the week: I had lots more people interested for all my items when i listed on the weekend.
- Stick to your guns on price: While haggling can be fun, set a realistic price and don't budge. I found that while there were many people trying to haggle down, there are plenty who will just pay.
- Have a system for managing buyers: When the messages are flowing thick and fast, it can be tricky to remember who asked what. Keep notes or some sort of list.