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Facebook buy-and-sell groups are year-round twist on garage sales

Erin Hughes uses her Facebook page, Erin’s Cleaning Purge, as a social-network yard sale.
Erin Hughes uses her Facebook page, Erin’s Cleaning Purge, as a social-network yard sale. Courtesy photo

There’s nothing quite so serendipitous as stumbling over a good garage sale — when the weather is nice.

But if you’re looking to make a little cash by getting rid of your stuff, the Internet, with its relentlessly specific and targeted abilities, bypasses the need to tag things, borrow tables and clothes racks to display them, open the driveway to the public, and wait for spring.

Some people are making transactions year-round on buying and selling groups on Facebook. “Yard sale,” “garage sale,” “trading,” “exchange” and “swap” are some of the terms used for groups that allow members to post items for sale, seek items they want, or buy other people’s stuff.

“It’s kind of like an online garage sale,” Kelly Bryant says of the group she started in January 2015 in her neck of the Wichita woods. It’s called “East Wichita, Rockwood, Woodlawn Village & LakePoint Area Trading.” Many of the transactions are done via porch pickup.

It’s a great way to make some extra cash and clean out items.

Denise Groene of the Better Business Bureau

Denise Groene of the Better Business Bureau says the Facebook groups are “a good way to get a lot of visibility without having to do the leg power to market a typical garage sale. It’s a great way to make some extra cash and clean out items.”

But people still need to use caution when meeting strangers for transactions, she said, and she herself has dropped out of a group because she wasn’t comfortable doing business that way. She pointed out that Andover has what it calls an “e-commerce exchange zone” — two parking places at the police department at 909 N. Andover Road to more safely trade money for goods.

In addition to groups that are tied to a geographical area, Facebook has specialty groups that sell particular types of items, from wedding supplies to auto parts. Some are defined by neighborhoods, and some are city-wide. Some groups have strict rules that limit items they sell to brand names, while others have few if any restrictions.

One downside to shopping: Imagine going through photos of stuff at a garage sale rather than taking everything in at a glance, or quickly rifling through it. Downsides to selling: Imagine having to photograph and type in a description of each item you’re selling. Even though it wouldn’t seem worth it, items are sold in some of the groups for as low as a dollar. And you can’t sell everything at once; groups have limits such as five active posts from a particular seller at one time.

Groene shakes her head at people who are able to sell, say, a pot holder for a dollar. “You have time to meet someone for a pot holder? And wait for someone you’ve never met before?

“But if you’ve got something that is of value and worth selling, it could definitely be a good thing.”

In Bryant’s group you can find lots of children’s clothes, women’s clothes, home-decor items, furniture such as dining sets, kitchen items and bicycles for sale. Big-ticket items have included a $900 Louis Vuitton purse and a riding lawnmower. But you can also find items listed for just a few bucks.

“It says in the rules things are expected to be in excellent to good condition,” Bryant says. “No worn shoes. … I tell people if you think you’d donate it, donate it.”

Bryant started her group a year ago after she couldn’t find a trace of an east-Wichita yard-sale group that she wanted to join. Turned out it was a secret group, meaning that only current members could invite others to join. So Bryant’s husband suggested she start her own.

A member of the Junior League of Wichita, Bryant invited her friends and fellow Junior League members, starting with maybe 100 people. Friends invited friends. As administrator of the group, she’s able to allow a person in or not. “I tried to keep it where everyone had a mutual friend so it would be safer,” Bryant said.

The temptation for sellers in the groups is to overprice their merchandise, she says. “Basically someone is paying you to take something you don’t want,” so price it well, she advises.

But shoppers can also find great deals. The Facebook groups give people who simply need to get something off their hands a place to do it. Bryant got a cedar playhouse for free because the owners “just wanted it gone.”

But Bryant’s group is now like the one she once tried to find. Because of spam requests from foreigners, she says, she has taken her own group to “secret” status. Groups can also be closed or open.

So how do you find one?

First, you have to have a Facebook page. Then you can go to the search box and start typing in a region: West Wichita, East Wichita, South Wichita. You’ll see names of groups appear. Click on a group and see whether any of your friends are already members. If the group is closed, your friends can invite you to join, or you can ask to join the group yourself. The administrator makes the decision. People who live outside a designated group area can often still join but are expected to travel to the area for transactions.

Check out the rules, number of members, and types of merchandise to see if you want to stay.

The next thing to do is familiarize yourself with the terminology: “Cross posted” means the item has been posted on different groups; “porch pickup” means that if you’re buying an item, you will have to pick it up on the seller’s porch; “EUC” means “excellent used condition”; “ISO” means “in search of.”

There are even groups within groups. When Erin Hughes started cleaning out her clothes closet — the one that is a time capsule dating back to her high school days — she decided to see if somebody could use her stuff.

Rather than go through a garage-sale group, she decided to do her own — Erin’s Cleaning Purge. This way she can sell to people who are her size, or who are interested in the teaching supplies that the former teacher also is selling. In her own group, she doesn’t have to abide by the rules of posting, say, only five items at a time. All of her sales will be porch pickup only; “I’m not meeting anybody. I don’t have time for that.”

And when she’s done, she’ll just delete the group.

“I am actually not a huge fan of the actual ‘garage sale’ groups,” Hughes says. People try to sell everything, she says.

“I just feel like half the stuff on there is trashy, and then if you put on there, ‘I’m selling this dress for $4’ and people try to make a bargain — take it or leave it.”

On the other hand, “it truly is amazing the things people will post. And will ask $50, and it’s like a pencil.”

Meanwhile, she’s working her way through her closet, selling items as she goes.

“This may be a long process. I’ve already got three bags of clothes for gals stopping by tonight. (But) it’s not in my closet anymore.”

Annie Calovich: 316-268-6596, @anniecalovich

Facebook buy-and-sell lingo

Here is an example of terms from one Facebook group. Check rules for each group.

NWT: New With Tags

NWOT: New Without Tags

EUC: Excellent Used Condition

ISO: In Search Of

INTERESTED: Indicates interest in an item and holds your place in line for an item.

BUMP: Used to move your item to the top of the queue.

PASS: Indicates you are passing on the item.

CROSS-POST: Indicates your item is cross-posted on another site.

PPU: Porch Pick-Up

Online-sales precautions

Denise Groene of the Better Business Bureau has some cautions for customers who take part in buying and selling groups on Facebook:

▪ If it’s a high-ticket item, be sure you are not buying a counterfeit or a stolen item.

▪ As with Craigslist, be careful about where you meet people for transactions. The neighborhood groups can be safer, especially if you know the people you’re meeting, or if they’re a friend of a friend.

▪ Avoid doing business with anyone who wants money on a prepaid card or by Western Union. “Most of the time you deal with cash,” Groene says. And if someone sends you a check and wants you to keep a portion while wiring back part of the amount, the check is probably phony.

▪ Also be careful with people who serve as a middleman. For example, recently a woman ran a Facebook group that sold other people’s prom and wedding dresses. She opened up a store but then closed it, with other people’s dresses in her possession. The people were not able to get their dresses back.

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