I don’t mean to sound hipster, but I was in the Facebook Marketplace game long before Marketplace was even conceived, before any Facebook advertising company was even really big. I was a college student surviving on savings, scholarships, and financial aid. I was poor, and I was hungry for deals because, as most everyone knows, college is expensive. Then I discovered buy-and-sell groups.
Before Marketplace existed, users were already buying and selling on the social network’s platform, on groups where people trade and sell used items. I joined these groups to purchase clothing, household items, and textbooks. I’ve had plenty of experience as both the seller and the customer, meeting with students to close deals in lecture halls, libraries, and cafeterias, and I can proudly boast that I have—not once—been hoodwinked by shady dealers. You don’t have to be a big-time editor for a top Facebook ad agency to know what the red flags are. There are several ways that you, too, can outsmart scammers.
1. Research the Product
Before you even begin seriously considering an item, you must first research the product. Remember that the seller isn’t likely the only person selling that item. You will probably also find it listed in other Facebook groups, as well as legitimate e-commerce sites for used items, such as eBay. Search for the product online to see how much other merchants are selling it for. It’s also wise to find the original retail price of the product to determine whether the seller is giving you a fair deal or whether the seller is ripping you off. Additionally, make sure that the product is not one of the many prohibited items to sell on Facebook to avoid losses or worse, legal troubles.
2. Don’t Fall for “Bids”
After contacting the seller to express your interest in an item, that seller may respond with this: several other customers are interested in the product, and they are all bidding for it. How much are you willing to bid for the item? Although bids do happen, they usually occur within the comments section of the listed product. These bidders will comment with their offers until one user outbids them all. However, be wary of secret bids that a seller is claiming to exist without any physical evidence. If you’re not careful, you may be tricked by a seller fictitiously creating a bid to overcharge you for the product.
3. Closely Inspect Furniture and Rugs for Bedbugs
Bedbugs are a growing problem that plague even pristine and glittering five-star hotels. They are difficult and expensive to kill, and they reproduce too quickly. For this reason, you must be wary of any used furniture you want to buy. Before purchasing, ask the seller why he or she is selling the items. Additionally, ask to see the pieces in person, so you can closely inspect for bedbug droppings, sheddings, or eggs. Don’t buy furniture with rips, as those could be hiding spaces for these pests.
4. Ask for More Images
How do you know the item you want to purchase actually exists? The seller could very easily pull an image online, post it to Marketplace, and sell the “item.” To ensure that the seller isn’t trying to scam you with an imaginary product, ask to see more images. Ideally, ask for images taken in real-time. If the seller keeps making excuses to avoid providing more pictures (Oh, I’m not home; my camera broke; I lost my phone), that’s a red flag you shouldn’t ignore.
5. Meet at a Public Space
This is perhaps the most important precautionary step in this list. You must absolutely insist on meeting in a public space when it comes time to pick up your item. Starbucks is a great place to do it or even a grocery store parking lot. Never meet in the dark, in a strange secluded alley, on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, or at someone’s house. If you do have to meet at someone’s home, make sure to bring a friend or two. If you’re going alone, let a friend or a family member know where you’re headed.
This precaution, although it may sound paranoid to you, will save you from becoming a victim of a crime, like an assault, robbery, or worse. After all, you’re meeting a stranger for the first time. You never know.
6. Test the Product Before Paying
Before you hand your cash over to the seller, make sure to thoroughly inspect the item for defects. If you’re purchasing clothing, make sure to try the items to ensure they’re the perfect fit for you. If you find that the item is defective in any way, you can even try haggling the price down.
The Rise of Facebook Marketplace
Buying and selling on Facebook existed even before Marketplace rolled out to the public. Businesses have had the option to create a Facebook ad account for well over a decade, for example. Marketplace first arrived on the platform in October of 2016, and by that time, users were already hunting for the best deals on used items.
When Facebook announced Marketplace’s rollout, many believed it was an attempt to compete against retail sites like eBay and Amazon. This is not a surprising conclusion. Marketplace and buy-and-sell sites function similarly. You search for great deals on Marketplace by category, price, or location. If you tap on an item, you will find details such as the name, profile photo, and location of the seller and product description. You can save an item to buy for later or you can send the seller a direct message if you would like to make a purchase.
Buying and selling on Facebook, which may seem strange to some, makes perfect sense upon further examination. Think about it: Facebook already has numerous buy-and-sell group pages such as UCSB Free and For Sale, Fashion Exchange, and OC Buy and Sell. These groups aren’t obscure groups that have only a small following. According to Facebook, more than 450 million users visit buy-and-sell groups each month.
If you find social media platforms meddling with e-commerce strange, keep this in mind: Social commerce, as they call it, has already taken root in Asia. If you already participate in social commerce, just remember: take precautionary steps before purchasing.
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