Treasure Hunting

How to SAFELY Buy and Sell on Marketplace

What is “Marketplace?”

First things first: When I say “Marketplace,” I’m referring to any digital platform where people buy and sell goods locally. 20-ish years ago, it all started with Craigslist. Then most recently, we got Facebook Marketplace and other resale apps like LetGo, OfferUp and 5Miles.

Why am I an “authority” on this?

The aforementioned $5 palm chandelier.

As a single woman, I’ve successfully completed dozens of Marketplace transactions and lived to tell the tale despite engaging in some debatably weird meet-ups. Most of these best practices will seem common sensical, but we can all use a refresher on safety, especially when chasing after that $5 palm chandelier has us in a tizzy.

Are there really murderers on Marketplace?

Stranger Danger is real, especially when you’ve seen every episode of Law & Order: SVU. No matter how kind a Stranger may seem online, staying vigilant and prioritizing safety is important, ESPECIALLY if you’re a woman.

Pro tips for staying safe on Marketplace

Meet somewhere during the day. They say “nothing good happens after midnight,” so stick with meeting during daylight.

VERY IMPORTANT: SHARE YOUR LOCATION. (Especially when going to a storage place!!)

Meet somewhere in public. If you’re buying or selling a small item, meet somewhere with visible foot traffic. I suggest the parking lot of a local grocery store, bank or strip mall, so you can get an errand done while you’re already out and/or grab cash for the transaction.

Bring a friend. Think of this friend as more bodyguard than chaperone.

Or share your location with a friend. Literally. Turn on that “Share My Location” feature on your phone. Sometimes nobody can be bothered with accompanying you to the Valley to pick up a vintage towel rod from a middle-aged woman at the Whole Foods parking lot. Plan B is telling a friend where you’re going and who you’re planning to meet.

Avoid sharing any personal details. This includes: last name, home address, phone number, social security number, mother’s maiden name, high school, etc. If your bank is asking for this type of information, DO NOT SHARE IT WITH A STRANGER.

A $20 acquisition from “Susan” on LetGo.

Request digital transactions. I prefer using Venmo or PayPal to avoid counting and carrying cash, especially during COVID times. (And yup, still traumatized for being robbed of $2 and my Hello Kitty wallet at a Chuck E Cheese many, many moons ago. Sad face.)

If cash is the only option, carry exact change and small bills. If you’re the buyer, don’t expect the seller to have small bills for change, so be prepared to offer exact change. If you’re the seller, be prepared to offer the buyer change so they don’t shortchange you for not having exact change. (I know, it’s not fair. Just trust me.)

But wait, I’m buying or selling a large piece of furniture, now what? In this case, you’re probably meeting a Stranger in his/her house or storage unit (!!!) or having a Stranger come to YOUR house. (Danger, danger!) It’s CRITICAL you have someone with you as bodyguard/chaperone, even if it’s your neighbor or gardener.

A $20 chair I purchased from a dad and his teenager. I didn’t have exact change and shorted her $5. Sorry!

This is NOT a dating app. Yes, men have made passes at me on marketplace apps. No further comments.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Sometimes you can’t help but meet someone at his/her home ALONE. I have done that after establishing a good rapport with the seller. STILL. SHARE YOUR LOCATION WITH A FRIEND. The general rule is: if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Listen to your spidey senses.

Don’t forget your mask. Catching COVID should still be a concern when meeting Strangers. Request that they meet with a mask on, and keep hand sanitizer with you.

So ARE there really murderers on Marketplace?

Trust me, I’m not paranoid. I’m overly vigilant because the short answer is: yes. On the flipside, I’ve also established amazing friendships with some people I’ve met on Marketplace. Making a new friend while scoring a vintage find is like icing on the cake. #goals

One of my favorite Marketplace finds: a brass coffee table purchased from a mom and stylist with whom I still keep in touch.

If you’re still with me, continue below to review a safety ranking for my preferred marketplace platforms.

Marketplace Apps: Safety Ranking

Facebook Marketplace – No longer just for social networking, Facebook debuted its Marketplace in 2016 – the same year I acquired Ktown Château. (How convenient!)

Everyone who buys or sells must obviously have a Facebook account, and you can access that person’s Facebook profile through their “Commerce Profile.” The latter provides seller ratings, listings, and any mutual friends. You can also block and report users.

OfferUp – This app requires its users to have an account, and recently started offering secure payment and USPS shipment options for items being sold to non-locals, much like with eBay and Poshmark. Similar to Facebook, your profile shows your offers (if any) and positive feedback from people who have bought or sold with you.

Users build trust by adding a profile photo, verifying email and phone number, joining “TruYou” by scanning an official ID, and connecting their account to Facebook. (Note: I opted out of doing the last two with my OfferUp account for privacy measures.)

NOTE: This app has merged with LetGo since original publication date. (Updated 11/21/2020)

Craigslist – The OG digital marketplace, Craigslist unfortunately is completely anonymous and rife with scammers. I suggest exercising extra caution when using this platform, especially when listing a high-priced item. For example, when I listed a $700+ dining table, I was instantly bombarded with fake email accounts asking if they could pay via Western Union and have movers pick it up because they were on “vacation.” Red alert, red alert!

Do you have any marketplace success (or horror) stories? Share in the comments!

Purchased on OfferUp, then resold on Facebook Marketplace because I was hoarding bar carts. Buyer and seller both met outside my building.

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  • Dave Nadkarni

    This guide is so helpful! Thanks so much for sharing this knowledge with us! I recently started searching for “moving sale” and other similar searches. Do you have any tips or tricks on treasure hunting through these platforms?

    • missnataliewong

      Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll have a follow-up post on tips and tricks soon – great minds! 🙂

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