Years ago I stumbled upon a pristine set of 1950s pink GE kitchen appliances at a garage sale down the street. Even though I only paid $300 to take those beauties home, they’re worth more to me than if I’d paid $3,000. Or maybe it’s because I only paid $300 that they’re worth so much? Do you feel me?
Honestly, that’s the story of 90% of the items in my home. I’m surrounded by found treasures that were (often) dirt cheap and are (almost always) unmatched and irreplaceable. They make my heart swell.
Which is to say, I spend a lot of time at estate sales, garage sales, and thrift stores. Or, I used to anyway. Back when the world was…the world it was.
I’m surrounded by found treasures that were (often) dirt cheap and are (almost always) unmatched and irreplaceable. They make my heart swell.
So somewhere around April this year, when we’d been locked down at home for weeks with no end in sight, my treasure-hunting heart was feeling the strain. That’s when I discovered the magic of Facebook Marketplace. Over the past seven months, this little corner of the Internet—and the lovely people on it—has become a beloved companion.
Here are a few good reasons to try it for yourself:
Find what you’re looking for.
Life as a thrifter is very hit-and-miss. I mean, yes, there was the day I went garage sale-ing in search of a juicer and instantly found one, but that kind of serendipity is rare. More often I find what I didn’t realize I was looking for and end up searching months for the thing I actually need. (Or, let’s be real, want.) With Facebook Marketplace, if you’re looking for a certain size of jeans, or a specific brand of vintage pottery, you’re much more likely to find it.
(Even the mundane things.)
I realize you can find things you want on Craigslist and eBay too. But, in my experience, people are more likely to post oddball things on Facebook Marketplace than other sites. (Or, maybe the format of Marketplace just makes us more likely to see them?) Either way, on Marketplace you’re more likely to see things like a well-worn flannel, or a clipping of someone’s fiddle leaf fig, or a pair of hedge trimmers. Things that aren’t worth the time to post and ship on eBay. Things that might ordinarily be dropped off at a thrift store or lined up on a garage sale table. Many of those things seem to make it onto Marketplace, where we buyers can find them with fairly impressive efficiency.
These days, when I’m in need of a yard/household tool, the first place I look is Facebook Marketplace. If it’s not there (or if it’s further than I want to drive) I’ll move on and buy it new, but it’s worth a first stop.
Be one of a kind.
Even better than the mundane things are the fabulous nuggets of originality you’ll come across now and then—an original painting, an old sign, a whacky piece of furniture, a perfectly preserved retro dinette set, a hand-knit sweater. You can stand out in a sea of sameness by finding the things that are truly you. And when you find them, grab them.
Even better than the mundane things are the fabulous nuggets of originality you’ll come across now and then—an original painting, an old sign, a whacky piece of furniture, a perfectly preserved retro dinette set, a hand-knit sweater. You can stand out in a sea of sameness by finding the things that are truly you.
Speaking of nuggets of originality, check out one of my favorite Marketplace posts of all time. I don’t know who ended up buying that table, but I hope they framed the seller’s epic sales pitch right next to it.
Meet lovely humans.
This, by far, is one of the best things about Facebook Marketplace. It’s not a stretch to say that Marketplace has become my safe zone on Facebook. It’s the place online where I’m sure to encounter the goodness and creativity and integrity of people.
Facebook Marketplace has provided a sense of connection, even while I’ve been holed up in my little house alone. It’s where I experience people as trustworthy and kind. As a case in point: I use Venmo to prepay for many of my Marketplace purchases and every item I’ve paid for has been waiting for me when I arrive, usually sitting on the front porch or nicely wrapped in a bag and often accompanied by a smiling stranger in a mask.
Note: Obviously, I can’t vouch for the safety and integrity of every person on Marketplace, so please use your common sense and care. I can only tell you that my experience so far has been entirely positive. There’s definitely an added level of transparency provided by the fact that you can see each other’s Facebook profiles and you can usually track down a seller for follow-up questions or problems.
Put an actual appointment on your calendar.
In an era when everything is canceled unless it’s on Zoom, it’s been a delight to have some Facebook Marketplace dates on my calendar. To know that I need to be at an actual human’s house at an actual time for an actual (socially distanced) interaction is more invigorating and satisfying than I would have thought.
Explore new corners of your city.
One key factor in a Facebook Marketplace decision, after determining whether the item and the price are right, is whether it’s worth the drive or the subway ride or whatever transportation it may require. For me, some items are only worth a 10-minute drive, while others are worth two hours or more. Most of my purchases fall somewhere in a 30-minute window, and making those drives has been a refreshing way to encounter previously unseen nooks and crannies around this city I call home. When nothing else is on the calendar anyway, a drive across town or into the country is an event in itself. My pup is thrilled to accompany me on these little adventures and we often hop out in a new part of town for a little exploring on foot.
Buy interesting things with interesting stories.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear the story of the item you’re purchasing and have a friendly moment of connection with another human being. When I was picking up a retro typewriter from a distinguished-looking gentleman this summer, I learned that he’d purchased the typewriter years ago to write his book. (He then promptly realized how hard it was to write a book on a typewriter so he shifted to a computer instead.) I went home that day with both the typewriter and a free copy of his book.
See how small this world really is.
Most people you interact with on Facebook Marketplace will be strangers, but occasionally you’ll notice that you have some mutual friends in common with someone. More than once I’ve bumped into a friend or neighbor on Marketplace. A couple of months ago I was checking out a screen door I liked when I realized it was being sold by my good friend’s brother, a Facebook friend of mine. He ended up insisting I take the door for free AND he delivered it to save me the drive.
Support each other.
We’re all struggling through this pandemic. Some much more than others. There’s something about giving my money directly to another person—instead of a corporation—that feels empowering and important these days.
Ready to jump into Facebook Marketplace?
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Click the “Shop” icon and start browsing.
You don’t have to do anything to sign up or get started on Marketplace. If you’re on Facebook, it’s already available to you. Just start browsing and see what shows up in your feed.
- Search for things you like, even if you’re not ready to buy.
This being Facebook, Marketplace will pay attention to the kinds of things you search for and engage with and will adjust your feed to fit you. So, even if you’re not in the market for a vintage Airstream camper (yet), do a few searches and you’ll start to see some treasures in your feed. Evetually, browsing can feel even more like thrift shopping, with opportunities to stumble upon things you didn’t know you had to have.
- Search creatively.
If you’re looking for something specific, like a coffee table, think of all the ways a person could describe that item and search all of them—from super-specific (like, “Heywood Wakefield MCM coffee table”) to really general (“table,” or even just “furniture”). I will sometimes also search for misspellings (like “table,” “Haywood Wakefield,” etc.). You’d be surprised what will pop up.
- Save your faves.
If you aren’t sure about an item, save it. When I’m headed to a certain part of town, I’ll see if any of my saves are in that area. Sometimes an item isn’t worth the trip on its own, but if I’ll be in the area, it’s worth picking up.
- Decide if you want to shop locally or beyond.
By default, Facebook will show you items from both your immediate region and further away. Before you get your heart set on something, pay attention to whether it needs to be shipped and factor in that cost. If you’re searching for a large item, like a kitchen table, you can customize your results to see only local listings using the search filters. On the mobile app, these filters are located across the top; on the web browser, they’re along the side. The filters can help you adjust other preferences as well, like cost, style, size, and more.
- Get set up on Venmo.
Although most sellers will accept cash, you’ll have a lot more luck snagging the items you want with Venmo. Why? Because a seller might not hold an item for you without a payment. Venmo can help you seal the deal and give you time to drive over at your convenience. This is especially important when you find that thing you can’t live without—especially if it might sell fast.
A few notes: Some sellers accept PayPal, but I have found Venmo to be more universally accepted. Also, for items that involve shipping, Facebook facilitates payment through other methods, including PayPal. You won’t need Venmo if you’re purchasing things from outside your local area.
- Be thoughtful of sellers.
Avoid wasting a seller’s time by asking, “Is this still available?” If an item is posted, assume it’s available. Instead, get right to more helpful questions, like, “Could I pick this up tomorrow?” “Do you take Venmo?” “Can you send me a measurement?” etc.
- Dig deeper.
If you find something you like, click the seller’s name to see if they have other items you can add to your sale.
- Negotiate wisely.
Pay attention to how long an item has been listed. If it’s been up for a while, the seller might be willing to come down on price—especially if you offer to send a Venmo payment immediately. If you’re interested in more than one item from the same seller, you can ask if they’ll give a discount. And—on the flip side—if you’ve found an item you love and you might fall down dead and die if someone else gets it first, you can always offer more than the asking price to improve your chances!
- Understand the cost of a free item.
If an item is listed as “FREE,” be aware that the seller probably won’t hold it for you, and they most likely don’t want to field questions about dimensions, brand names, the item’s condition, or other details. Just get their address, hit the road, and hope you’re the first person to arrive. You could always offer the seller payment to hold it for you—but pursuing a free item comes at the risk of it potentially being already taken (or not usable) when you arrive.
- Recruit some friends.
It helps to have friends or family in other parts of town who might be willing to grab an item for you now and then. Even better, if you and your friends know each other’s styles, you can send each other Marketplace finds using the “Share” feature. You’ll double the fun and never miss a treasure.
- Relist as needed.
If you change your mind once you have an item home, you can always relist and (most likely) resell it. I’ve turned around many items within a day or two this way.
- Sell your own extras, castoffs, and treasures.
One way I support my thrifting habit (and avoid over-stuffing my house) is to sell as well as buy. If you can handle posting on Facebook, you’ll be able to figure out posting on Facebook Marketplace.
A few tips: Be sure to take multiple photos of your items. Include measurements. Check out the listings of similar items to figure out a price point. Write an upbeat, thorough description. Add any keywords people might use for searching.
The more appealing your photography, lighting, and angles, the better results you’ll get. The more you research what you’re selling, especially if it’s vintage, the more strategic you can be on pricing.
And here’s my personal pet peeve: If you’re selling shoes or boots, please remember to include the size. (Sooooo many people forget this?!)
Now it’s your turn.
How about you? What’s your experience with Facebook Marketplace? Do you have any advice to add? Let me know in the comments below! And maybe we’ll bump into each other on the Marketplace one day soon. Happy thrifting!
Julie Rybarczyk is a freelance writer, fair-weather blogger, and empty-nester mama who’s living alone and liking it . She’s perpetually the chilliest person in Minneapolis—so most of the year you’ll find her under layers of wool, behind steaming cups of tea. Or at shortsandlongs.net
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