Since the turn of the 21st century, selling stuff on the Internet has been a viable way to get rid of unwanted possessions. But what started as a marketplace for Beanie Babies has matured to the point where it’s easy to buy and sell almost anything online, and not just by mail to strangers. New apps are making it easier than ever to sell things locally.
Freelance social media marketer Sonali Deshpande has become an expert on using these apps. She will teach a free class on them at the Princeton Public Library on Tuesday, February 13, from 1 to 2 p.m. Visit www.princetonlibrary.org. Participants should bring their own devices.
Deshpande, the daughter of two university professors, grew up in Mumbai. She majored in organic chemistry and earned a Microsoft software development certification while still in India.
She worked for Merck when she moved to the U.S. in 2001, but “sitting in front of the computer was not meant for me,” she says. She made a career change to marketing after taking a seven-month online course.
Today Deshpande lives in Yardley with her two children and her husband, who works in IT. Her company, InsiderTrendz, creates websites and offers various electronic marketing services, including social media and text messaging, specializing in small businesses.
Deshpande’s class stems from firsthand experience using apps and websites for small-time commerce. She has used all the popular websites over the years. The biggest sale she ever made was a Acura. “You can sell anything from T-shirts to automobiles online,” she says.
Some sites are geared toward selling things for shipping — Amazon and eBay fall into this category. That’s ideal for smaller items. Others target local areas — Craigslist, the heavily advertised Letgo, Offerup, and Facebook Marketplace, which is rapidly growing in popularity.
Deshpande is skeptical about the possibility of making a living by using these apps, although some have. “It’s gonna be a side hustle,” she says. “You’re going to pay for gas or a good dinner in New York with parking.”
One of the most important considerations when listing something on a local marketplace site is the prevalence of scams. Con artists abound, especially on Craigslist, which allows more anonymity than Facebook Marketplace. When Deshpande sold her car, she arranged the meetup at a busy shopping mall rather than her house, for security. She also refused to accept a personal check, since the sale was for five figures. Instead, she accepted only a cashier’s check. To guard against fake cashier’s checks, sellers can conduct the sale at a bank, so they can observe the buyer getting the check.
“There is a trust factor that somehow you have to have,” she says. “Trust your gut feeling.”
Deshpande says sites like Facebook Marketplace are a good way to unload bulky household goods. A friend of hers posted a bed for sale on the site, and someone came to pick it up within two hours. “She got calls from people right away,” Deshpande says.
The digital garage sale is becoming ever more advanced. Craigslist has refused to update its web design since the 1990s, leaving it with a fast-loading if spartan interface. Facebook has gone the other direction, offering the ability to post videos along with the items.
“The world is changing, and it’s very convenient,” Desphande says.