Ebay or Craigslist? OK, sure, you can get a ton of stuff for 10 or $50 or even $99—if you know where to look. But these sites bring out the biggest resources—how much does it cost to fill your new sedan? Every now and then, you’ll meet people and maybe drop a coin to let a fellow shop-annexeer slip you a gig and sign you up for an interest group. In these places, you’ll meet others with common interests, maybe even purchase things.
That’s fine for some, but don’t assume folks enjoy the connection or, as William Brinkemas, senior VP at E-Marketer, puts it, they’re “pathologically disinclined to lay down cash for things they can get for free over the Internet.” Everyone works different schedules and is getting their signals mixed up, so there’s a possibility that strangers who want to buy or sell goods should “keep that conversation between themselves,” he says.
Yet don’t discount the site as an effective service for buying and selling stuff, either. Michael Tuch, CEO and founder of iBuying.com—the site that debuted all the cash for stuff stories—applauds the shop-as-adoption-center concept for helping people with down syndrome get from the donor/beneficiary position to a vibrant and adaptive lifestyle. Consumers who see ads from prospective consumers get to visit, “so [the consumer] knows who wants to buy what,” he says. Even if the “salesperson” doesn’t end up doing much selling, the donor is still talking to them.
“I bought a parrot—why should I go to the store to buy a parrot?” Mr. Tuch says. “It’s better to buy one at iBuying. It is a closet retailer and not a garage shop.” That background makes a store that handles more stuff more likely to appreciate. “It’s a lot easier to package your vintage house siding when you’re the product,” he says.
These days, people are less willing to tolerate “used” for sale: They use the Internet to fill a need; they say hello to strangers. And iBuying is among a group of commerce sites that tap the multiple desires to buy and sell items. “Clothing buying is the largest category, with makeup and fragrances following fairly closely behind,” says Eric Widman, senior director of digital at BIA/Kelsey. “Automotive products come in relatively close behind these categories.”
Depending on where you live, you might have better luck as a car dealer rather than a manufacturer, Mr. Tuch says. Click away and you’ll meet people trying to sell off a car or individuals in need of financing to buy one. Then there are DIYers, fans of retrofitting houses to make them more energy efficient or fix-up projects for larger properties. Of course, if one of these requires you to “roll up your sleeves and go and get a room scrubbed,” you might prefer not to work with people who are just getting started, he says.
“They’re getting a first-hand look at what it takes to live in a home or repair a business,” Mr. Tuch says. “They get more than just money” and “become part of the life story.”
Not all of iBuying’s customers try to make money: John Goncalves, 52, has helped make money for other members of the site. It’s, uh, good Karma to be helping the cause, Mr. Goncalves says. (He sees a broader appeal in the alternative way of making money, though.) “We’re good for selling hard goods,” he says. “We’re good for the environment.”
So is the e-merchant shopping industry becoming an art and craft again? Mr. Tuch likes the prospect. “It just provides new vistas for creativity,” he says. He tells how he gets a housing need and puts an ad up with a caveat: “I can handle only one buyer/seller and will deliver the keys to that home to you.” If, for instance, you plan to retire in one place, your online persona opens up in other places and gives you “additional flexibility.”
Mr. Tuch is not looking to grow iBuying