Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Oct. 26, 2021

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Facebook a Clark County marketplace

Buy-sell groups let small businesses reach bigger market

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Vancouver resident Jennifer Shoote sells her crafts on a Facebook buy-and-sell group. The side business has allowed her to indulge her love of sewing.
Vancouver resident Jennifer Shoote sells her crafts on a Facebook buy-and-sell group. The side business has allowed her to indulge her love of sewing. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

You won’t find one of Clark County’s biggest markets by walking around the city — even though its all-day, all-night sales and thousands of local customers and merchants are in plain sight.

Like a gigantic digital bazaar, one of Vancouver’s biggest markets is actually on Facebook.

That market, “Sell Your Stuff Vancouer,” (yes, it’s misspelled) is a 42,600-member buy-and-sell group that constantly churns with visitors hawking a wide array of items such as old sofas, power tools, quilts, cars, cleaning services, hairstyling services, food and custom crafts. And it’s just one of a host of Facebook groups dedicated to small, local commerce.

“It’s kind of a big, city-wide yard sale,” said Tina Stalliviere, who moderates the “Sell Your Stuff Vancouer” site. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

It’s also a lot easier to use than Craigslist and other competing services, members and moderators say — especially with the launch of Facebook’s Marketplace feature last fall. The feature allows Facebook users to post across several buy-and-sell groups at the same time, said Ty Wyatt, who runs the 10,000-plus member “Vancouver’s Free/Buy/Sell/Trade for Cool People.”

On the Web

 “Sell Your Stuff Vancouer”: www.facebook.com/groups/342127869194895/

• “Vancouver’s Free/Buy/Sell/Trade for Cool People”: www.facebook.com/groups/freebuyselltradeforcoolpeople

“It’s really that Facebook has made it easier and easier to sell things,” Wyatt said. “It’s much easier than Craigslist. And there’s some accountability, because you can see people’s profiles on Facebook.”

Wyatt said the ability to vet people through their profiles adds a bit of safety — although some people still use fake profiles. But even with that, problems haven’t been common for him as a moderator.

“It’s very rare that I have an issue — like maybe once every few months,” Wyatt said. “It’s not like Craigslist. That’s the master of problems.”

Many Clark County residents use local buy and sell groups as a means to clean out their garages, but a host of small craft businesses have also cropped up to take advantage of the service.

Jennifer Shoote, who sells craft sewing items under her “Komfy by Jen” moniker, built her small side business just through Facebook’s buy-and-sell groups.

“It’s really nice because I don’t have to buy advertising or anything, and really I have tiny profit margins,” Shoote said. “I’ve made a little extra a month to pay for family dinners or to save up for a vacation.”

Shoote, who manages a dental office during the day, says the groups help support her “cloth addiction.” She’s been especially successful selling items such as pillowcases or rice and lavender-filled neck rests covered in sports-themed fabric, she said.

“It’s good extra side cash,” Shoote said. “I can make things for people for a decent price, and I know they’re happy.”

She’s also getting more and more requests from people who want her to custom-sew items, which has helped her small business thrive.

“Without those sites, I don’t think I could have grown,” she said. “I have 1,000 likes on my Facebook (fan site) page now because of this.”

Jewel Rumble, who makes steampunk upcycled metal art, has also had great success selling in the groups — even though she only started posting items in November, she said.

“I always get so excited when I make something,” Rumble said. “I started off putting things on my own Facebook page and people started asking me if they could buy them. Then I started randomly putting things on buy and sell pages. People keep buying them. Now I’m getting people asking me to make things for them, too.”

She’s made enough selling her art that’s she’s been able to buy new equipment, such as a sand blasting cabinet, a forge for blacksmithing and a plasma cutting machine, she said.

“My husband and I made enough to immediately invest that money back in the shop,” Rumble said. “It’s been eye-opening enough that my husband and I have created our own shop and purchased our own brand, just through selling this way. It really took on a life of its own.”

Facebook has extended her customer base well beyond what she could have done with other sites, she said.

“It’s a broad audience,” Rumble said. “I have an Etsy site as well, but I’ve never sold anything there. I think here the one of a kind type thing really appeals to people — and you have such a diverse local audience.”

Most of the buy-and-sell groups are run by unpaid moderators, including Stalliviere and Wyatt. Mostly it’s fun, but there are also a lot of frequently changing rules handed down by Facebook that moderators have to keep track of.

“This is a free job — we do this for people because we want to,” Stalliviere said. “I’ve formed some really good friendships on there. I feel like it makes good friendships and good consumers.”

Most items sell without issue, but there are a couple of gray areas for sales — including pets and food, she said.

“They recently changed the rules so people can’t sell animals on there, although they may be able to give them away or adopt,” Stalliviere said. “I know a lot of breeders are getting hit. For now we stopped the sale of all animals — at least until I can get a clarification.”

Food items — such as tamales or bread — can also be problematic because many are not made in commercial kitchens, as required by health codes. Stalliviere said she suggests taking a close look at customer feedback before buying anything edible.

“Do your homework,” Stalliviere said. “I feel like if people are willing to buy food products on there, they take their own risks and that’s their own choice. As long as Facebook says it’s legal, though, it’s OK with us.”

Wyatt said his bane has been auto dealers — who used to post a massive number of car sales on his site until he put a stop to it.

“They just spam the heck out of you,” Wyatt said. “They’ll drop 12 cars on there. We want to be a true grass roots group. It’s more for regular people.”

Stalliviere said she also roots out pyramid schemes and other posts that be sketchy — although sometimes, if they’re in good fun, she leaves them.

“Sometimes we get jokesters,” Stalliviere said with a laugh. “Like one of our admins one time posted a hanger on a hook and advertised it as a camouflage jacket. Those things are great because they get people to laugh.”

And because the sales are so local, being a moderator of Clark County’s biggest buy-and-sell site has also actually made Stalliviere a bit of a local celebrity, she said with a laugh.

“I get recognized,” Stalliviere said. “I go to Clark College and people ask me if I’m a moderator on the site all the time. That’s kind of cool. It’s pretty neat to be Facebook famous.”

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