On Facebook, a Yard Sale in Lakewood Goes Digital
It used to be that when you wanted to get rid of old junk that inevitably accumulates in the home, you had to host a yard sale. Yard sales are colossal pains in the ass and require setting up a bunch of card tables and sitting in the hot sun while haggling with strangers over the price of your grandma's antique dining table and some old paper back books.
Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia
Then, technology came along and made things a little easier. Sites like Craigslist allowed people to connect with others in their area via the Internet to specifically buy the used items they wanted without having to drive across the city all weekend long and browse through garage sales. But Craigslist was not without its problems. The ability to arrange anonymous sex on the same site that you were using to sell your used children's clothing was certainly creepy, and horror stories of robbery and even murder after arranged Craigslist sales made many people wary of the site.
So, the junk piled up, and most of us decided to just donate it to Goodwill instead of trying to make a few bucks. Karla Zimmerman, a resident in Dallas' Lakewood neighborhood, she first realized that she needed to declutter when her family was making a big move to a new home after almost 20 years. She'd never heard of anything like a "Facebook garage sale" until a childhood friend added to her a group in her hometown back in Alabama, which gave her the idea to start Lakewood Facebook Yard Sale.
"Lakewood is known for its garage sales, and even just junk pickup," says Zimmerman. People from all over the city drive around Lakewood to pick up junk from the curb on bulk trash days, so Zimmerman knew that her idea would take off. "It started off with just my original friends from the neighborhood, and then they would add their friends, and it just grew from there.
Now, Lakewood Facebook Yard Sale is a massive semi-private Facebook group with close to 9,000 members, and the site has grown entirely by word-of-mouth. People as far away as Frisco and Allen are members of the group, but they'll usually stipulate that they work in the area or are willing to meet with their wares somewhere close to the neighborhood.
On any given day, any item that you can think of is for sale, and business for many of these spare-time entrepreneurs is booming. Parents with growing kids sell their outgrown toys and clothes for pennies on the dollar while handbag enthusiasts try to get top-dollar for their Louis Vuitton and Coach bags. Antique refinishers scour the sites for hidden treasures that just need a few coats of paint. Even seemingly random items, like a half-used package of diapers and canned goods that are weeks away from their expiration date, are up for grabs. The only items that have been explicitly banned on the Lakewood Facebook Yard Sale site are pets for sale and guns, but there are other niche sites that offer both. Zimmerman has also banned multi-level marketing scams and people who are using the site to promote their businesses in her group, and most others have followed suit.
A set of both unwritten rules governs transaction etiquette in the Lakewood Facebook Yard Sale. Users who are interested in buying an item are encouraged to comment "want" under an item they desire, then arrange the nuts and bolts of the sale, including the final price, through private messages on Facebook. The "winner" of the item is usually determined by who expresses interest first, but there are often arguments in these garage sale groups about who really has dibs. Zimmerman doesn't get in the middle of transactions in her own group, because everybody is a "grown-up," she says. "I'm not a referee or boss, and I don't make any money off of these sales."
Deciding who has first dibs isn't the only thing that causes drama in the online garage sale groups. Many times, people commit to buying an item, set up a time to pick it up and then never show. A few months ago, a clueless husband who was cleaning out his wife's handbag collection unknowingly posted a series of "replica" designer handbags to a Park Cities group, and was promptly torn to shreds by women in the know who threatened to alert the police about the fakes. For sellers who offer "porch pick-up," or leave their goods on the patio and tell buyers to place cash inside the mailbox or another designated area, sometimes things go missing. In these transactions, buyers and sellers communicate online, but never actually meet in person.