If you’re on Facebook (which you probably are) and go to UCLA, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Free & For Sale, a Facebook group for and by UCLA students requiring an @ucla.edu email address to join. It’s Westwood’s own digital never-ending garage sale, with people hawking free overripe bananas, dining table sets, shoes and much much more. For sellers, there are approximately 12,000 people who can look at your goods.
What’s not to like?
Oh yeah, there’s the fact it updates your Facebook notifications approximately every three minutes for most of the day (and even updates at odd off-peak hours). If you can stomach the annoyingly consistent Facebook notifications, Free & For Sale is the place to go for anything a college student might need: used lab coats, cute clothes under $10, reasonably priced used textbooks and even a few cars and mopeds here and there.
Want to get in on the buy/sell action? Joining is as easy as typing in your UCLA email. But beware: since most of the stuff sold is used, there are plenty of caveats, from broken zippers on skirts to missing pages from secondhand loose-leaf textbooks. On the buy side, there are plenty of times you’ll be left hanging with a textbook you don’t need anymore if you don’t follow up. If you’re wary of people flaking on trying on your clothes, or just want to make sure you don’t get ripped off, here are some tips and tricks.
Tips for buyers:
- Rather than comment, message sellers directly with your offer (if applicable). Providing a phone number (either Google Voice or your actual one) when scheduling meetups also makes communication quicker.
- Don’t hesitate to ask around if you don’t see what you need. Usually some people will message you (think common items like lab coats or extra coat hangers).
- OBO means “or best offer.” Some people will post the price of an object as “$5 OBO.” Push your luck. It never hurts to try.
- General textbook buying:
- Ask sellers if the solutions manual is included for math textbooks and consider that in pricing.
- For more common books, it’s worth shopping around for prices.
- For less common books, your best bet may just be to lock down a certain copy.
- Know how much annotation and highlighting is in it before you buy (check in person).
- Make sure the edition you’re buying is the one you need for class (or be aware that you’re purchasing an older edition).
- Check to make sure the instructor hasn’t changed the materials even if he or she has been using the same course reader or textbook for years.
- For loose-leaf textbooks:
- Make sure you ask if the binder is included, and consider that in the prices people are looking to sell at.
- When you buy from them in person, make sure to check that all the pages are there.
- For clothing/shoes:
- Try on clothing if possible. Look for any visible stains or broken zippers.
- The best clothes (aka those new with tags, for brands like Brandy Melville, Zara, etc.) go fast. If you’re looking for the cutest and cheapest stuff, check your (ever-updating) Free & For Sale notification regularly.
- If you do need to bid up, set a limit for yourself. I’ve definitely spent way too much on clothing I didn’t really end up liking
- Practice good buyers’ etiquette. If you’re no longer interested in buying something, let the seller know.
- For furniture and other large items:
- Ask if delivery is available if you’re unable to pick it up. There may be an extra fee involved, but the ease of getting your dining set/couch/desk over is worth it. In some cases, the seller will load it into your car or even move it for free. I’ve had a seller carry over a (fairly light) coffee table one block for free.
- Check for any loose table legs or paint chipping. Look for broken couch legs or ominous mystery stains on upholstered furniture.
- Mattresses: Buy a mattress liner if you’re concerned about cleanliness or if you’re susceptible to allergies.
- In general, make sure you assess the quality of the item you’re buying before you buy it, so you can avoid having to discover that the lamp you bought has a burnt-out bulb.
- Free stuff:
- There’s usually something wrong with it. Go ahead and pick it up, but just know what you’re getting into.
- Usually goes fast. Check the page frequently (as in every hour).
Tips for sellers:
- List prices in the caption of each photo. A description is usually nice, such as “Zara blouse” or “George Foreman grill.”
- Change the caption to “SOLD” or delete your post when you’ve sold your item.
- Make sure your photos are of decent quality in decent lighting. This can vastly change how appealing your goods are to buyers. It might be annoying to hang up your clothes on a white wall, but your work does pay off.
- DON’T comment “sold.” This will push your (now moot) post to the top of the page.
- For clothing:
- Schedule try-on sessions at the same time to save yourself the hassle of sticking around your room or apartment waiting for multiple potential buyers to come by at different times.
- If you’re bringing clothing to campus, try to do so on the same day so you can get your selling done in one swoop.
- Flaky buyers are an irritating part of the Free &For Sale life. Be proactive and offer your available times for pick-ups, try-ons, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to make buyers come to you.
- Be flexible about payment options. Some people will want to pay in Venmo, so think about getting the app.
- Offering your phone number (or a Google Voice number if you’re reluctant to hand out your usual one) is also a good idea, especially if you don’t use Facebook often or are prone to forgetting about buyers coming to your apartment or dorm.
Have any more tips and tricks to share? Comment below or tweet us @dbmojo.
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