Tech Savvy: Online buying and selling 101

I am so happy the last few weeks are over. I've just completed the dreaded task that no one (at least that I've met) likes to do; I just moved. Though the process was stressful and a bit of a hassle, I found an unexpected source of help--the inte...

OfferUp offers up about 40 specific categories of goods, making it easy for users to find exactly what they want.Screenshot
OfferUp offers up about 40 specific categories of goods, making it easy for users to find exactly what they want. Screenshot

I am so happy the last few weeks are over. I've just completed the dreaded task that no one (at least that I've met) likes to do; I just moved. Though the process was stressful and a bit of a hassle, I found an unexpected source of help-the internet.

OK, so the internet didn't physically help me move all of my belongings from Pequot Lakes to Brainerd, but it did help me find a new apartment and furnish it at an affordable price.

Thank you especially to Craigslist and Facebook for helping with the move. And since these resources were so beneficial for me, I decided I'd share some tips about online buying and selling for anyone else who might need some help, or for anyone who has extra stuff and wants to make some quick cash.

There are so many websites and mobile apps out there dedicated to buying and selling used goods-whether it be furniture, appliances, clothes, electronics or even vehicles and housing. Now, I know buying used products-especially furniture-isn't for everyone, and I completely understand that. But because my budget it tight, I'm completely OK with buying things used, as long as they're clean and in working order. And sometimes sellers have brand new products that haven't even been taken out of the package yet but for some reason can't be returned to the store.

My latest online purchase was a full-size mattress, box spring, bed frame and mattress pad for $50 on the Facebook Marketplace. It fits my needs perfectly and-best of all-didn't make my bank account suffer too much.


But if you've never used any of these websites and apps, finding the right one can be tricky and overwhelming. So I've compiled pros and cons for a few popular buying and selling websites and mobile apps to help a first-time online bargain hunter.

First just a quick note about all the resources I've listed: They all work on both computers and mobile devices, are free to use, allow users to search a variety of categories within a specific region, and allow shoppers to save items they want to revisit later.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is a pretty popular sales hub right now, probably because so many people already have Facebook, and the tool is free to use for those with accounts.


• No need to set up a new account of any sort. An existing Facebook profile will do the trick.

• Accountability. You can see who a buyer or seller is through their profile. Sure, there might still be fake profiles out there, but it's much easier to identify a scammer through a fake profile than if they only provide a phone number or email address, like on Craigslist.

• Privacy. Users chat with potential buyers and sellers through the app, so there's no need to give out a personal phone number or email address. Users you chat with can only see as much of your profile as you want them to, based on your privacy settings.



I honestly cannot think of any cons for the Facebook Marketplace. It has been a great resource for me.


Facebook Marketplace is accessible on a computer by clicking the "Marketplace" button on the left side of the website. On the mobile app, it's an icon at the top of the page.

The Facebook messaging app allows users to send money through the app. This feature can be helpful for those who don't typically like carrying cash, but paying prior to picking up an item requires a certain amount of trust that the seller will come through and actually deliver the item.


Around since 1995, Craigslist is one of the more well-known buying and selling website. It's certainly the first place I usually think to look when I want to buy used online.



• A lot more specific categories than other sites and apps. Along with a variety of goods, shoppers can look through job postings, services offered and community classes, but posting some classifieds-like a paid job-will cost at least $10.

• No need to set up an account. Anyone can use it.


• There's no way to chat with other users through the website, so sellers have to disclose either a phone number or email address. Because of this, scammers can easily post bogus listings, and not knowing who you're talking to can be a big security risk.

• Items you "favorite," or save for later, don't transfer from different devices. For example, if I'm browsing on my computer and favorite an item, it won't show up in my favorites on my phone app, even though I've signed into my account on both devices.

• While the website allows users to search for items within a certain distance of the designated city-like I can search within 10, 20 or 30 miles of Brainerd-the app does not. Searches are limited to the "Brainerd" Craigslist site. To get around that, you can use your phone's web browser and go to the desktop website, but that route is a bit more tedious.


I've found that Craigslist is really useful for rental housing. It's where I found my new apartment, and it had-by far-the most rental listings of any other sites I checked.


Letgo is a fairly new app, just launched in 2015. You might have seen the TV ads where someone says "Let's sell it on Letgo!" And a second after posting the item, someone shows up and says "I'll take it."

A September 2017 article from Business Insider credits Letgo as a fast-growing app worth more than $1 billion and consistently one of the top 50 free apps in Apple's App Store.


• Users can log in with a Facebook or Google account instead of creating a separate Letgo account. This means you don't have to remember any pesky username or password.

• Like Facebook, users can message each other through the app, so giving out a phone number or email address isn't necessary.

• Offers services, in addition to products, like Craigslist.

• Has a "free stuff" category for the most budget-conscious shoppers.


• Categories don't get as specific as other apps. For example, I was able to search through a "furniture" category on the other apps when looking for couches, beds, shelving, etc. Letgo, however, doesn't get more specific than a "home" category, which can encompass so many things, like artwork, appliances, kitchen items, holiday decorations, etc. Scrolling through hundreds of unwanted items can be frustrating.

Now, there is a search feature available to type in keywords like "couch" or "table," but the results it brings back depend on how sellers label their items. A couch could be labeled as "couch," "sofa" or "loveseat," and searching each individual term gets tedious.


Letgo sends notifications when a new posting matches your previous searches, which can be helpful, but because of the app's location feature, the products it notifies you about might not always be nearby.

If space allowed, I could keep going with more apps and websites because there are plenty.

OfferUp is similar in format to Letgo, and it has more specific categories. But it doesn't seem to be quite as popular because I didn't see nearly as many listings compared to other resources.

So next time you're contemplating a big purchase-or maybe even a small one-stop to think about whether or not you really need to buy brand new. And if not, then have fun navigating the worldwide web to see what kind of treasures you can find.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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