In October, Facebook launched its ‘Marketplace’ that allows users to shop and sell items with people nearby. It isn’t the first iteration of the feature—and it certainly won’t be the last. However, this time Facebook is really pushing it, by giving it a prominent position in its mobile app. In fact, the feature is only available through the Facebook app, where you can browse images of items for sale and post offers.
If this concept sounds familiar, you’re thinking of Craigslist or Offer Up, or essentially any other app or website where you can post items for sale or purchase items locally. Moreover, there are various “Buy and Sell” groups on Facebook where people gather to connect within their neighborhoods to trade and sell goods. But, in their announcement, Facebook explains that it wanted to make it easier for the some 450 million people who visit these kinds of groups on a monthly basis.
To visit Marketplace, you need the Facebook app and simply have to tap the “shop” icon at the bottom. Then, you’ll see a page that includes photos of items for sale with a price listed next to it. It’s a simple grid layout and while it does make it easy to see what’s for sale among your local network, overall, it really needs some work.
But, if Facebook were to do the following, maybe it would actually become useful.
In Facebook Marketplace, you’re able to change your search location pretty easily and can drag the search area between 2 and 100 miles. The problem though, for someone like myself who lives in a city and doesn’t own a car, is that we’re not even interested in viewing items for sale that aren’t in our actual neighborhood. Sure, two miles is a small search area—but in a city, it’s a pretty long distance to travel on foot, especially if you’re looking for items you can easily carry home.
This is why neighborhood “For Sale” groups exist and why I love being a part of them. When someone posts in my neighborhood group, I know that the items are within walking distance. Or if I’m actually looking for a larger item, such as a couch or a bed, I still know that if I need to borrow a car or get help moving it, that it only needs to be moved a few blocks, as opposed to a few miles.
If Facebook were to add neighborhood filters, I think that would be this little more useful, especially for large cities. Sure, I can always move my location to a different area, but, again, the search has a minimum of two miles. Right now, if I were to walk a mile west of my apartment, I would be in a different neighborhood. So someone posting items in that neighborhood shows up in my Marketplace, but I’m not even interested in buying from someone in that area.
Moreover, when you view an item, you know the zip code of where it’s located, but you don’t actually know where it is within the zip code until you make an offer and start talking to the person. Plus, when someone posts an item they can change the zip code or location, which means someone could actually be located somewhere else but change it to a more popular zip code so it’s visible to more people.
This is problematic simply because it’s just a waste of time to you if you’re actually trying to buy stuff (especially furniture) and are trying to do so as hassle-free as possible. If you knew upfront that the item was actually in your neighborhood and not on the other side of it, it would just make planning the logistics a whole lot easier. And it really sucks when you see something you really want, only to go through a whole back and forth with someone and later find out the item is further than you thought.
For Facebook to make this improvement, instead of viewing a grid of what’s for sale on the home page, I would rather see a layout of my city and be able to click on the neighborhood I’m located in or am moving to. Then, the items posted there should only be from people who actually live in that area. This is why most neighborhood groups require you to lists your cross streets before you can join the group—so that people located outside the neighborhood can’t just post items for sale in it to get more exposure.
When people use Craigslist, they’re given the option to use a Craigslist e-mail so they don’t have to give out too much information. You’re able to use your zip code too so people don’t know your exact location, which is how Marketplace currently operates too. But, the problem with Marketplace is that it’s connected to Facebook—so when you communicate with a seller or buyer, they have your information from your Facebook.
This issue might sound silly to bring up because, well, if you’re using Facebook Marketplace you obviously have a Facebook with your privacy setting set up however you like. But, even though my profile is relatively private, I find it uncomfortable knowing that if I’m posting something for sale; someone who might be interested in it (or not) can see my first and last name and profile photo.
I feel safe posting in my neighborhood groups because I either actually know some of the people in them or I’ve seen them interacting with my other neighbors. Some neighborhood groups are open and public, whereas others are closed and require giving your address or cross streets to enter. This helps keep the group a little more private, so that you can be sure that you’re interacting with your actually neighbors, instead of people located on the other side of town or nowhere near your city, who you wouldn’t want to be seeing your name and location for no reason. Groups also usually have admins who oversee the group and remove anyone who posts scams or makes rude comments.
I think the answer might just be giving people the option to only have their first name connected to posts instead of their full account. Rather than letting strangers message me their offers and having both of us be able to see one another’s profile, I’d rather just see a profile photo and a first name, kind of like how it works with food delivery apps or Lyft and Uber where you get enough to know it’s a real person.
I’m surprised that there isn’t an option to filter by price range in Facebook Marketplace, mainly because I can’t believe how ridiculous some of the prices I have seen for silly things are. There is no way anyone is using Facebook to find items that are for sale for thousands of dollars. That’s insane and makes it really annoying when you scroll through the grid and just see photo after photo of expensive pieces of furniture or products.
If I’m looking to spend under $50 for a chair or table, I’d rather just put a filter on the app and know right away if there’s anything I’m interested in nearby for my price point. Please, Facebook, don’t make me scroll for endless hours to try and find the best deal. All you have to do is add a filter that allows users to search by price.
While scrolling through my Marketplace, I noticed a lot of expensive furniture postings and quickly realized that some of them weren’t even postings from users—they were a post by a user, but included a link to a website to direct someone to go to their store to buy this item.
Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of Marketplace? That goes back to my earlier points about search filters by neighborhood because this is an example of how someone can work around the posting to say they are located in a certain area, but really be located somewhere else. Chances are, there are a ton of postings in Marketplace by businesses just using it for exposure to find new customers. If I wanted to spend thousands of dollars on furniture, I’d actually go to a store and look at it—I wouldn’t be using Facebook Marketplace to find a deal.
When I first heard about Marketplace, I thought that it was going to be an app or feature more like Etsy and less like Offer Up. I figured it was going to be a way for small business owners to better utilize their Facebook pages and shops to sell products through Facebook Marketplace, which would, in turn, make it easier for shoppers to discover those local businesses and products.
Instead, Facebook gave us something that already exists. I understand it was just trying to put all the items from multiple “Buy/Sell/Trade/Give” groups into one place, but people just don’t want or need that because we’re fine with how we currently use those groups. What we want is a safer place to buy and sell things locally, from people we can trust.
Facebook basically offered a solution to something that wasn’t really an issue with a solution that already existed—and it’s called Craigslist. Don’t be surprised if you see this feature once again getting completely revamped or removed altogether.