Facebook (then ‘TheFacebook’) was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg as a way of connecting fellow Harvard students in an online social network. It was an extension of his earlier FaceMash project (in 2003) which allowed students to rate each other on a ‘hot or not basis’.
The site has gone through many changes over the years, being a place to store your photos, chat with friends, arrange events, and distribute fake news. It is also a place where you can buy and sell raw meat.
‘Marketplace’ is a Facebook feature that’s a mashup of Craigslist, eBay, and the dodgy guy flogging DVDs in the pub car park. It’s very much a ‘nobody ever asked for this, Mark’ feature. And I hate it to bits.
Let me explain why.
1 – Nobody goes to Facebook to buy things
At least not from other people. I mean, sure, I’ve bought plenty of products off the back of compelling Facebook ads. And as someone who works in social media marketing, I know full well how important Facebook advertising can be.
But Marketplace isn’t a media platform. It’s not a space like the news feed where people go to consume content. I check my news feed if I’m bored (sorry Mark, nobody is checking it for NEWS lol), and savvy marketers know how to blend advertising with entertainment for some lucrative targeted advertorial.
Never have I ever tapped the Facebook app because I am interested in buying an entire pig carcass.
Or on the off chance I might be able to buy £80 worth of Costa beans from Basildon.
Sites like Amazon and eBay exist. Sure, Amazon has its problems with fake reviews and products, and eBay can be a bit of a nightmare for dispute resolution. But on the whole, they’re pretty good. And importantly, I go there with the intent of buying goods.
Annoyingly, Facebook included Marketplace as a top-level menu item in the app for a while. This meant it was as important as the News Feed, your notifications, and your profile. This meant I accidentally tapped into it all the time. Worse still, I somehow ended up with some kind of red notification dot on it that I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of. I’ve since been able to dismiss it, but I hated this for a long time.
2 – The buying and selling experience is horrible
Despite everything I’ve said, I’ve sold a few things through Facebook Marketplace. There’ve been times where I’ve been moving house and needed to shift some stuff, fast. Amazon and eBay are great for selling, but sometimes you can’t be arsed to pack stuff up and lug it to a post office. And Freecycle is cool, but it’s less helpful for items that are worth something.
Here’s what happens when you try to sell something on Facebook Marketplace:
- You list the item – this isn’t too bad! You take a few photos, write a description, price, etc. It’s a decent experience.
- People start to message you about it, pretty quickly – people can message you to express their interest in the item. Already, this isn’t great, as messages come to your Messenger inbox. And you might get quite a few. Not the end of the world, sure, but 75% of folks are seemingly go from very interested to not at all keen.
“Hi, is this still available?” someone will ask, 30 seconds after listing. “Yes!” I’ll reply, “Are you interested?”. NO RESPONSE EVER. Did they die? We’ll never know.
- The lowball offers start coming in – this is where things start to get rough. You list something for £100 and you’ll get a message offering you £5. No joke, it’s not even haggling, it’s just offensive. Try to haggle and you’ll either get abuse or ghosted. Bear in mind this can be happening five times at once simultaneously.
- You eventually find someone offering a reasonable price – great! Now you have to give this complete stranger your home address (or somewhere to meet) and a time. Oh dear.
- Your life is now in a stranger’s hand. I mean, the safety element alone is bananas. But also, you’re beholden to someone who inevitably doesn’t own a single piece of timekeeping equipment. They’ll not show up, be late, or endlessly rearrange. But hey, that £30 for your 3-year-old copy of Mario Tennis Super Aces will make it all worth it, right?
Here is a genuine exchange I had when trying to sell an old Nintendo Wii U when I upgraded to a Nintendo Switch.
I listed it for £100, which was a very decent price at the time for a used Wii U. This person messaged me and boom there’s the lowball. 60% of the asking price.
I agreed to £60, which they immediately changed to £50 because they had to catch a cab. Strange, and not how bargaining works. It’s also not how buying things works, either. I don’t get to deduct the cost of my travel to Sainsbury’s off my Sainsbury’s shop. But hey, I’m a reasonable person and just looking to clear out an old console.
They asked if it fully worked, and honestly, I should have just said yes. I didn’t want to be accused later of lying if it didn’t work or fall foul of some trading standards sanction so I hedged my bets with a “should do”. As we’ll see, this causes many problems to follow.
They’ve asked why the console has a white screen. That’s because I had turned it on (actually to show it working). And they also suddenly want to change the deal and not take the controllers. That’s a bit of a dealbreaker because the whole reason for the listing was to get rid of everything.
At this point my anxiety is sky-high. I feel like I’m dealing with an irrational individual who is forcing me into a position I don’t want to take. I’m regretting ever listing the Wii U in the first place, and especially regretting giving this person my home address.
They also just drop the price to £40 for the lols. I tell them the offer is off.
They start persistently hounding me about this, pressuring me with “we already booked the cab”. And I’m thinking that I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to meet this person face-to-face. Not knowing what else to do, I block them on Messenger and pray they don’t show up at my doorstep.
And this is a fairly typical selling experience. My primary emotions were fear, anxiety, and panic. Great going, Mark!
3 – Every Facebook Marketplace listing is somehow the worst listing
I don’t want this to turn into a list of ‘terrible things on Facebook Marketplace’. But let’s do that anyway for a bit.
How about a 5-generation old iPhone with a completely unusable screen that’s locked to not-your-network, for £27? You also have to go to Bromley to get it.
Some ‘super rare Shrek’ amulets for £400? I have no idea what they do, but they are 100% cursed.
Speaking of cursed, here’s an ugly bloody doll. Allow me to quote the full description: “Exceptionally vile doll, about the size of your average barbie but far uglier and more poorly dressed. I believe this doll is to be cursed from personal experience. She comes with one free loo roll.“
“A weird thing happened with the wardrobe. I lost the key and had to drill through the lock to open it. And the key was hanging inside the wardrobe on the hook. Adopt at your peril.” But hey, it’s free!
Or how about just an entire six million pound house? That you bought off Facebook?
My point is that doesn’t seem to be any kind of filter for quality. No guarantees of safety or anything. Facebook is frankly forgoing its obligation to protect its users, both with the products it allows people to sell and during the buying experience. It’s why we see tragedies like people being beaten to death while exchanging goods.
Stick to eBay, yeah?