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Why Facebook may become the new, eBay.

First and foremost, the title and this article are strictly my opinion. As most of us know, opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and more than not, they usually stink. That being said, why do I think Facebook will become the new eBay? The answer is simple. Sheer volume of people, ease of use and regional domination.

With all the small sub groups of Online Yard Sales and local seller pages on the platform coupled with Facebook’s Marketplace, the stage is already set. Like eBay, which started out as a free site for people to sell and trade stuff, Facebook’s Marketplace and user groups are free to use for people wishing to transact business. Better yet, eBay paved the way for all the hiccups which occurred and ironed out many of them. Facebook programmers merely had to write and implement code. The hard work had been taken care of a few years earlier. That being said, Facebook has already added the ability for people to ship their items, collect money and promote their items in other groups which they are members. This only leaves one avenue of approach for Facebook to satisfy shareholders in the future. Facebook will need to monetize the Marketplace.

To take advantage of the regional groups they will start charging the admins who have setup pages for use of the Facebook groups platform. This will either eliminate the groups altogether, or, the admins will have to jump on board and pay a monthly fee. I suspect Facebook will have a plan in place to make being a group owner a subscription style business and it will offer payment incentives to the group owner thus, giving Marketplace a monopoly on its own platform by tying all the groups together. This will satisfy most of the regional issues which Facebook might face as well as, it will lock up all the like-minded and local-based groups issues that are currently being served by these groups. In effect, it will create mini locally based selling sites using the power of Facebook Marketplace.

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The flaw in that plan is that while many people will embrace Marketplace and abandon groups, others will simply migrate to different avenues. This is exactly what happened when Napster was shut down because people were illegally downloading music. Here’s a little surprise for you, shutting down Napster did not stop people from illegally downloading music. It stopped them from using, Napster. In fact, downloading of music illegally actually escalated. It’s like telling a person they can not drive to New York City by using the Holland Tunnel. Okay. Big freaking deal. There are still other ways to get to New York City just as there are still ways to illegally download music online.

The writing on the wall is clear enough. Facebook is the number one social site in the world. However, they are not the only game in town and they know it. In the meantime though, it is my feeling that within the next year or two, you will see Facebook do exactly what I have said they will do. They are going to charge you to sell stuff. They are going to charge you to post ads in a classified format and their algorithms will certainly play in limiting what people see on their wall and in the groups in which they are members.

Localized venues and even small local newspaper are and will be the way to buy and sell items which are too big or cost prohibitive to ship. Facebook has literally cornered the market on local, national and international groups. There are literally billions of dollars of merchandise which can and will be sold on the Facebook Marketplace. Do you really believe, Facebook is not going to try to grab as big a slice of that pie as they can? Or government for that matter. I assure you, massive changes to internet sales tax and online earnings are coming down the pike. If you don’t believe any of this, I have a bridge I would line to sell you. Online of course.

Guy R. Mathews

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Yard Sales versus Cyber Sales

And the winner is…

Large family yard sale which can be found in any region of America during seasonally mild weather.
Photo credit: The original up-loader was Jimmyjazz at English Wikipedia. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Long before computers, cell phones, websites and social media there were newspapers, signs, newsletters, churches and community events. As with everything, time is one factor which remains constant. That being said, is the American yard sale going the way of newspapers? Are we seeing the death of flea markets, garage sales, rummage sales and of course, yard sales? 

Thankfully, the answer to this question is a resounding, “NO!” What we are seeing is the birth of a new form of yard sale. One which started with a little company called, eBay

eBay was founded in Pierre Omidyar’s San Jose living room back in September 1995. It was from the start meant to be a marketplace for the sale of goods and services for individuals. It was based on a simple premise that most people are genuinely good. Additionally, another company, Craigslist, also started in 1995. Craig Newmark began the service in 1995 as an email list to friends, in the San Francisco Bay area. It became a web-based service in 1996 and expanded into other classified categories. It started expanding to other U.S. cities in 2000, and now covers over 70 countries.

While The Online Yard Sale will never be what these companies are, the keyword phrase “online yard sale” now accounts for between 1,000 to 10,000 searches a month on Google. That’s small potatoes when compared to the keyword and of course company name, “eBay” which is searched between 1 and 10 million times a month!

Having registered this domain back in 2001, I fiddled with variations of  the website with the goal of allowing people an alternative place to buy and sell goods. Obviously, it never worked out so well. However, since I enjoy writing and had worked at a newspaper for 15 years, I figured it was time to share my experiences  with yard sales, versus cyber sales. With upwards of 10,000 searches a month of my domain name, perhaps I can have a successful website after all. 

The biggest challenge facing traditional yard sales is of course, weather. Indoor yard sales such as community events held in churches and fire halls are gaining in popularity. More popular though are indoor yard sales. These take place right inside a person’s home and online thanks to Facebook groups and of course, Facebook Marketplace. Basically, you post an ad to the marketplace group and announce an indoor yard sale. You can include some photos of the things you are selling but it’s not always needed. People can private message you and you can let them know the date and time of your sale. You can also post it right online in the ad. It’s that simple. 

Of course, internet naysayers will scream bloody murder about this practice. The Craigslist Killer and any other number of reasons they can muster as to why this is not safe, come to mind. In the end, it is no different than running an ad in your local paper and inviting people into your garage or home to look at a freezer you might be selling. Long story short, if someone wants to kill you, they don’t need a yard sale as a reason. I’m not condoning murder. I’m simply stating a fact which will likely be lost on a large number of social justice warriors.

Speaking of death, I recently asked a friend whose mother passed away if she held a yard sale to liquidate the contents of the estate. Her facial expression told me the answer to my next question. After all the work, she had made a whopping $250 in a very populated area of New Jersey. This is not to say that other yard sales are not profitable for the time and labor involved. I’m merely pointing out one instance. My own experience on a hot summer July 4th weekend found me sunburned, hot, sweaty, and only $180 dollars to the good which my wife somehow managed to weasel me out of. 

More recently however, I sold less then ten items on the Facebook Marketplace and took in close to $750. These items included an older refrigerator, an older freezer, a set of china, some cookbooks, a few DVD’s, an air purifier, a Dewalt table saw that needed some repairs and a few other odds and ends. My prep time and work involved was far less then a yard sale and my only real expense was my time which was less than six hours total. Best of all, people came to my home. I quite literally had a gentleman stopping over the day I wrote this article to pick up a used tread mill which was given to me! I might add, he paid a hundred bucks and the ex-wife isn’t getting any of the windfall.

So the question we need to answer is, which is better? Yard Sales or Cyber Sales? 

The answer is, neither and both. Each have their own place and time.  More importantly, when you couple the two together, the results can be quite rewarding. In the end, it’s all just a matter of perspective, and, who gets to keep the money.

Guy R. Mathews

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Ten tips to keep pets safe during Christmas

Let’s face it. Your pets are family and as a pet owner, you want to keep them safe. During the holidays your pet’s normal environment is disrupted ten fold. There are delicate glass ornaments, dangerous plants, ribbons and bows and lights that can be chewed. (Remember the Griswold’s cat?) Let’s not forget, the Christmas tree? Here are ten tips to keep them safe this holiday season as well as, keep them out of the vets office.

1. Make sure your Christmas tree is in a stable base. Cats are natural born climbers and there is no better temptation then your Christmas tree. Since cats are naturally curious, a little patience on your part and a spray bottle with water may aid in training your cat to avoid the tree. Simply spray them with water when they approach the tree. This is a safer alternative to letting them climb and possibly tipping it over.

2. Tinsel adds a nice touch to any tree, unfortunately, it also attracts your mischief maker. Hang tinsel out of reach or avoid it altogether. Should your pet eat tinsel, it can potentially block their intestines. This is a sure way to visit your vet during the holiday season.

3. A tree without lights on the lower branches sounds like something out of a Charlie Brown special. The problem with stringing your own lights is your pet may get tangled up. They can also cause burns. Additionally, your pet may get shocked by biting the wire. Consider an artificial tree that has the lights woven into the tree design. This ensures there are no loose wires for your feline or canine to become tangled with.

4. Ornaments need to be secured tightly to the branches. The wire hooks can be twisted around the branch securing the ornament tightly. Broken ornaments may injure your pet’s paws, or worse yet, their mouth.

5. If you are planning a live Christmas tree this year, keep the area around the tree free and clear of pine needles. They may not seem dangerous but, needles cause stomach upset and can puncture your pet’s intestines if eaten.

6. Holly is poisonous to dogs and cats. If using holly to decorate your home, keep it in an area your pet cannot reach. Poinsettias can cause nausea and vomiting if eaten as well. Keep these away from your pets at all cost. Consider fake ones if you really must have them.

7. Candy canes, chocolates and popcorn strings hung on a tree is tempting fate and your pets. These snack like ornaments are just too tempting for pets and humans alike. Fido will surely tug at them. Not to mention, they are also potential choking hazards to pets and small children.

8. Burning candles should be placed on high shelves or mantels, out of your pet’s reach. Never leave candles unsupervised, ever. Pet or no pet, a lit candle is nothing to be left unattended. Keep your cat away from any areas with open flames. Homes with fireplaces or wood stoves should use screens to avoid burns.

9. Exposed indoor or outdoor wires should be secured to the wall or ran underneath a carpet that will not be stepped on. Exterior wires should be secured according to manufacturers directions. If in doubt, forgo the lights.

10. Wrapping paper, string, ribbon, plastic pieces or cloth could all cause intestinal blockages. Your pets will be naturally curious if you are sitting on the floor while wrapping gifts. Cats may want to play with ribbons or wrapping paper as it rustles. A safer bet is to wrap your gifts at a table or in a closed room away from your pets and the prying eyes of children.

These tips are for your pet’s safety and certainly do not constitute a guarantee that your pet might not be harmed. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to keep your fur babies safe and sound. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.