• By Johanna Salinas

Treasures in the closet

Thrift shopping and selling on Facebook have gone mainstream. Guam Grabs alone facilitates more than $1 million worth of transactions a year

Hey, Siri, search “Guam online yard sale. Organize results to start with the latest Facebook post.” Today, social media is more than just a hub for reconnecting with childhood friends or catching up with faraway relatives. More and more Facebook groups are popping up for online yard sales, including Guam Grabs, Guam Online Flea Market, Guam Home Shopping Network, Guam Sell Your Stuff and Guahan Sells among others.

About 10 years ago, you would have to drive around the island to catch a yard sale, which usually starts early morning. Thrift shopping nowadays has become more convenient. While yard sales as well as brick-and-mortar thrift shops such as those operated by Salvation Army and Oasis Empowerment are still around, buying and reselling secondhand items can now be done in the comfort of your bedroom while you are in your bahaki late at night.

Instead of sifting through piles of preowned clothes and digging into the “Everything 50 cents” bin, thrift shoppers can simply scroll through postings on Facebook.

“People use Guam Grabs and other groups to buy, sell and trade almost anything,” said David Macapinlac, creator of Guam Grabs and Guam Flea Market.

Facebook can be the most convenient platform to sell items for people who are purging their closets, decluttering or relocating off-island.

“You will see people selling home goods, clothes, electronics, computers, cars and even whole businesses,” Macapinlac said. “Some people want to get rid of things they don’t need anymore. Other people are looking to buy something.”

Lolit Enriquez, who recently moved from Tamuning to Sinajana, has been on a selling and buying binge these days. As she gets rid of some of her old household items and clothes from her old home, she also acquires items that suit her newly renovated home. “I have bought plates, glasses, and other kitchen items,” Enriquez said.

“These are the same kinds of items that I re-sell. Kitchen items are easy to sell, but clothes hardly draw responses.”

Thrift shopping is like treasure hunting, which Enriquez finds fascinating, cathartic and somehow addictive. “Oftentimes I end up buying things that I don’t need just because they are unique and super cheap,” she said.

Items that Enriquez buys on impulse usually go back to the repurpose market. “So I post them on Facebook at prices that are much lower than I paid for them,” she said.

Guam Grabs has 76,290 members and Guam Online Flea Market has 28,600 members. The page had 161,890 posts, 359,618 comments and 302,057 reactions last year.

Besides individuals selling preowned items or business products, Facebook shopping pages also have things not found at yard sales. “The platform helps individuals, organizations and small businesses as well. Other people are promoting services they offer,” Macapinlac said.

Some offer house-cleaning service, bush-cutting, massage therapy, catering, house for rent and so on.

“I've seen an ad for a sea captain looking for some shipmates to sail to Japan. Basically, he needed some deck hands to help him sail to Japan and he would pay for food expenses. From there, the person would have to buy a flight back to Guam,” Macapinlac said. “Other weird items include selling your mom's home-cooked food (for family dinner), or even selling spiders and lizards that someone has caught.”

Since millennials may feel more at ease chatting with strangers online instead of awkwardly starting a conversation in real time, Facebook shopping has certainly become more popular. “The platform is universal. You will see people of all ages using it, both male and female,” Macapinlac said.

“Localized Group Online Selling is actually an amazing tool. Personally, I've sold thousands of dollars’ worth of things I did not need by advertising on Guam Grabs.”

Guam Grabs has 76,290 members and Guam Online Flea Market has 28,600 members. The page had 161,890 posts, 359,618 comments and 302,057 reactions last year.

Macapinlac said it is impossible to quantify the exact number of transactions. “What the platform does is connect people and then transactions happen off the platform. I recently spoke with someone who said they sold over $10,000 worth of their items on Guam Grabs,” he said. “I can give you some metrics for the number of posts, interactions and active users. There are, I would say, in excess of $1 million worth of transactions per year on Guam Grabs alone.”

On Guam, there are no available statistics that quantify the performance of the secondhand goods business, otherwise known as “recommerce.” In the United States, recommerce accounts for a tiny fraction of the $3.8 trillion in U.S. retail sales, but it is growing fast, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Sales of secondhand goods are expected to more than double to $51 billion by 2023, up from $24 billion last year, according to GlobalData PLC, which prepared the research for thredUP.”

With Facebook shopping becoming a norm, Macapinlac offers tips for first timers in the game. “While it facilitates bringing our community together, it is important to exercise caution when dealing with people you do not know,” he advises sellers and buyers. “Always meet in a public place, during the day, preferably. Tell someone what you are doing or have a trusted friend or family member come with you. Don't meet at home. Find a neutral location. Always have a cellphone handy.”

Macapinlac also advises buyers to check items on the spot before paying for it. “Make sure to test and see the item before any transaction is completed. If something seems off about the item or the seller, don’t do it,” he said.

For those interested in selling, Facebook is a great way to reach buyers, Macapinlac said. “All you have to do is take a picture of whatever you need to sell, post information and price and post. You might have exactly the thing someone was looking for.” (With additional reports from Mar-Vic Cagurangan)

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