Move over eBay, FaceBay is just one of the new ways to sell unwanted stuff

Facebook's community page, Twitter, apps … there are lots of ways to turn your second-hand goods into ready cash

There was a time, not so long ago, when eBay seemed the only place to head if you wanted to sell second-hand goods online. But for some the online auction giant is no longer as attractive as it was, with relatively high fees and an apparent bias towards buyers – The Observer's consumer champion Anna Tims has reported on numerous cases where buyers have apparently pocketed sellers' wares without paying and eBay's system has been found in their favour.

The proliferation of social media websites has introduced new outlets – the likes of Facebook and Twitter offer the opportunity to sell second-hand goods without eBay's fees.

"Social media has allowed individuals and independent shops to achieve the visibility and brand loyalty which was previously gained only through traditional advertising or local shoppers," says Noemi Kubiak, of independent price comparison site

"The ease of cash-in-hand, and the security of buying from someone you can communicate with via social media, can prove an occasionally attractive alternative to waiting for items to arrive through the post."

Zoe Chapman agrees. Chapman from Tunbridge Wells in Kent runs a fabric, gifts and stationery company called Ollie & Roo.

"Having used eBay quite a lot to sell second-hand things with successful results, more recent attempts have resulted in poor auction results with items either not selling or achieving a low price," she says.

"I have tried a number of Facebook groups for selling items locally; I find the smaller village pages have more successful and easier results, leading to a smoother transaction.

"I guess this is because people know each other in a small community and it is an easier way to exchange items and name your price."

Where to sell

There are thousands of Facebook pages dedicated to buying and selling items, and the number is growing daily. The FaceBay community page ( otherwise known as "Fbay", which was founded in 2010, now has 23,600 members. To join, you must "like" the page, and you can then post items you want to sell, or contact other members if you want to buy items they are selling.

According to Facebook there are more than 1,000 other groups which are "FaceBay" sites for specific geographical areas.

Plenty of other community groups on Facebook buy and sell items under names other than FaceBay.

It's usually possible to track down these simply by entering the words "for sale" and then the area or postcode where you live.

For example, the Bristol-based BS3 mums' buying, selling and giving group sells mainly clothes, toys and furniture for children and has 497 members. Like many, this is a closed group, so if you want to join, you will need to click "join group" in the top right corner. You may have to wait for an administrator to approve your request, though some groups allow you to be added by a friend who is a member.

Twitter is also an increasingly popular fee-free way to buy and sell. If you enter #forsale and then another # followed by the place where you live, you'll usually find a whole range of goods, from properties, to cameras, festival tickets and computer games.

Many classified ads websites now have their own official Twitter accounts, too, where goods for sale are regularly updated. For example, the ads site has a Twitter account at @4SaleSwindon which has advertised goods ranging from a single headboard to a 32-inch Panasonic television.

However, the big downside is that, although there are no listing fees on Facebook or Twitter, they lack the resolution service offered by eBay. The auction site also identifies buyers who haven't paid, so it can automatically remove any negative or neutral feedback and low seller ratings they might leave for you.

If a buyer refuses to pay, eBay can add a strike to their account, which can lead to buying limits or suspension.

Other alternatives to eBay

The site has no fees, but you must pay 3% of the final selling price of the item. You can upgrade to "seller+" status for £49.49, which means you won't ever have to pay any listing or final value fees.

In comparison, doesn't charge insertion fees for your first 20 listings every month, but when you sell there's a 10% final value fee on the total transaction amount. Once you've used your 20 free listings, they are 35p each.

If you've got art, antiques or collectables is worth a look. This is provided by valuation site, and allows customers to put their items up for auction in an eBay-style marketplace where everything is vetted by experts. There are no listing fees, but 10% commission is payable on the final sale price. Sellers must also obtain a valuation from prior to listing. Prices start from £10 per item valued.

Find other sites where you can buy and sell secondhand goods by visiting These include, where you can advertise free with no selling fees, and which, again, has no advertising fees, although there are charges for some ads posted for cars, rentals, jobs and services. 


There are also apps which enable users to sell goods. For example, Shpock (an amalgamation of "shop in your pocket") which launched in the UK this March, is a boot sale-style app which is free to use and takes 30 seconds to list an item.

Buyers and sellers can ask questions and agree a price through the app and then meet for the exchange. This means that they can check the condition before money is handed over.

If you've got books, DVDs, CDs, games, mobiles or electronic devices to sell, the Zapper app allows you to scan in the barcodes and immediately gives you a price.

If you're happy with the price you can send them to Zapper free of charge and you'll then receive payment. This app is free to download from iTunes.

Car boot and other sales

Many people prefer to buy and sell goods face to face where they can look at the goods and check them over. Use the site to find car boot sales in your area. It usually costs around £5 up to £15 to sell at a car boot sale.

If you're looking to clear out baby items, you might want to consider a specialist sale. Parenting charity the NCT runs regular "nearly new" sales across the country.

Check the website at to find details of the next sale near to you. Sales usually run on a commission basis, with sellers receiving around 70% commission on items they sell, but some sales will charge a set fee for a table or rail so sellers can keep all their profits.

Buyer's rights

Consumers buying through social media should exercise caution, according to the Trading Standards Institute, which is seeing rising numbers of complaints about items bought this way.

Spokesman David MacKenzie says: "While many goods are sold in this way to the satisfaction of both buyer and seller, an increasing number of consumers are being stung."

Problems encountered include the sale of shoddy or counterfeit goods, non-delivery of goods and money scams of various kinds. Even if the seller is legitimate, there are extra risks for consumers buying this way. 

"For example, if anything goes wrong with a purchase, it can be difficult to identify who exactly the seller is and how to pursue a complaint against them," says MacKenzie.

"Consumers should also be aware that many social media sales are likely to be from non-business sellers and thus carry fewer consumer rights – for example, having no comeback on faulty goods." 

However, there is some protection. The Sale of Goods Act, under which traders must sell goods that are as described and of satisfactory quality, applies to both second-hand and new goods. For example, if someone sells you a pair of size 10 trousers, but you subsequently spot on the label that they are a size 14, you are entitled to ask for a refund or replacement.

If the seller refuses to offer one of these options, you could consider taking them to the small claims court.


Melanie Wright

The GuardianTramp

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