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A Users Guide to Facebook Marketplace for Bikes

(By: Geoff Chambers-Bedard & Myles Lane)

With warm weather and aspirations of quarantines-end fast approaching, the itch to get outside and ride is stronger than ever.

For those new to cycling, jumping in and finding the right equipment to start your season off right can be daunting, expensive, and time-consuming. Fortunately—if you know what you’re looking for and are comfortable buying used products, there’s a wonderful world of buy and sell classifieds across Facebook, Kijiji, and Pinkbike that can house some hidden gems.

Disclaimer: if you’re looking for advice and consultation on what to buy—we’d recommend going to a local bike shop like Detour Cyclery for some hands-on advice that works for you specifically.

On the flip side, if you’re creeping into a state of quarantine-induced insanity, buying and selling used equipment is a great way to maintain a semblance of productivity and sanity in these dark times.

Like cycling itself, buying and selling from an online semi-anonymous marketplace—is both an art and a science. This is a guide to navigating the buy/sell marketplace as both a buyer and seller to maximize your output without losing your mind—fast-tracking your way to market dominance.

This guide is broken down into two key sections: buying and selling.

The Buying Process

Probing: casting your metaphorical net in search of something better

Not ready to commit to listing an item? Searching for an item that doesn’t exist? Finally ready to step it up, rock a pair of Q-Rings and spin to win? Feel free to probe! The buy/sell forums are rife with buyers and sellers seeking things that may or may not be available or trying to determine if there is a market for their wares: WTB/ISO/LF [“wanting to buy/in search of/looking for’] are all common acronyms. These sorts of inquiries are a great way of assessing what is out there – remember, not everyone lists everything.

Probing is also a convenient way of minimizing the time you spend browsing. Why waste time searching? Remember, it is also a buyer’s market, so putting out a request for a certain item is a great way of inciting competition amongst sellers. Pay attention to the comments; you will find sellers, desperate to get rid of the -17/140mm stem that they can’t use.

PRO TIP: If you list your ask alongside a photo of your cat/dog, it will get more visibility on Facebooks algorithm.

Inquiring: there’s no such thing as a dumb question

Inquiring about the items that you see posted is a common occurrence. Feel free to engage a seller via the comments. Questions about the condition of the item, the seller’s reasons for selling, and the specifications of the item are encouraged. This is also a great opportunity to initiate the negotiation process [more on this later].

While the seller, or other buy/sell forum users, may encourage you to “PM” [personal message] or “DM” [direct message] inquiries, feel free to ignore these requests. Spectating the comments section of posts provides a welcome distraction from monotony of scrolling through a litany of undesirable items. Further to this, it forces the seller to be transparent and provides your pals with an opportunity to berate the seller, increasing your chances of obtaining the item at a lower price.

The Selling Process

Listing: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

When listing an item, be sure to provide the necessary details. Ensure that you list accurately, but feel free to leave out the minutiae: sizing, specs, condition, maintenance or crash history, and other related descriptors are entirely superfluous and distract from the product to be sold. Simplicity is key.

Do include points of interest: if the bike is a really, really, really good deal; the bike has a paintjob that is totally not standard; the bike was once ridden by someone really fast; you are willing to trade the handlebars for a bag of Skittles. These nifty bits of information generate interest and boost sales (A++ would buy again).

When listing an item, feel free to post photos if they are likely to increase the likelihood of selling the item. Do not be concerned with photo-quality or quantity. If people want to buy the item, they will come and visit you in person to assess the item[s]. Don’t feel the need to use a photo that shows the specific spec of the item you’re selling; you can always explain that the bike will not come with that power meter, bar and stem combo, pedals, saddle, bottle cages, and wheels. If you don’t have a good photo[s] of the item, feel free to use a photo that you found on the manufacturer’s website or a shop’s website. People really appreciate this as these are not images they can find themselves.

When pricing the item, specificity is not important. Feel free to list the item at $1 or $1,000,000,000.00. Listing a specific price for the item is futile, since no one will offer you what you’re looking for anyway. If you do feel the need to list a specific price, ensure that the item is listed well above what you would actually sell it for. 

Bargaining: I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a Di2 junction box today

Always attempt to lowball a seller. The opposite is true when dealing with a buyer – never cave to a low offer.

Bargaining: Illustration of both principles of lowballing in action—strong execution here. Item Listed: Cervelo P2 with Easton Aero 55 Tubular Wheels.

Bargaining: More effective lowballing strategy. You can see here how the seller was close to caving. Item Listed: Specialized Allez Sprint 2018 w/ Dura Ace

Bargaining: Sometimes it pays to think outside the box. When trying to nab a high value item, trading flashy items like bamboo and colored lights can trick the seller. Item Listed: Specialized Allez Sprint 2018 w/ Dura Ace

The most useful tool available to an effective bargainer is the power of the comments section. A buyer or seller who can effectively mobilize their pals can manipulate the market in their favor. Use friends/acquaintances to bump up traffic on your items, placing higher offers and artificially increasing the price of your item. The converse is true when buying – use your pals to bombard the posting with low offers, causing the value of the item to drop.

If the above strategies are ineffective, insulting or otherwise maligning the buyer is also effective. Heckle and otherwise pester the buyer/seller in question until they cave. However, use this strategy sparingly to avoid being booted from the forum.

PRO TIP: Creating multiple, fake shell accounts to lowball from can help you get inside the mind of the seller and convince them their price is inflated. Science.

Effective bargaining…

Transacting: Non-cash equivalents and one-hour e-transfer delays are king

When selling or purchasing an item ensure to take the necessary precautionary measures. Always meet in a public location. Bring your posse. Money orders and cheques are generally preferred over cash. Some sellers will accept credit and debit cards, but these individuals are few and far between.

This is also a good opportunity to attempt to upsell a purchaser or further drive down the price of an item you’re purchasing. It is never too late to bargain! A buyer may opt to bring less cash than the price agreed on, to squeeze a sale through the allure of cash. A seller can combat this technique by arranging a meeting place immediately adjacent to an Automatic Teller Machine [ATM]. In any event, the price is never guaranteed until a monetary exchange has taken place.

Trolling:

Trolling is an effective way of amusing yourself. Feel free to insult, heckle, and otherwise torment sellers and buyers. Bonus points if these people are your friends.


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