Green, Local and Thrifty Holiday Shopping…with Facebook?

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MIMI BOMMARITO
Orindan Mindy Becker preps a gently-worn top to be photographed for a post on Lamorinda Treasures.

    Looking to stretch your holiday dollars a little further this season? Or, perhaps you have a tween or teen hoping to find reasonably priced (think: allowance funded) holiday presents for friends and family. Or, maybe you have finally decided that with all the conflict currently existing in this great country of ours, you simply cannot take another angry weekend afternoon fighting for a parking place with all the other exasperated holiday power shoppers.
    Even with great parking garage karma, frugal gifters might be hard pressed to find much priced under $20 at a retail establishment. And, on the flip side, as much as we all might need a fresh tube of ChapStick in December, it’s not exactly considered an awe-inspiring gift. The perennial gifting dilemma.
    Facebook to the rescue. Yes, you read that right. Meet my favorite online bargain paradise, which also happens to be local, a Facebook buy/sell/trade group known affectionately by its 3,742 members as Lamorinda Treasures. 
    If you do not have a Facebook account, you will first need to set one up in order to join this group. Next, visit the Lamorinda Treasures Facebook page, found by searching “Groups,” and click on the “Join” icon. There are no fees associated with membership, but a person must first be “approved” before they are able to shop, sell or conduct business. Two members, Shauna Gardner McGlynn and Sarah David, serve in a volunteer capacity as administrators. The admins review everyone’s online request to join to make sure the individual is a legitimate member of the Orinda, Moraga or Lafayette community.
    Lamorinda Treasures is basically a modern adaptation of a traditional garage sale or a “want ad.” The advantage is that buying, trading or selling is taking place within a controlled group of neighbors, friends and “friends of friends” instead of wide-range casting to the general public. Since participants are not transacting physically face to face, a great deal of trust is placed in both buyer and seller. So, although it might be frustrating not to be able to join this group and start conducting business immediately, it is for one’s own safety that each new member is vetted.
    There is also a list of procedural guidelines, explanations and acronyms that new members must read and agree to before they are accepted into the group. Failure to abide by the rules can result in loss of membership. Admins monitor the posts and ensure the rules are being followed.
    Once applicants have been approved, they are notified via Facebook, and then they may begin perusing the thousands of posts for items to purchase, or, if desired, listing their own items for sale. Each sale post is usually accompanied by photographs of the item(s) and as much detail as possible.
    Buyers scroll through the many items available much like one would scroll through their news feed. If the potential buyer sees something to purchase, he or she would type the word “interested” in the “Comments” section. Sellers, who monitor their sale posts, are required to respond to the first interested buyer in a timely fashion, also via the “Comments” section. At that point, buyer and seller take the transaction to “Private Message” status, which is one-on-one communication between buyer and seller, usually via Facebook Messenger.
    It is never advised to give out personal email or cell phone numbers. All communication can and should be done through Facebook or Messenger. Obviously, there’s an assumption that participants have both of these existing apps.
    Many times, a seller will notice that a potential buyer shares a few acquaintances, as the app will list the Facebook friends that both buyer and seller have in common. Once buyer and seller are communicating privately, the seller gives the buyer his or her physical address, and the two agree on a date and time for the buyer to pick up the merchandise – customarily left on the seller’s porch – so that the seller is not obligated to spend valuable time waiting around for the buyer to pick up the item. In turn, buyers are expected to pick up their item in a timely fashion. Restricting the group to the Lamorinda area keeps the acquisition process quick, safe and simple.
    Unlike at a traditional garage sale, price haggling is frowned upon. The price listed is the final price. Quick and easy is the name of the game. Nonetheless, if the seller has listed a group of five shirts for sale, but the buyer is only interested in the red shirt, it is okay to ask (via the “Comments” section) if the seller would consider selling the red shirt only. That, however, is as far as it goes.
    In turn, the sellers understand that this enterprise is not created to financially gouge people and make huge profits which encourages sellers to price items fairly, with a garage sale mind-set.
    The buyer, arriving at the seller’s home to pick up the purchase off the porch, can either leave cash under the doormat or, for larger amounts of money, Venmo, a digital way to make payments. The preferred method of payment is typically settled ahead of time, via private messaging. It is never acceptable to ask the seller for change. The buyer should arrive at the seller’s home with the correct amount of cash to slip under the mat. 
    Buyers always have the option to change their mind if they no longer wish to purchase, but they are expected to notify the seller immediately by typing “pass” in the “Comments” section. The seller then proceeds to contact the next person in line in the “Comments” section. Sellers may not go out of order, even if one of the later potential buyers is a friend. All of the comments are time-stamped so the seller can proceed fairly. As soon as sellers collect their cash from the transaction, they are expected to promptly log into Lamorinda Treasures and mark the item as “sold.” The feed becomes clogged and moves slowly if it grows too congested, and the admins will manually delete old sale posts in this case.
    It is also not customary to ask for “returns” if the shoes end up pinching in the wrong places. Sellers aren’t meant to be Macy’s, and the buyers are, in theory, getting a great bargain.
    Shopping Lamorinda Treasures, or similar online buy/sell/trade groups such as Lamorinda Buy/Sell/Trade, Walnut Creek Treasures, Walnut Creek Buy/Sell/Trade, and Facebook Marketplace are wonderful ways to pick up all sorts of potential holiday gifts for a song. This might include toys and board games, sporting equipment, video games, bicycles, clothing, doll houses, coats, boots, jewelry, home furnishings and baby items from clothing to high chairs to strollers.
    The list is endless and has this mother of three grown daughters wishing it had been around when her kids were tots and her house was crammed full of costly and quickly-outgrown baby gear. Brand name, gently worn or “like new” items sell the best.  Lululemon, Iviva, North Face, Patagonia, Uggs, Converse, Pink, Brandi Melville, Vinyard Vines – anything designer – will literally fly out the door. Threadbare, stained or beaten up items (unless intended to be “distressed”) are best left to Goodwill.
    Lamorinda Treasures is also a great way for tweens and teens to clean out their closets, sell the items (with parental oversight) and earn some holiday spending money. Just make sure to promote like a merchant. Keep it timely and sell according to season: Winter things when it’s cold, summer things when the weather warms up, should be promoted in a timely fashion with flattering photos.
    Your gifts might not come pre-packaged in a fancy box, but the lack of all the excess consumer packaging is great for our environment. It sounds complicated, but anyone can soon get the swing of Facebook marketing. Or you can once again swallow your pride and ask your child to walk you through it. Either way, may these new, local shopping opportunities lead to a stress-free, bargain bonanza holiday season.

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