In the age of online communication, online marketplaces have become a staple of buying and selling on college campuses across America. At the University of Michigan, several groups exist with names such as Maize Market, Free & For Sale and Ladies of UofM: Buy, Sell and Trade. Each group has its personality and is defined by what members choose to post.
Students of all levels and fields of study frequent these pages in search of televisions, football tickets and clothing. Student moderators regulate the posting on each page and create simple rules for members to follow to facilitate the flow of stuff from one person to another. Typically, one student will post a picture of what is for sale followed by an asking price. Interested students indicate their interest in certain items through comments and personal messages. Such comments and messages facilitate in person meetings and buying, selling or trading.
One of the most active of these groups of these groups is Ladies of UofM: Buy Sell and Trade which now has over 4,400 members. Annie Trachsel and Jennifer Zhao first founded the group while residents of Martha Cook, an all-female residence hall on campus.
Annie Trachsel explains, “Martha Cook’s FB page constantly took down my posts offering to host clothing swaps, so we made our own group!”
The students who frequent the group and those listed as administrators clearly enjoy the service it provides. As with any large group, however, there are challenges. For Trachsel one of the most difficult aspects of managing the page is knowing when to remove someone. “The biggest problem we have is people standing each other up. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it wastes the time of the person who did show up to meet,” says Annie. One no-show doesn’t lead to removal from the group, but repeated problems raise concerns among other members and the group managers. It is not often that a member is removed, but Trachsel is clear when she explains, “There’s no room for rudeness in such a large group and we want to keep it worthwhile for everyone involved!”
While the group is called Ladies of UofM: Buy Sell and Trade, anyone can be added who is interested in items typically considered feminine. Trachsel has worked to ensure that the atmosphere is welcoming and inclusive noting, “we don’t discriminate, it’s a safe place for anyone in the market for those items.”
As interactions via facebook and twitter become an integral part of life at Universities, online methods of buying selling and trading play an ever larger role. The ease with which students can sell old items and purchase new ones seems unparalleled. The number of groups with membership numbers in the thousands points to the usefulness of this new format for informal transactions.