Facebook Yard Sales are transforming how people buy, sell and donate merchandise on the North Shore.
You may be wondering – Wait: What are Facebook Yard Sales? They are organically grown Facebook groups comprising local people who buy, sell, trade and sometimes donate merchandise to other local people. There are groups in just about every North Shore suburb with thousands of members who sell and/or shop for everything from Bears tickets to designer purses, Waterford crystal, Manolo Blahnik heels, baby clothes, antique furniture, pianos, jewelry, sporting equipment … the list goes on. Items often sell within an hour of being posted — sometimes sooner, especially if the merchandise is in good shape and priced right.
Here are the main local groups:
- Virtual yard sale of Wilmette: 1,670 members
- North Shore Virtual Garage Sale: 2,393 members
- Highland Park Garage Sale: 203 members
- Lake County Yard Sale: 14,661
- Virtual Garage Sale of Winnetka: 1,201 members
- Glenview Garage Sale: 499 members, closed group with relaxed rules.
- LF-LB Marketplace: 1,369 members
- Winnetka Glencoe Garage Sale: 576 members
- Deerfield Garage Sale: 3,562 members
The groups all have varying degrees of rules and privacy – with some more restrictive and others more inclusive. The Glenview Garage Sale group, for example, says “the rules are relaxed” — all it asks is that people state if an item such as a purse is a replica. It also allows people to promote their businesses as well as buy and sell merchandise.
Highland Park Garage Sale is a public group “for those who have items in good and working condition that you would like to sell, trade or give it way.”
Virtual Yard Sale of Wilmette is a closed group that includes people from Wilmette as well as others from nearby towns; everyone within the group must have a connection to another member. North Shore Virtual Garage Sale is for “people over 18 on the North Shore who are looking to buy and sell on a site that is NOT for the sale of child or teen items. No sales of pets.” Virtual Yard Sale of Winnetka is a closed group but accepts people as far north as Lake Bluff. Its motto: “good deals with great neighbors.”
Margo Chambers founded the Wilmette group during last winter’s Polar Vortex. “Like so many of us, I was stuck inside A LOT last winter. I started cleaning out the closets, and quickly realized I had zero desire to load my car and haul off donations someplace,” she said. “Nor did I want to wait months and months for the weather to warm up and hold an actual yard sale. I asked a few friends if they would be interested in something like an online yard sale, and so I started one. I never imagined it would grow so big or become so popular.”
She said traffic on the page is incredible and that items can sell in a minute or sit forever.
Lake County Yard Sale is the largest local group with nearly 15,000 members, and at four years of age it is one of the oldest. The growth has not come without hiccups, said Katy Miranne, who started the site with her mom, Paula Lynn Rossman. At first, they allowed members to post whatever they wanted; there were no rules — which caused problems. For example, people were allowed to post one item at a time — as opposed to placing multiple photos in an album — which wound up freezing the site so that they had to close it down for a period of time. Miranne said she and her mom work on the site in their spare time, deleting hundreds of loose photos a day, deleting ads, removing members who violate rules about language and civility, and assisting members’ questions and concerns.
“We do receive some pretty ‘colorful’ messages from disgruntled members who don’t want to follow the rules, but for the amount of members on the site, they’re relatively few,” said Miranne. “The last one was from a man whose loose photos I removed, so he accused me of being a ‘Natzi rule making cat lover.’” This made her laugh — as she removed him from the site.
In Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, the local Facebook buy-sell group is called LF-LB Marketplace and it is perhaps the most restrictive of the aforementioned groups in that it only accepts members who live in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff as well as the adjacent communities of Knollwood and Mettawa. Full disclosure: my good friend Leslie Habjan started the group, and I am one of four administrators, including Leslie, Kathleen Reidy and Peg Ciccarelli, although most of the administrating falls to the latter, who knows just about everyone in the community and is involved in many local non-profits. She said she turns away about a dozen potential members a day from the Marketplace, mostly from other countries as well as Chicago and Schaumberg.
Habjan started the group earlier this year because she was looking for a way to sell framed Blackhawk photos and did not want to use Craigslist because she would not necessarily have any connections to the people responding to her post.
“We would have a broader audience in the Marketplace if we allowed anyone on North Shore on, but the whole point is that these are friends of friends,” she said of the members of LF-LB Marketplace. “As long as they have someone in common, people feel safe letting someone in their house to look at furniture or jewelry or baby clothes or whatever it is. Everyone just feels safer knowing we have mutual friends in this town.”
Reidy said people whom she has transacted with always say they love knowing they are dealing with neighbors. “That seems really important to everyone,” she said.
As my personal Facebook news feed has shifted from photos of my friends’ children to photos of my friends’ childrens’ outgrown clothing and sporting equipment (along with lots of other great stuff), I have wondered if the buy-sell Facebook groups are shifting people away from selling things on Craigslist. But after talking to members of different local groups, it seems that people are mostly trying to unload items they would have either sold at a consignment store (for higher-end items) or at yard sales (for all the rest of the stuff) or donated to charity (more on that in a minute).
Reidy agreed: “I do know of people who have used Craigslist in the past and like the Facebook groups better because of the safety component,” she said. “But I think the big change for our members has been moving away from organizing and staffing a big two-day annual garage sale to posting items on an as-needed basis. It’s easy and far less work.”
And it can be good money for your pocket as well as for your bank.
“A mom who sells her baby’s clothing for $5 or $10 a piece, one after the other – after a while she has $100 in her hand,” Habjan pointed out.
But have Facebook sales affected donations to local non-profits? Ciccarelli thinks not.
“There are a lot of people on the LF-LB Marketplace who actually bring me stuff to donate that doesn’t sell,” she said. “We take them up to Catholic Charities, Chicago 311 Emergency Services, PADS — and with kids clothing, to the nurses offices in Waukegan & North Chicago grammar Schools for kids who arrive with no coats.”
Miranne of the Lake County group said another benefit has been in the area of members helping other members who are less fortunate or down on their luck. And it is a great way to meet people, she added.
One woman who sells jewelry on several local groups (she asked not to be identified by name) said she has worked in high-end retail and loves nice things, but that she has developed allergies to certain metals and therefore can no longer wear many of her items. So she is selling them online – many at just $25/piece. She said it is a good way to make some extra money, but more than anything she loves the groups because of the camaraderie they foster.
“This is a great way to have fun, meet some wonderful ladies, and pass on my things, and downsize, if I ever stop buying jewelry,” she said.