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A guide to online markets and bartering


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Anyone can struggle to barter. After all, you have to be confident and assertive, be willing to come off as rude and be willing to walk away. Unfortunately, it seems to be especially difficult for the British.

The current rapid growth of the resale economy shows how Brits are starting to see the value in purchasing pre-loved items. However, according to new research from Gumtree, the UK’s number one classifieds site, we’re missing out on a massive £6.5 billion in potential savings each year because we don’t feel comfortable negotiating when buying via online marketplaces – that’s a potential loss of £496.20 per person!

The research indicates it’s our general awkwardness that’s potentially putting people off making the most of the incredible range of items and re/upcycling opportunities on offer. Almost two thirds (61%) admit they would rarely or never try to negotiate when meeting a seller, of which 41% said it was because it would feel rude and 35% because it would feel ‘inappropriate’.

Moreover, a whopping 67% of people who prefer phoning when contacting the buyer/seller for the first time said they find the initial call to discuss the item awkward, more than a third (34%) feel anxious when meeting, almost half (49%) worry about the buyer/seller not turning up, 37% dread the buyer trying to haggle on price and more than one in ten (12%) even worry about whether the other person is going to be too chatty. What’s more, more than a quarter (27%) of those who wouldn’t complain if they got home and found the item was faulty said it was because it would just be too awkward. All of which might explain why the most common form of feeling after the transaction is complete is relief (51%).

In fact, almost a fifth of people (18%) have never used an online marketplace, of whom 29% admitted it’s because they prefer to use websites they’ve used before, a quarter (25%) worry about fraud, 18% don’t trust an item will be as described and one in 10 are nervous about meeting people to pick up the item.

As a result, Gumtree has teamed up with the How to Academy and negotiation expert Gavin Presman to create a guide to ‘The Etiquette of Buying and Selling Online’. It’s free to download here. 

It offers simple tips for both buyers and sellers to help them confidently navigate the online marketplace process, from making first contact, to meeting to retrieve/handover the item, to the transaction itself. A free interactive workshop will also take place on 4th September at 6:45 pm at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, London. Tickets are available here.

A Gumtree spokesperson said: “As a nation, we’re becoming more aware of the benefits of online marketplaces, from the range of items on offer to the convenience of being able to pick up a rare find locally. But the increasingly anonymous nature of online buying and the fact we’re generally a well-mannered bunch, means we often find it too awkward to negotiate - or even raise the issue if an item isn’t up to scratch - when we have to meet individuals face-to-face.

"That’s why we’ve partnered with the How to Academy to help people become much more comfortable and confident throughout the whole buying and selling process. Online marketplaces open up a world of opportunity, be it making money out of something no longer needed, making big cost savings, or finding something loved that’s no longer on sale elsewhere. Our guide will help Brits avoid the awkwardness that could hold them back from the thrill of discovering a hidden gem or cashing in on their own attic equity.”

Gavin Presman, expert negotiator and How to Academy trainer, commented: “As a negotiator, I know how tricky people can find it dealing with others, which is why I was thrilled to get involved with this project and provide tips and tools on how to buy and sell online with confidence. The possibilities an online community like Gumtree offers are endless – not only to find rare gems, but also to help pre-loved items find a home – which is why we shouldn’t let something as British as awkwardness hold us back from reaping the benefits.”

Gavin’s seven top tips for a stress-free buying and selling experience:

1. Do your homework: work out a price that’s reasonable and realistic

2. Advertise with impact and honesty: describe benefits and condition in words and pictures

3. Connect early: get in touch straight away and ask questions to build an understanding

4. Mutually agree on the meet up: pick a time, location and process everyone is happy with

5. Don’t make it personal: be welcoming then focus on the product, not the person

6. It’s not cheeky to check: don’t be too embarrassed to look the item over or count out the cash in front of the other person

7. Trade, don’t haggle: find items to exchange rather than just focusing on price

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