Buying at Net value

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Social networking sites double up as virtual bazaars with people buying anything from phones to pets from friends

It was sometime in the mid 1990s when online shopping took the world by storm. eBay was a revolution. Winning an auction of anything from celebrity memorabilia and Ferrero Rocher chocolates to porcelain teapots and Christmas decorations used to be exciting. Of course, most of us also got around to shopping through Amazon, Flipkart and Craigslist. But, with the dawn of the ubiquitous social networking era, the old is being replaced by the new. All it takes to market one's second hand iPod is his status message/update. The responses are usually overwhelming. Even “friends” one hasn't ever met but heard about through a “mutual friend” respond to such updates.

Knowing the seller

Have social networking sites come to replace exclusive shopping sites or are they proving to be strong competitors at least? Says Business Management student Tanushree Kedia: “Buying and selling stuff on Facebook is far simpler than in an online shopping forum. Since the buyer and seller are obviously know each other, there is less scope of getting cheated.”

Dhiraj Kumar, 19, who bought a cell phone through Facebook, recalls his experience: “I bought my touch screen phone through a common friend who knew I was on the lookout for a second hand phone; when he read my buyer's status, he informed me about the offer. He even helped negotiate the deal and I got my phone at a very reasonable price.”

He adds: “The entire process was highly interactive. I could get my innumerable doubts cleared. I even requested to test use the phone for a day before I decided to buy it. This is definitely something that can happen only through social networking sites.”

From the seller's point of view, it does make sense to sell an item, especially of sentimental value, to someone they know would take care of it. Yash, a PRO, points out: “Social networking sites give one access to a large amount of information. You get to know the likes, dislikes and interest of people. This is what helped me find suitable buyers for my cocker spaniel's four pups.”

Facebook does, however, have an eBay application that one could connect to. Apart from this, there is also “Marketplace” on Facebook that enables one to buy/sell/exchange stuff with members of the community. But, for those who don't want to be active members of such groups, a status update guarantees good results!

Despite the stiff competition online shopping sites face from social networking sites, there are certain demerits. The entire deal is hardly ever completed online as payments are made directly to the seller when the product is delivered. Next, one's privacy is at stake. A status message, unless locked, can be viewed by just about any Facebook user. This would result in a lot of people being aware of who owns what.

But, when time is at a premium and convenience is the watchword, shopping on Facebook might be an easy answer.