Kijiji’s Market for Lemons

I have to confess, I have a love-hate relationship with Kijiji.  On one hand, it’s where the people are at; no other classifieds have the volume that it does.  On the other, it brings out the inner scumbag of otherwise decent people.

Selling:

When selling an item on Kijiji, be prepared to be confused, lowballed, and frustrated with buyers’ inquiries.  On a recent posting, where I offered a tech device at a damn good, firm price, here’s what I received for inquiries:

  • An offer for 1/2 of the price, with a promise that they’d “take it immediately”
  • An offer for a device entirely different than the one I had up for sale.
  • An offer to trade for a used device worth about 1/3 as much.
  • “I am very interested”
  • “Are you willing to go down on price?”
  • “Would u go down on price?”
  • Would you be willing to sell it for [20%] off?

Kijiji breaks down barriers of communication, making it ultra easy to connect buyers and sellers.  That democratization of selling is what makes using it frustrating to me.  Buyers have no respect for the sellers time and screw around trying to get the lowest possible price because there is no negative impact to doing so.  Buyers will make an appointment for an item, and then show up only if they feel like it.  After all, there’s no impact to missing a meeting.  After selling an item at a reasonable price, I’m often contacted afterwards from people who were remorseful for not just buying it at the listed price.  It just tells me that typical Kijiji buyers are more interested in playing the game of getting the best deal possible than actually getting a good product at a good price.

Buying:

Buying from people on Kijiji is a somewhat better experience, but still suffers from some of the same problems as selling; most boiling down to the fact that your time is totally worthless to the seller. They’ll post a car without mentioning the huge dent in the side. Hey, maybe you’ll come and check it out anyways, right? They’ll neglect key information, take weeks to reply to email, and never return calls. And then there are the lemons.  Some people can’t let a lemon totally past their conscious, so they’ll have a tell just like in poker.  “BATTERY MAY NEED CHARGING” equals “alternator or charging system is screwed, and I’m passing that problem over to you”. “JUST A COUPLE SCRATCHES” coupled with a vinyl decal on the side of the car equals “I hope you don’t notice the huge gouge that this cheesy decal is covering.”  This type of behavior by users gets Kijiji into a Market for Lemons situation. (read the Wikipedia article, it’s awesome)

Interestingly, eBay has almost completely licked this problem with its seller feedback and public FAQ sections. This protects buyers from buying garbage and protects sellers from answering totally ridiculous inquiries.  It’s not perfect because sometimes you need to buy niche items from an unestablished buyer due to the lack of inventory available.  But with the payments going through Paypal, you can always dispute the transaction.  Buyers have to pay up front, and sellers need to deliver the goods pronto.

Not everyone knows that eBay owns Kijiji and I’m half convinced that they’re not applying some of the same proven mechanisms from eBay to Kijiji because they’d rather have people use eBay and pay the minimal price associated with it.  Thus, they run their market for lemons (with advertisements on top) separate from their premier product.  They can have their lemon meringue pie and eat it too.

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