Whenever I complained about the price of something, someone was sure to suggest Kijiji as a place to find great stuff at an awesome price. Maybe it was, but it sounded risky to me. After all, isn’t the internet jam packed with scam artists looking to steal my identity, or worse? One minute I’m checking out a used desk in someone’s apartment and the next I’m tied up in storage locker someplace with a pool ball strapped in my mouth.
But having inherited the contents of my Mother’s china cabinet and added this to the stack of decorative plates, crystal and knick knacks passed down by my Grandmothers, I found myself with an unmanageable hoard of stuff and no place to store it. The kids’ outgrown toys were also becoming out of control and the thought of organizing a garage sale made me cringe. Surely the risk of selling online was far less than that of buying.
I began by posting some decorative bowls. An antique dealer had appraised them at $100 each but was not interested in purchasing them himself. Another resale china shop offered $5. Surely Kijiji could fetch me something in the middle. I priced them at $150 for the pair. Two framed prints went up next, priced at a reasonable $30 apiece, followed by a pile of Jack’s outgrown clothing including a number of Gap Kids sweaters and a pair of Keen sandals that he had never really worn. Finally, I posted Jack and Taylor’s huge collection of Fisher Price Geo Trax.
In the buy and sell section on the day I visited, there were over 400,000 ads posted in the Greater Toronto Area; over 24,000 in art and collectibles. By that evening, my
ads were buried on page 24. Unless someone was specifically searching for RS Prussia fruit bowls, who would ever find them deep in all those pages?
Still, I got an immediate response to Jack’s clothes. I agreed to meet my buyer at a shopping mall a short drive away. Although it was a public meeting place and I had Taylor with me, I felt butterflies as we waited. Finally I spotted a tall pregnant woman striding towards us. She had long brown hair, impeccable skin and looked like she had just stepped out of J. Crew ad. She smiled warmly and handed me a wad of cash even before she began to look through the stuff I had brought.
“Hey! I’m so sorry I’m a bit late. I’ve never been to this mall before.”
“No problem at all,” I said.
“Is this your little brother’s stuff?” she asked Taylor.
“Do you know if you’re expecting a boy or a girl?” I asked.
“It’s a girl,” she said with a smile.
“Oh, that’s so great. It’s really nice to have one of each,” I said. “So here are the sandals right on top.”
“They are awesome! My husband loves his Keens and has been insisting that we get my son a pair but they’re so expensive. This is great!”
Taylor and I wished her luck with the new baby and made our way back to our car. The $50 in my pocket felt great but I was even more pleased that this lovely woman now had Keen sandals for her son.
My next transaction was the sale of the Geo Trax train set. I offered to meet the buyer somewhere central but she was eager to have the set before she left on vacation. Perhaps she was fearful I might sell it to someone else while she was away. She offered to pick it up at my home that evening. I told her that we were out and she offered to come later that night but I hesitated to give her our address until we were home. What if this online stranger was planning to rob the house? The emails were signed with a woman’s name, but wasn’t that the oldest trick in the book?
I turns out she was a woman, and when I answered the door I marvelled at how remarkably fresh she looked for a young mother at 10pm. Perhaps she was just grateful to be out of the house alone!
“The clock tower on/off switch is a bit hard to find,” I said, lifting it out of the box. “It’s right here. It chimes when a train passes through or you can push the button on top.”
Piece by piece, I oriented her to the entire set, eager to make sure her kids got full play value from all the accessories.
“This is so great,” she said. “Our set isn’t big enough for all the boys to play at once. We’ve been asking for it as gifts but each little set costs a lot of money.”
As I helped her load the boxes in her van, I noted the variety of car seats . Four boys! This was a lady with her hands full. I felt great passing on our beloved toy to her, knowing that her boys would enjoy it for years to come and hoping that it might buy her some extra peace and quiet once in a while.
Later that week I went online to check the status of my remaining ads and drifted into the items for sale. In the toy section I spied a radio controlled airplane for $40. The
seller claimed that her teenage son been given it as a gift and hadn’t even opened the box before going back to his video games. I immediately thought of Jack. There’s a field near our house where people fly model planes and each time we drive by, he begs for one.
“Those planes are really expensive, buddy. I think it’s something that we would consider when you’re a bit older.”
But at $40, just the thrill of opening the box would be worth the investment. Even if it crashed on its maiden voyage I’d have gotten my money’s worth.
I also ran across what can only be described as a golfer on a stick. The top half was a typical golf club grip but at the bottom was a plastic man with a tiny golf club in his hands. Pulling and pushing a lever on the shaft made the plastic man swing his club so he could hit a ball. What a hilarious gift for my golf-loving husband.
I made arrangements to meet Danielle, the seller of the airplane at our local Longos, and Tim, the seller of the golf guy at his home. Tim’s address had a unit number. Yikes! An apartment building? Thankfully, he agreed to meet me in the parking lot.
Danielle turned out to be a middle aged French Canadian with a kind face, and her airplane was enormous! It barely fit in the trunk of my Mazda 3. We chatted about her son and why she had thought he would like the plane, and why she thought he didn’t. I told her about my son and the ‘airfield’ near our home. She seemed pleased that someone would finally enjoy her plane.
As I was settling the box into my trunk Danielle drove off, and it crossed my mind that I should have taken inventory of all the pieces before I handed over the money. Just then, I realized that Danielle had backed her car up beside me and rolled her window
“Diane, we never did put it all together so if you find something is missing or doesn’t work, just call me and I’ll give you your money back.”
I told her I was sure it would be fine, but silently breathed a sigh of relief.
Within moments of calling Tim to let him know I had arrived at his townhouse complex I saw him loping down the path toward me. He was a slightly shaggy, casually dressed dude who looked like the kind of guy who would be friends with my older brother. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the little golfer on the stick he was carrying.
“It’s actually 45 years old,” Tim said. “I got it as a kid. Unfortunately, I just noticed that he’s had a bit of an accident.”
Sure enough, the plastic man’s left foot was missing.
“It still works though,” Tim said as he deftly lined up a pebble and shot it across the parking lot.
“That is awesome! My husband is going to love it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Tim said as I tried to hand him a $20 bill.
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Pay it forward, man. Put that $20 in the Salvation Army kettle at Christmastime.”
Maybe the rest of my stuff will sell on Kijiji. Maybe it won’t. But I’ll be back either way. I’ve discovered that the big payoff isn’t the money to be made or the stuff that is bought. It’s the shared human experience of having things be appreciated anew, and the reminder that the world is full of kind-hearted and interesting people.
Clearly, the company founders understood this draw. I recently learned that Kijiji is the Swahili word for ‘village.’