Local Facebook pages provide a virtual town square

Buy, sell, trade ideas, gossip and help neighbors on local Facebook pages.
Whatever you’re in the market for, you just might find it on a southwest metro Shop and Swap site.

From Carver to Eden Prairie, and all points in between, residents love a little one-stop shopping, where they can find everything from diaper deals to a dose of daily drama.

Local Facebook pages are popping up, offering members a chance to buy and sell, discover a town’s best or worst, and commiserate with one another with a quick “bump,” “like” or “next."

More than 8,000 followers tune in to the Eden Prairie Swap and Shop Facebook page, created by Ty Eide. “This (was) a chance for me to buy and sell on my own time,” she says.

The site continues to grow in popularity, adding about 20 members a day. Swap Shop Waconia outgrew its initial forum as a neighborhood page, established by Brooke Struck. It has grown to nearly 11,000 members with two additional administrators to help monitor the site. Other local pages include Carver County Swap and Shop and Chaska Online Garage Sale.

Buying and selling items on the Internet is not a new concept, but Eide explains that the Facebook pages offer a comfort level not found in larger, online classified ad sites. “You see friends on the site, and if there’s (a stranger) on the site and we have 20 mutual friends, I feel more confident meeting them (to buy or sell),” she explains.

There are a few bad cyber apples, and Eide has tossed a few off the site for engaging in overly negative or inappropriate behavior. She monitors the page daily and is adept at recognizing questionable members’ red flags, which can include posting links to other sites, using blocked profiles and posting offensive profile photographs.

She also discourages business postings, including in-home direct sales parties, and…drama. “It’s not intended to be a complain fest,” Eide says, adding she wants the site to be a positive experience.

However, some postings have spiked the ire of members. “Man Traps” proved to be a tipping point for some followers. A page member offered $20 positive pregnancy tests. Eide says some followers found humor in the post, but most of them reacted to the item’s moral and legal implications. She pulled the posting and was contacted by the poster, who, as it turned out, was a Ph.D. candidate, researching people’s reactions to online moral issues versus those portrayed through traditional media. The researcher sat back and watched the comments come in, providing her a wealth of material. 

Struck agrees some topics ignite more reactions than others. “Pets really get people going,” she says, adding that members supporting animal rights have strong opinions when it comes to spaying/neutering or selling pets online. A discussion regarding an educator was a firebrand, too. “It sure got people to comment, but that’s not what we’re shooting for, commenting on city and educational leaders,” she says.

Perusing for sale items on the Facebook sites is a lot like cruising by garage sales, sometimes pumping the breaks other times hitting the gas to move on. There are plenty of clothes, furniture, home décor, jewelry, and even breast milk for sale. Eide said a mother “had an extra gallon” to offer.

With three girls and a “boatload” of clothes and toys to sell, Tracy Standal hit the jackpot in only a few months, selling nearly 70 items, making about $1,000, some of which comes from repeat customers. “I’ve met some really nice people,” she says.

Standal generally arranges for buyers to pick up the items from her home. One weekend, she had about 50 appointments. “‘Our neighbors are going to wonder what’s going on’,” she recalls her husband joking.

While Standal has never purchased from the pages, plenty of other members send out In Search Of (ISO) for anything under the sun—an adult wig for a children’s Bible lesson, a workout partner, polling locations, farm animal costumes for a church program, a Chinese buffet for “a 12-year-old missing Super Buffet” and someone to clean up an entire pantry of broken glass food jars.

Buying and selling items can give way to trading opinions and offering or seeking advice. Posts range from inquiring about weather road conditions to seeking recommendations for a counselor for children. One Saturday, curiosity about a crime lab truck and police cars in a local grocery store lot garnered more than 100 comments, including several about the way in which the crime lab vehicle was parked.

“Some people use this as their ‘go to’,” Eide explains, noting people ask for advice on dentists, doctors, diet plans, employment and more.

Struck notes the pages can be quick reference sites for school closings, even before the districts have posted the news, or traffic concerns, including accidents in the area. “It creates the sense of community that you go there first,” Struck says.

When Nicole Konotopka moved to the area, she visited one of the pages to find movers. “It’s nice having that many people’s eyes on (a request),” she says, adding she enjoys reading other people’s request postings. “I like the community-centric part of it,” she says, recounting the quick responses from members to donate home goods on behalf of a newly, single dad. “Most people want to show kindness and love,” she says. “We just don’t always know how to do it.”