NEW YORK -- Are you trying to make some cash selling off your surplus skinny jeans, but nervous about selling to strangers?
A new crop of websites and apps with names like Copious.com, Threadflip, HipSwap and Poshmark are trying to make selling more social, connecting with networks like Facebook and Twitter to help buyers and sellers feel more comfortable.
Their offerings are dwarfed by giants like eBay, Craigslist and Amazon.com, and some take a bigger cut of the sale price in exchange for more services. But these newcomers are out to shake up the market for buying and selling goods that has previously had more anonymity.
"We're trying to take the creepiness out of buying and selling," said Jim Rose, CEO and co-founder of Copious.com, which requires that buyers and sellers sign on using their Facebook or Twitter identities. The idea is someone shopping for a handbag or coat can see if anyone they know has purchased an item from a seller or if they are connected through a Facebook friend, friend of a friend or through Twitter.
HipSwap and Poshmark let you sign in with your email address, but boast other twists to make selling and buying a social activity. Rob Kramer, CEO of HipSwap, says, "If Craigslist and Pinterest had a baby -- it would be HipSwap." Users can tweet their collections, share their items on Facebook, survey Facebook friends for their views and pin their items on Pinterest, the pinboard style social photo sharing website.
Poshmark throws online buying parties tailored to specific merchandise so sellers and buyers have a more targeted audience.
Here are five tips if you want to try them out:
1. Compare fees
Before selling or buying, study each site to find out the services and fees charges. For sellers, commissions vary wildly, from 3.5 percent to 40 percent.
HipSwap.com charges a 3.5 percent fee; the buyer pays the shipping. If both the user and seller live in Los Angeles or New York, they can get their treasures delivered in a hot pink truck for a $5 fee. Copious charges the seller a 3.5 percent commission as well as a 6 percent marketplace fee for what the item sells for.
Poshmark, a mobile app for Apple's iPhone and iPad, charges the seller a 20 percent commission. The seller receives a prepaid shipping label that's emailed. The buyer pays a flat fee of $7, which covers shipping. At Threadflip, the fees are the same, but what's different is it sends the user all the materials needed to ship the item, including the box.
For those who really want to be pampered, Threadflip will photograph, list, price and ship the item to the buyer as part of its White Glove Service. The fee goes up to 40 percent.
For comparison, eBay charges a flat 9 percent of the item price, including shipping, up to $250 for casual sellers who list up to 50 items per month.
2. Get to know the buyer/ seller
For most of these sites, looking at users' profiles or knowing how they connect with your Facebook friends or Twitter followers is a good way to gauge a buyer and seller. Experts also advise sending questions directly to the seller or buyer.
Some like Threadflip also have a rating review, similar to eBay's.
3. Know the right price
Checking eBay's massive database of listings can still be the best way to gauge what things sell for. But remember that pricing an item depends on the brand and how worn it is, says Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst. A hard-to-find gently worn or new Hermes bag could command just a 30 percent discount, but a pair of gently worn, no-name jeans could be 70 percent off, she says.
4. Pay attention to privacy
Read the privacy sections of each site and make sure your settings match your comfort level, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with market research firm The NPD Group.
For example, you may not want the public to know you "liked" a particular item, for example, and instead would rather be anonymous or restrict your preferences to just your list of "Facebook friends."
5. Weigh market size
eBay has 25 million sellers, 100 million buyers and two million listings. Poshmark has 100,000 items listed and 30,000 users.
But many of these new sites also allow users to build customized marketplaces. HipSwap, for example, offers users the option to "Hip or Skip" items, a move that helps the site to tailor what products users will see every time they click on the site. That could help link buyers and sellers more efficiently.