People are unpredictable. I’m not very fond of giving someone advice when they don’t ask for it, but one thing we should all remember is that not everyone can be trusted. I bring up this topic because some apps require you to meet other people face-to-face and communicate with them in order to properly utilize a service. Now, that might not sound terribly bad, but meeting up with random people the internet ought not to be encouraged, unless it’s under the right circumstances.

The apps I’m referring to are those like Letgo, OfferUp, Cplus (Craigslist), etc. It’s no secret that services like this have been steadily increasing in popularity. I don’t think there is an American out there that hasn’t heard of eBay, but it's also true that eBay couldn’t provide the same services that these apps can supply. I think a huge element and/or difference here is that with this new apps, you can inspect the item that you’re thinking about buying from this other person. On sites like eBay, you can often be fooled by what someone is selling you because they could easily omit a piece of information from the item description or only take flattering photos that don’t show possible damage. When you use Craigslist, most of the time you just have to drive a few miles to the person who is selling you the item and look for any problems in person.

The only problem with face-to-face interactions is that someone can take advantage of you or attempt to harm you in some way. Again, I don’t find much pleasure in giving people advice they didn’t ask for, but to quote a Disney character, “Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one.” While it may seem easier to create and use apps that provide this type of service, that does not necessarily mean that it is the best thing to do.

This topic isn’t just speculation on my end, either. There have been many violent incidents that have happened because of the situations these apps put people in. Earlier this month, a teenager was robbed when he was trying to sell his shoes to someone via OfferUp. Soon after that a couple in Spring, Texas were robbed after putting an ad on OfferUp. Two people came to their apartment after seeing the ad and held them at gunpoint. They proceeded to rob the couple of cash, a mattress, and a printer. Even the very day this is being written (Dec. 21st, 2017), there has been news of teens using OfferUp to rob multiple people. This took place in a small neighborhood in Vancouver. After the teens were caught, some local residents said they would not use the app anymore.

Now, I don’t think people should stop using apps like this all together. If you don’t want any chance of being robbed this holiday season, then I’d recommend just doing your online shopping at all the usual places: eBay, Amazon, etc. If you, for some reason, really want to use services like OfferUp, then I would recommend always meeting up with the buyer or seller in a public setting. There’s no need to put yourself at risk this holiday season by meeting strangers for good deals on their stuff. Rather I think it’d be wise to take a step back and revisit eBay or Amazon for gifts you want to give.

If you still can’t resist buying and selling locally, OfferUp has definitely noticed the series of misuse for their app. Because of that, they have made it very just how much they want to build a trusted community on their website:

“(With user profiles you can) know more about buyers and seller before you engage. (With user ratings you can) check buyer and seller ratings, and give ratings when you transact. (With real-time alerts you can) get notified instantly on your phone when a buyer or seller contacts you.”

So, you can take the risk if you want, but make sure you take the appropriate precautions before you do. Like I said before - just because it’s the easiest thing to do does not mean it is the right thing to do. However, there is another saying that comes to mind: "The greater the risk, the greater the reward." I don’t like giving advice that’s wanted, but this is my warning: stay safe when it comes to apps that allow you to buy and sell locally.