Facebook may not be making its investors any money in the stock market right now, but its users are finding ways to make some extra cash with the site and score some bargains along the way.
Savvy consumers have turned to the social networking site as a way to create something of a virtual garage sale among friends.
Members invite their friends and acquaintances to join group pages themed around buying and selling secondhand items.
Those members invite their friends and acquaintances and, pretty soon, consumers are using their friend network to create a trusted and thriving community of buyers and sellers.
Users can sell things to make extra cash on items they no longer want, or buy things they need, sometimes at a great price.
Many items are things people bought and never used, with their tags still affixed, selling for a fraction of their retail price.
"It's like your own little classified ad," said Nicole Kuhn, 28 of Lockport, who buys and sells items on pages such as Mommy's Marketplace.
The appeal, though, is how unlike Craigslist and eBay the swap and sell sites really are.
"With eBay you have listing fees and shipping costs. With Craigslist there are just too many people you don't know," said Julie Kaska of Depew, an administrator of Southtowns Sales Site and Kids Closet WNY. "[Here] you get to know each other and are comfortable. People have more trust in this system because you're added on by a Facebook friend."
Faith Jaskulski of Orchard Park administers five different pages including Ladies Swap, Sell and Trade, and Vixen Fashion.
In addition to administering, she also sells items on the site, regularly bringing in $30 to $50 every other day.
It's better and easier money than she made selling on eBay.
"We have a lot of ladies looking to supplement their income with a little extra cash for gas and bills," Jaskulski said.
Other users approach selling on the pages as if it's a full-time job, consistently earning hundreds of dollars each week.
Here's how it works: Users post a photo of an unwanted item they have laying around and want to get rid of, along with a sale price.
Other members get a notification that a new item has been posted, or find it when they browse through the listings at their leisure.
If something strikes a member's fancy, she posts a comment on the photo to claim first dibs. The buyer and seller communicate through e-mail or by phone and set up a time to meet in public and make the sale.
"Since items are first come, first served, you have to be quick with the comments," said Joy Lane-Crelot, who co-administers the Kids' Treasures and Juniors' Treasures pages from North Buffalo.
Many items are claimed in minutes.
If a sale falls through, sellers generally offer the item to the next person who posted a comment, so it's not uncommon to see a string of posts from users hoping to get a second, third or fourth crack at an item.
The sites' administrators don't get paid to organize and police the pages they create. Most pages were started by people looking for a selling community of their own and who still actively buy and sell on them.
Staci Brown of Lockport started Niagara County Yard Sale when she became pregnant during garage sale season.
She didn't want to start buying baby gear so early in her first trimester, but knew that by the time she delivered, garage sale season would be over.
"I thought, ‘If I create a page like this and if I can get at least 50 members, I'm sure to find something,'" Brown said. "Considering how quickly babies grow, I was all for buying used."
The site now has just under 3,000 members.
Robyn Muehlbauer was at the other end of the cycle. She realized she wouldn't be having any more kids after her twins were born, and she had a lot of baby gear that she knew could use a good home.
"I wanted a way to get rid of our stuff and wanted to help other mommies locally," Muehlbauer said. "I knew so many people having babies it was crazy."
She created Mommy's Marketplace, which has 1,730 members.
The work of administrating can get overwhelming, especially as groups grow into large and sprawling networks, so rules are posted on each site to keep things running smoothly.
"All three of us work and have children, so we don't always get a chance to monitor the site as much a we would like," said Tracey Pizza, a co-administrator of Kids' Treasures from North Tonawanda.
Members are often only allowed to post a certain number of items per day, are required to delete sold items and to keep multiple for-sale items grouped in photo "albums" on the site.
Those who don't follow the rules risk having their posts deleted or even being asked to leave the group.
"The challenge for the administrator is to maintain a state of user friendliness at all times," said Mary Jo Giufre of Orchard Park, who administers four different Buffalo Swap n' Sell sites.