Is Listia a Scam? How to Use Listia for Free
What Is Listia?
"Listia is like Ebay, except everything is free," proclaims the LA Times quote on the Listia.com homepage. That sounds pretty great, but what exactly is Listia?
Listia is indeed very similar to eBay in many ways. It's an online auction service where users give away items they no longer want or need for "free." Other members then bid on those items using a virtual currency known as "Listia Credits" that is unique to the site.
On Listia, you can "sell" all sorts of items for Listia Credits which you can then use to bid on auctions hosted by other users for items you want. Listia Credits are not redeemable for cash and can not be used anywhere other than on Listia.com.
My Listia Experience
I found out about Listia after seeing one of their ads online. I had a box of stuff I no longer wanted but had been too lazy to donate in my garage, so I decided to give it a try. Exchanging those things for stuff I actually want sounded like a great idea, so I created an account. I've been using the site for about a month now, and I've discovered some handy tricks and a few pitfalls as well.
Is Listia Really Free?
The short answer is that it can be. But if you don't pay close attention and use the site very carefully, it can also end up being very expensive.
Joining the site is free, and just by signing up, taking the tutorial, listing your first few auctions, and verifying your Facebook and Twitter accounts, etc, you can earn about 5,000 Listia Credits to get started with.
Here's where things start to get a little dicey.
The 5 Hidden Costs of Listia
If it's your first time on Listia, there are definitely some unexpected costs that can come with using the site. Here are a few things you'll want to be aware of and watch out for:
- PayPal Verification Fee: When you join Listia, you'll have the option to verify your PayPal account with the site. Be aware that Listia charges a $1 verification fee. Many other Listians refuse to do business with members who don't have a verified PayPal account because they don't want to get scammed, so if you're serious about using the site, just look at this expense as a cost of doing business.
- Shipping Cost for Sellers: When you put an item up for auction on Listia, you have to choose what type of shipping you are going to offer. You will have the option of providing free shipping, flat rate shipping, and exact cost shipping. Shipping can be quite expensive. Be sure you fully understand the cost involved before choosing what type of shipping to offer.
- Shipping Costs for Bidders: When you bid on a Listia auction, you may end up committing more than just Listia Credits if you're not careful. Many Listians can and do charge money for shipping. If you aren't careful about the auctions you bid on, you could end up owing a lot of money in shipping costs for items that you thought were free.
- PayPal Fees: If you've decided to charge exact shipping for your Listia auctions, don't forget that PayPal is going to take its cut when your bidders reimburse you. If you aren't taking the PayPal transaction fees into account, you'll end up losing $0.30 or more per transaction. It may not sound like much, but it adds up!
- Listing Fees: When you create an auction on Listia, you have the option to set a minimum bid. If you do so, other members will not be able to place a bid that is below the minimum for that item. However, if you wish to set a minimum bid that is above 499 Credits, Listia charges a listing fee of 100 Credits for that auction.
Tips on Getting the Most out of Listia for Free
In my time on Listia, I've had quite a few eye-opening learning experiences. I've developed some pretty good Rules to Listia By, but I sure wish I'd known them from the start! If you decide you want to give it a try, hopefully you can benefit from these tips:
- Verify your PayPal account. I know it costs a buck, but a lot of Listians won't do business with you unless you verify. This is the one and only expense that I recommend forking out if you really want to use the site.
- Charge exact shipping on your auctions. People will bid a lot less in Listia Credits if they have to pay for shipping on your auctions, but let's be honest: cold, hard cash is much more useful and than Listia Credits, so keep it for yourself and let your buyers pay for shipping. Other Listians will ask you to offer free shipping occasionally (even when your auctions make it clear that you charge), but don't feel bad about refusing.
- Include PayPal fees in your shipping charges. PayPal will charge you a fee of $0.30 or more (depending on the amount of the transaction) for receiving money from other users, so build the cost of the fee into the shipping cost you charge your bidders. I use the PayPal Fee Calculator to figure out the total amount I should charge my bidders in order to get my full shipping cost reimbursed.
- Never ship items until you've been reimbursed. When I started out on the site, I assumed that other users would be basically honest and trustworthy like me. I shipped items as soon as I was given a shipping address and then let the bidder know how much they owed me . . . until I got ripped off! If you've already shipped the item and the bidder fails to reimburse you, you have no recourse. Listia can not force them to pay you. If that person wants the item, they will pay you for shipping first. If they fail to pay, you can always relist the item and find another Listian who does pay you back.
- Only bid on items that offer free shipping. Listia has an option that allows you to narrow down your searches and browse only auctions that offer free shipping, but here's the thing—that feature doesn't always work. Always, always, always double-check the shipping on an auction before bidding, or you may end up throwing down cash you didn't intend to.
- Don't buy Listia Credits. Listia allows users to purchase Credits to use on the site, but don't do it! You may see something you really want in the heat of the moment, or get caught up in a competitive auction in which you only need 30 more Credits to win, but don't turn your cash into Credits—cash is much more versatile, and the point of using Listia in the first place is to save more of it.
- Sell your expensive and valuable items on eBay instead. As I've mentioned several times, Listia Credits are nice, but cash is better. If you're selling something expensive and in high demand, put it on eBay and get that green! I only put items on Listia that I think are worth less than $10 and that are probably not worth my while to sell.
- Set a minimum bid on your auctions. If you're charging shipping, many of your auctions will only get one or two people bidding on them. If you don't set a minimum bid, you may end up giving away items for a return of only 1 or 2 Credits (worth less than one penny each). Don't set your minimum bids too high or nobody will bid, but choose an amount under which it's not worth your time to ship the item. I always set mine at a minimum bid of at least 10 Credits (or more, depending on how nice the item I'm giving away is).
- Photograph the packaging for breakable items. Some members may try to claim that breakable items have broken in transit due to improper packaging on your part. I hope this won't happen to you, but it happened once to me. Another member won my auction, then claimed I didn't put any padding in the box whatsoever, and that the item arrived broken. If you take photos to show that breakable items are carefully padded before shipping, you'll have a much easier time proving your case to Listia support.
Is Listia a Scam?
Listia may sound pretty shady at this point, but honestly, it's not a scam. If you take the time to get to know how the site works and make sure you follow all the rules, it's possible to have a good experience and actually trade your unwanted stuff for new stuff for free. But there is a bit of a learning curve, so make sure you stay alert and exercise common sense (with a healthy dose of caution).
Although Listia itself is not a scam, some of its users are scammers (just like on eBay). But if you follow my tips, you should be able to minimize problems with other users and avoid unexpected hidden costs.
Listia Customer Support
I'd also like to mention that although I've had bad experiences with a couple of other Listians, my experiences with Listia customer service have all been very positive. They can't always help, but they are responsive and genuinely willing to look into disputes and solve them as fairly as possible.
Is Listia Worth It?
Listia may not be a scam, but is it actually worthwhile? That's a tough question to answer. Posting and bidding on auctions and shipping out items is a time commitment with a very small return that consists of only a few free things every now and then.
If you have a lot of free time and not much access to money or paying jobs (and you have some stuff you'd like to give away), trying Listia probably makes sense for you.
On the other hand, if you're crazy busy and have a well-paying job to boot, Listia is probably not worth the effort in terms of taking photos, writing item descriptions, packaging items, and visiting the post office.
Personally, I like using Listia because I aim to exist in as close to a zero-waste household as much as possible. Aside from the occasional free item I've saved up enough Credits for, I get emotional satisfaction from knowing that items I no longer want will continue to be used and enjoyed by others who want or need them.
If you decide Listia sounds like a good fit for your lifestyle, I wish you a great experience, and I look forward to seeing you there.