The internet can be a great place to pick up a bargain, or earn a bit of spare cash selling something you no longer need. Sites like eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are hugely popular trading platforms, making buying and selling between strangers easier than ever before.
Person-to-person trades can be done entirely online, using a postal or courier service to make the exchange. However, there are some occasions where it might be more convenient to complete the trade “in real life”.
While there are advantages to making the exchange in-person, there are some precautions you should take before agreeing to meet someone you’ve being messaging online.
Most of the time, trades between strangers work out as planned. Even so, meeting with a stranger, especially when there’s a cash handover involved, does carry some risk.
Sonder's advice for making a trade with a stranger
We’ve had several Sonder members get in touch with the Sonder Support Centre asking for advice about making a face-to-face trade with someone they’ve met on the internet.
We recommend sticking to the following guidelines to make sure you stay as safe as possible:
- Speak to the person over the phone first. Ask questions to ascertain that the person is genuine. For example, if you’re the seller, you might ask them why they’re interested in the item. If you are the buyer, ask for more information about the item, such as why they’re selling it, or where they originally purchased it from
- Rather than meet at your home or theirs, suggest meeting in a public place
- Always tell someone where you’re going and who you’re meeting, and if possible, bring a friend along to accompany you. This is especially important if the only option is making the exchange at a private address (for example, if you’re buying or selling something too heavy to carry around)
- Arrange to meet during daylight hours
- If you’re the buyer and paying by cash, only bring along the agreed amount - don’t carry around excess cash or other valuables, other than your mobile phone
- Unless you absolutely have to, don’t reveal any personal information such as your home address or where you work
Using Sonder's Check on Me function when meeting a stranger
If you’re a Sonder member, we highly recommend using the Check on Me feature in the Sonder app whenever you meet a stranger for the first time.
Check on Me lets the Sonder Support Centre know your exact location, and allows you to set a timer for Sonder to check on your wellbeing.
For example, if you expect the trade will take a maximum of 15 minutes, as you are arriving at the agreed location, activate Check on Me and set the timer for 15 minutes.
You can also add additional details, like the specifics of your location (for example, “Sydney University Science Library, common lounge area”) and who you’ll be meeting (eg. “Greg from Gumtree”).
After 15 minutes, we’ll send you an alert just to make sure you’re OK. If we don’t hear back, we’ll initiate remote or in-person assistance to verify your safety.
The Sonder Support Centre is available 24/7 to look out for your safety whenever you meet a stranger for the first time - whether you’re buying or selling an item, going out on a first date or checking out a share house.
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