Zaarly: The Inverted Alternative to eBay and Craigslist

Zaarly: The Inverted Alternative to eBay and Craigslist

Oct 17, 2011

Zaarly, a service that has received both publicity and financial support from Hollywood, works as a reverse eBay, allowing people who are looking for basically anything to post what they want and the price they’re willing to pay for it. They aim to create a service where the consumer names the price instead to choosing from a million posts on eBay or Craigslist. For example, if you are looking to sell your PS3, Zaarly shows how much people are willing to pay for a PS3 instead of allowing you to set the price. This works best on their website because it allows you to search the entire United States whereas the mobile app restricts you to searching to places within driving distance. Unfortunately, Zaarly does not settle disputes and every sale is final, so there is the inherent risk of dealing with people you don’t know. This aside, payment is simple and credit cards are accepted.

The beauty of Zaarly is that nobody posts everything they’re willing to sell on eBay or Craigslist. Zaarly makes it easy to just pick up your phone and check to see if you have something that people around you are willing to pay for. The odds of someone nearby owning something that I would post are actually higher than I initially thought. I tried the service out and just posted a random request to see if I would get any responses. At first glance I only saw about 12 posts in about a 20 mile radius from my location of Columbus, Ohio, and was initially discouraged. However, I posted that I was looking for a lightly used skateboard for around $35, and within 24 hours I already had messages from three different people within 10 miles of my house. Frankly, I was incredibly impressed. The problem is that in order for Zaarly to achieve its potential it needs users. Zaarly is a service that is 95% based on P2P interaction, and for small towns the lack of populace is a major issue because finding deals in your area is what Zaarly is all about.

Because everything is focused on local interaction, privacy is a big deal with Zaarly, and this is both a good thing and a bad thing. Usernames are not shown to anyone in the searches and as far as I can tell is purely for login purposes only. Every time someone sends you a message about a product they’re just listed as “Them” and there are no usernames on posts in your area. This does make things kind of confusing when searching through multiple offers on a single product, and it’s impossible to rate users to avoid or recommend like at eBay. It is reassuring that Zaarly never shows any user any personal information; leaving it completely up to you about disclosing your address, phone number, or name. I was worried about how calling another person would be handled and I think that Zaarly handles this perfectly. Instead of having you directly call the user’s cell phone, Zaarly calls you from a random number and anonymously calls the other person. With all these giant websites like Facebook and Google coming under such heavy fire for their privacy intrusions, its refreshing to see user privacy handled so seriously, even if it might have been a little overdone.

I am totally impressed with this service and will continue to use it in the future even though the mobile app is not as solid and refined as the full website. It will be interesting to see if Zaarly can gain tracking in urban areas, which is really what it’s designed for, because this great idea is wholly depended on the amount of users.

Joseph Bertolini
Joseph is an Mechanical Engineering student at The Ohio State University as well as an amateur photographer.
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