NORTH CENTER — A North Center woman has created a network of Virtual Garage Sale pages on Facebook to bring Uptown, Andersonville and other Chicago neighborhoods local alternatives to sites like Craigslist, which could come in handy with spring cleaning season approaching.
Everything from furniture, home decor and electronics to clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories can be found for a bargain. There are also miscellaneous items such as wall canvases with logos for the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, and an 8-foot-by-52-inch glass mirror ideal for a dance studio or, as the seller says, "to make an area of your home look larger."
The woman who created the pages, Jodi MacDiarmid-Nasser, said people creeped out by the anonymity of Craigslist and seeking a more community-based way of buying and selling items are the ones who turn to Virtual Garage Sale.
"Not to bash anybody, but Craigslist is really hit or miss," said the 42-year-old homemaker living in North Center. "You put stuff on Craigslist, you have a broad range of people who see it. Often times they don't live near you. The other half of the time they don't show up when they say they're going to.
To join a group, which include pages for Lincoln Park, Bucktown, Albany Park, the Gold Coast and others, requires her approval.
"Every person who is in the group, I kind of look over their profile, make sure they're in Chicago, and I don't allow spam," she said. "This is strictly for people who live in our area, to de-clutter or to buy from people in the neighborhood."
It's normal to be skeptical of a stranger, especially one met on the Internet and one trying to sell or buy something, MacDiarmid-Nasser said.
There are strict procedures about putting items up for sale and bidding for them, and a code for communicating between sellers and prospective buyers on each page. MacDiarmid-Nasser promises to ban or reprimand offenders.
There's "porch pickup" for folks who want to avoid face-to-face encounters, MacDiarmid-Nasser said. With that option, items are picked up from a porch and an envelope containing money is left in the seller's mail box.
MacDiarmid-Nasser first created the North Center, Lincoln Square, Lake View and Roscoe Village page on Jan. 7. After the success of the page, which has about 1,000 members, she launched the other six about two weeks later, she said.
Some of the other pages, including the page for the Uptown, Andersonville and Rogers Park areas, have been slower to gain local attention and average about 200 members but are steadily growing, she said.
MacDiarmid-Nasser is not making any money for her efforts, which includes moderating, marketing and settling disputes for the Virtual Garage Sale pages. That can take anywhere from two to four hours a day, she said.
The "gratification of starting something new" and watching it grow drives her, she said.
"It's a labor of love, I don't get paid to do this," MacDiarmid-Nasser said, laughing. "My husband says as much time as I spend on it I should though."
Here are links to all seven Virtual Garage Sale pages:
Andersonville, Uptown, Loyola, Rogers Park & Edgewater Virtual Garage Sale
North Center, Lincoln Square, Lake view, Roscoe Village Virtual Garage Sale
Bucktown, Wicker Park & West Loop Virtual Garage Sale
Lincoln Park, Old Town, River West/North & Gold Coast Virtual Garage Sale
Forest Glen, Sauganash, Mayfair & Edgebrook Virtual Garage Sale
Albany Park, Irving Park/ Old Irving & Ravenswood Manor Virtual Garage Sale
Belmont Cragin, Brickyard, Montclare & Surrounding Area Virtual Garage Sale