Everyone that stays in The Netherlands for more than a weekend knows it. It’s number 8 in the list of the most popular websites in the country.
Marktplaats is the virtual market everyone use to buy or sell stuff.
Its interface has been so crap for many years, that Universities run studies to understand why people use it. And the conclusion was that it just works.
Dutch people aren’t cheap, but if they can save a couple of euros (een paar eurootjes) they will drive across the country. Or worse, transfer money to a total stranger and wait for the delivery.
Marktplaats is often referred as ‘the Dutch version of eBay’ but it has major differences.
While eBay is based on user profiles and feedback to build trust among users, Marktplaats profiles just provide a name (usually Jos, Hans or an acronym if the seller has foreign origins), the age of the account (for example: active on Marktplaats since 3½ years), a phone number if you’re lucky and the location.
Another difference with eBay is that is not a real auction site. The seller can choose if he/she wants to allow bids or set a fixed price. And even if bids are allowed, the seller can choose not to accept yours, as well as the buyer can withdraw the bid anytime.
Last but not least, Marktplaats is rigorously in Dutch language, and contributes for 50% to the the Dutch vocabulary of every expat.
Would this system works in any other country? Hard to say.
Anyway, without further ado let me share some stories about the marvels of Marktplaats.
The old man and the camera
Once upon a time my friend Gianni left The Netherlands, where he lives now, giving me the task to monetize his unused inventory, or in other words try to make few bucks out of his crap.
Among the inventory there was one of the first models of digital camera: 1.3 megapixels, digital zoom only and of course alkaline batteries. The kind of item you expect to find in the Historisch Museum.
As a Marktplaats mentor, I proceeded placing an advert for 15€ with a compelling text. Something like zo goed als nieuwe (as good as new) which is Marktplaats code for “I won’t sell it for half price”. Then I left the bait waiting for fishes.
The fish was an old man that called me the day after claiming to be a neighbor. He came to see the camera. He was an old man and I felt bad because he was buying an old camera. But back than I wasn’t living by my moral values so I was OK taking advantage of him.
The batteries didn’t work, so he went to the supermarket to buy new ones. But even with new batteries, the camera did not switched on. Thanks Gianni!
I felt ashamed and I told him that I had a better camera for him, my old digital Canon IXUS 5 megapixel 4x optical zoom and battery pack with charger included!
What happened next is mind blowing.
The old man peacefully said “No thanks, I already have a new camera, but I don’t like it. I want an old camera. They’re more robust, I can upload pictures online without re-sizing and I can use batteries I can buy anywhere…”.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Cheers to Marktplaats!
The five minutes (and one hour) flash sale
My last experience with Marktplaats was a real flash sale. As many of you know I owned a beautiful van till the engine exploded. Two weeks before that happened, I bought a new car stereo for 59.95€ at MediaMarkt (the Dutch name for MediaWorld).
While refocusing my efforts in reducing my properties, I decided to put it on sale for 35€. Five literally five minutes after, my phone rung. Someone from Rotterdam (70km away) called me right away offering 30€ to pick up the car stereo that very evening. Deal was made.
One hour after the five minutes after I placed the ad, two Dutch guys with Moroccan background showed up, tested the stereo and hand in the money.
They had some friendly questions for me, not unusual here:
- “WOW, do you live in this area?”
- “Are you renting?”
- “How much do you pay?”
- “How big is the apartment?”
- “What do you do for living?”
- “How long have you been living here for?”
I played the poor immigrant role, inventing a fake identity telling them I’m renting for 1400€ (they were bewildered), sharing with two more people, and living here for almost four years because in Italy the situation is rrrreally bbbbad. Life sucks badly, focking Amsterdam zo tering duur.
Still better than saying I’m a lucky privilaged expat-turn-immigrant spending 4 months a year abroad.
That’s it. I sold much more items on Marktplaats but nothing that deserves to be told here. Well, maybe that iPod Touch I got as a gift from Juniper (100% of the iPod Touch owner I met got it as a present) that I sold to a jonge man for 60€ at the tram station, most likely because he thought it was one generation newer than it was.
And you, do you know Marktplaats?