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When it comes to selling secondhand items online, there’s no shortage of options. From Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor, to classics like Craigslist and eBay, if there’s something you’re looking to buy (or sell), there are many ways to find it.

More recently, there has been an increase in vintage and other secondhand dealers (and regular folks) selling their wares on Instagram, so it makes sense that it’s happening on TikTok too.

But along with costume jewelry that once belonged to someone’s grandma, and that end table that no longer works with your decor, both apps are also full of influencers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if they happen to be selling stuff, you could find yourself being influenced into paying a higher price for an item than it’s worth. Here’s how to avoid doing that while shopping on TikTok.

How to shop on TikTok without overpaying

Influencers or not, there are deals to be had on TikTok. But, like any online sales platform, there are also overpriced items, dishonest sellers, and flat-out scams. Here are some tips for avoiding them:

Do your homework

This isn’t TikTok-specific, but as a general rule, always do at least a few minutes of research before buying anything from people selling their stuff online. Use any information you can find in the item description and photos—like the manufacturer, designer, year, model number, pattern name, etc.—and do a quick online search for the item (or at least something comparable). You can also try searching directly on eBay.

No luck? Pop one of the listing photos into Google Lens. The results you get depend on things like the rarity of the item, and the quality of the photo, but overall, it can be a really helpful tool for locating other examples of the piece.

The idea for the research is, first and foremost, to find out what the item costs elsewhere, and, in turn, whether the one you’ve been eyeing on TikTok is actually a good deal. But it can also tell you more about it, like whether the one you’re interested in is in relatively good condition, whether everything’s original, and so on.

Ask questions

If, after doing your own research, you still have questions about an item, you can ask the seller (politely) in a message. We’re talking about things anyone can answer, like the size of a piece of clothing, whether a chair is black or navy (because it’s unclear in the photos), or whether there’s staining on the back of the chair.

Keep in mind that not every seller is a designer or vintage dealer, or has a background in what they’re selling. In fact, they may not even know what they’re selling, and just want to get it out of their home. Again, the idea is to learn more about the item to help you determine whether it’s worth the asking price. Just remember to be respectful of seller’s time.

Act fast

The market for vintage and other secondhand items is more competitive in some areas than others, but as a general rule, if you see something that you’re definitely interested in buying at the listed price, the faster you act, the better.

Yes, that means messaging the seller right away to express interest, but also letting them know that you’re ready and willing to take it off their hands and pay for it that day (if they’re available)—especially if it’s furniture or another bulky item that’s taking up space.

Making the payment

On the most recent episode of the Antiques Freaks podcast, cohosts Kenneth Henry and Dee Leger discussed purchasing antique and vintage items from Craigslist (though the tips apply here, too) in the safest way possible, and touched on the actual exchange of the object for money.

Leger recommends using Venmo or CashApp for any purchases over $20, and doing the actual transfer of funds (via the app) in front of the seller, right before they hand over the item (which you can see in front of you, with your own eyes).

Meanwhile, Clinton Tharp—who restores and sells vintage furniture, and posts instructional videos on TikTok—takes a different approach. He suggests messaging the seller and offering to pay for the item via Venmo or PayPal before you meet them to pick it up.

In a 2021 interview, he said that paying for items sight unseen (aside from the pictures in the listing) has allowed him to beat out other eager shoppers in a competitive market, and get the pieces he wanted at a low price.

However, it should go without saying that plenty of things can go wrong using this approach, including losing your money because the item doesn’t exist, or was already sold. We wouldn’t wouldn’t use this strategy ourselves, it is apparently a thing people do. But regardless of how the exchange goes down, always prioritize your safety. 



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