The Economic Benefit of Online Community Marketplaces

The last decade has seen a significant decline of Facebook usage for preference of other sites, particularly from younger generations including individuals like myself. Despite this, I find myself checking and utilizing Facebook on a regular basis for one thing: free-and-discount-goods groups. Notably are regions’ “Buy Nothing” and “Buy, Sell, Trade” groups that promote a decrease of capitalistic purchasing and demanding, in turn decreasing our contributions to the supply chain. For two years now I have been a member of a small group of Tacomans banded in a Facebook group, united by ‘bananas for scale’ and one rule: everything is free. 

This bunch of bananas goes beyond decreasing supply chain contribution and promotes the welfare and wellbeing of people in our area. Every few days, members cook large quantities of meals to be distributed to people experiencing homelessness in Tacoma. These are packaged complete with donations of other various goods often acquired in the group. When people have extra, it is offered, donated, and redistributed to those that could benefit from this small-scale model of wealth redistribution. Increasing welfare in Tacoma, one meal at a time, this group proves the importance of community efforts to bring economic benefit and improvement of wellbeing. Economic benefit is brought to individuals, as well, through the ability to ask and give freely and efficiently, with minimal transaction costs involved. 

When needing something, the typical consumer explores online marketplaces and corporations promising to deliver an item within a couple of days. Similar to this, this welfare-based group aims to decrease individuals’ purchasing footprint. From information, help, small items, services, or a nice dress to borrow for an event, asks posted are often fulfilled and offered within a few hours with the exact item needed. Personally, I have wished to be roller skating and was picking up a pair and skating around Tacoma within a few hours. I’ve responded to and provided COVID tests and Plan B pills to requesting folks within 45 minutes… all for free. Utilizing a free site, maintaining locality, and ensuring speed of response and retrieval all contribute to extremely low transaction costs for members of this banana group. 

Economic benefit can be seen in almost every aspect of this group. Increasing welfare of the community, redistributing wealth, and reducing consumerism and transaction costs all contribute to overall economic benefit. Other groups’ aim to reduce these costs work similarly at a consumer level, encouraging the community trading and reduction of new goods purchased. Working together through models such as these, working to improve the welfare of ourselves while simultaneously that of those living around us, shows economic benefit of community groups. Whether on Facebook, in a neighborhood, or on consumer-posted online marketplaces, we can reduce consumerism and improve welfare one “banana for scale” at a time. 

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