New online trade site free and fruity

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012
Two giant bananas danced and pranced their way through Timaru yesterday to promote the new locally-owned online auction site Bananas4Free.
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

BANANAS4FREE: Two giant bananas danced and pranced their way through Timaru yesterday to promote the new locally-owned online auction site Bananas4Free.

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Move over Trade Me, here comes Bananas4Free.

A new Timaru-owned online auction and trading site reckons it can "raise the bar" for such activities - and it's all for free.

Where the company differs from the Trade Me big brother, is that it not only provides an online auction site but also has classified ads and a "wanted to buy" section, as well as giving users the ability to set up shops, company spokesman, former Timaru man, James Hamilton said.

If you think it's a bit of a David and Goliath situation, Mr Hamilton suggests it pays to remember the search engine contest that arose when Google overtook the established Yahoo site, and how Facebook came out the winner over the earlier MySpace social networking option.

The fact that other online auction sites had failed, proved the value of Trade Me's smart design and the first-mover advantage websites retain until customers are motivated to change, Mr Hamilton said. Customers would move when another site offered better features or a new concept.

As well as the online trading element, the Bananas4Free site offers online chat and social networking and encourages users to talk to each other directly as opposed to transactions being done anonymously.

Because there is no fee to collect from the trade, communication is encouraged with online and video chat. So too are Facebook and Twitter, letting you "like" and "tweet" trades and see real people with real friends and reputations.

Because of the openness of the site, parties can choose whether to haggle, discuss viewing, get a friend to "check it out", agree on a deal and make pickup and delivery arrangements.

Mr Hamilton suggests such a model is more akin to historic village marketplace trading, where trust and confidence prevailed.

"It is a great improvement on the current reliance on authentication and feedback."

Ask how the company will make money when it is offering so much for free, and there is reference to Facebook and its present day value thanks to online advertising.

And while confident the concept will work, those behind the company suggest they have little to lose if it doesn't work out. Just as Wikipedia does, the company will accept donations for its services. Users get to decide the value of the service to them, paying accordingly.

As for the name, the creators are confident it is one people will remember. It is still early days, but South Canterbury traders are already using the site, ranging from a gallery selling artwork, to a Waimate trader offering a 10 kilogram anchor for $200.

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- The Timaru Herald

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