Covid-19, Craigslist and NextDoor
March 28, 2020 1:52 AM   Subscribe

I live in New Mexico, USA, which the governor recently put under a stay-at-home order. I would like to do something about national websites and people selling stuff.

As FencingGal recently mentioned in MeTa, people in her state posting to NextDoor's for sale section were likely breaking the governor's restrictions to only essential activities there.

I think it would be good for NextDoor and Craigslist to at least shut down their Free and For Sale sections in areas where people have been ordered to stay home. I wrote to Craigslist but didn't get an answer. I also put a similar post on NextDoor.

Do you have any other ideas to either shut these down or discourage their use? The question also applies to similar sites in the USA or not.
posted by NotLost to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also Meetup.
posted by NotLost at 2:23 AM on March 28, 2020

People can do curb pick ups without human interaction, especially in the for free sections. I do want to comment that while selling goods isn't a great idea, Lots of people are in really tough economic times. They've been laid off or lost their jobs . These resources are providing goods (or money) to people at discounted rates that might not otherwise be able to get, or the absence would push these people to have to congregate, use social service systems to get those resources.

Is it the best idea? Probably not. Is it a better idea to go to a social workers office or stand in line at a food pantry? I don't know.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:25 AM on March 28, 2020 [45 favorites]

The sales that are happening on Craigslist and Nextdoor include some stuff people do genuinely need, and/or are a source of money they genuinely need. (What if a medical worker needs a used car? There are a lot of people unexpectedly homeschooling, or working from home -- what if they don't have a desk or chair? What if someone's quarantining somewhere they didn't expect to and doesn't have basic essentials like a bed?) And as someone else mentions, free curbside pickup is unlikely to create a higher exposure risk than, e.g., takeout.

Given that it's realistically impossible for Craigslist and Nextdoor to police every individual transaction by whether it's currently "essential," I understand why they have made the decision to keep these platforms open.

As far as Meetup goes, some of the gatherings being planned there now may be virtual.

It may be more productive to try to push the platforms to put warnings in place, asking people to use social distancing and limit gathering numbers while planning events or pickups.
posted by pie ninja at 5:27 AM on March 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I would start an online petition to get the CDC to act on it and put your time into getting people to sign it. There’s no way the various agencies can’t know what is going on, so either they have evaluated the risk as low or it has fallen off their priority lists. Get them to bump it up.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:18 AM on March 28, 2020

Please think deeply and carefully about why your instinct for making sure other people are following the rules manifests as policing the poor. The poor are easier to scrutinize, easier to point at, and easier to mobilize entire systems of authority against. Just because it's EASY, doesn't mean you should do it.

Craigslist provides a lot of essential services for poorer people. If there are those on Craigslist who break quarantine rules, assume they are doing it because they need to. Who are you to judge?

Turn your anger and your policing instincts against the rich who are doing infinitely more damage by any standard you care to think of. Hold your local and federal leaders accountable for their criminal handling of this crisis. Harder? Yes. But that's no excuse for you to vent your frustrations onto the poor.
posted by MiraK at 6:36 AM on March 28, 2020 [52 favorites]

Best answer: After I posted on Next Door, a local woman who works tirelessly for the homeless community pointed out that some people really need the money right now. I think that is true in some cases, but not all. And certainly most of the free items listed could not be considered essential by any stretch of the imagination.

I think just asking people not to post if they don’t need to is the way to go. And it would be great if the websites reminded people that nonessential travel is not permitted, but I don’t know how to make that happen. Social shaming seems to have worked on the idiot in my area who proposed a county-wide (!) Teddy Bear scavenger hunt, so wherever possible, I’d go with that too.
posted by FencingGal at 6:38 AM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

People on our NextDoor at least are trying to be responsible. They are posting that they have sanitized stuff with bleach etc., and that they can arrange contactless pickup and payment. There has been some public shaming going on of postings that seem sketchy.
posted by gudrun at 7:21 AM on March 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

Is it okay for people to buy things on Amazon right now? Because Amazon's warehouse workers and delivery drivers (in some areas) are being put in extremely risky situations. Much riskier than buying something from an individual neighbor, who may very well be leaving things out on the curb or porch without any interaction. I might suggest agitating against Amazon instead, which is very obviously a major bad actor in all of this.
posted by k8lin at 7:23 AM on March 28, 2020 [14 favorites]

When I had young babies at home, Craigslist and Facebook marketplace were a lifesaver for baby clothes, strollers, bottles, all sorts of things it would have been very hard for me to buy new. There is an economy of people exchanging very necessary items on these platforms. And liked pointed out above, it’s possible to be safer than buying from a store and it can save delivery drivers time.
I know there are many people disrespecting the rules and selling unnecessary items. Of course I know that. Would shutting down these marketplaces stop them? Would you prefer these people go to target?
My suggestion is you could post on your local boards asking your neighbors to practice safety when handling items and to only buy what they think is really necessary. If you don’t want to do that, think about why.
posted by areaperson at 7:37 AM on March 28, 2020 [7 favorites]

Hi, I think your instinct to protect your community is good, but you're working from some bad information and assumptions of the public health aspect of the current business and personal lockdowns. Transmission through fomites via curbside pickups are not going to be a major chain of infection. This is a respiratory virus, not bed bugs, and they behave very differently in populations and exposure via object transactions. People who use Craigslist or sell things in their neighborhood online usually accept payment by venmo or cashapp anyway, they aren't coming in close contact with each other. The reason non-essential businesses are shut down during a mass quarantine isn't because of the risk of mass infection via contaminated goods, it's because they are gathering places for people, and the major way COVID-19 is transmitted is through person-to-person contact in public spaces like restaurants, packed stores, and events. People on Craigslist are not getting up in each other's faces while doing curbside pickups right now-- they are essentially no different from Amazon or Instacart. If you want to do activism related to commerce during COVID-19, agitate for Amazon or grocery stores to give their workers serious hazard pay and sick leave options. Concerts, clubs, and bars have been shut down because they're major vectors for transmission, CL and Nextdoor sales are not.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 7:47 AM on March 28, 2020 [18 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, you have brought up good points about buying and selling stuff.

But setting up in-person meetups is a different matter.
posted by NotLost at 8:50 AM on March 28, 2020

Best course of action is to mind your own business. Take that as you may. You don't know who is doing what, why they're doing it, or under what conditions. Being the self appointed cop here kinda makes you, how shall I say... the person nobody likes.

If your inclination to assume this role is strong in your personality, it's only going to grow as this situation drags on, and the world can no longer postpone every interaction to your satisfaction. I would suggest that there is little control you will have overall, and for your own mental health, and every one else's, to do your own best, and refrain from keeping account of what all the other kids are doing on the playground.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:26 AM on March 28, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: If you still feel like something isn't sitting right about the people selling stuff on craigslist and such, maybe turn your attention to a more definitive problem - people doing price gouging. Others above me have pointed out that some people on Craigslist trying to sell things may be in a tight spot and trying to make ends meet, but something's still not right about people trying to sell a bottle of purell for $145.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 AM on March 28, 2020

Also, idk if this is helpful, but one of the things I've been trying to sink my COVID anxiety into and transform it into something productive is the current movement to get community-sourced PPE to medical staff and people who work with vulnerable populations like the homeless-- a much, much bigger COVID hot point than CL or even irresponsible people going to meetups. If you have admin/organization duties, joining groups who are doing this, or organizing grocery delivery to vulnerable populations, might be really valuable work you can do.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:39 AM on March 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

But setting up in-person meetups is a different matter.

Are you just looking for something to be angry about?

I can empathize with that. I often find myself picking fights with strangers on the internet... when I'm anxious and upset about stuff in my life. Ever since I figured that out, it's been helpful for me to stop and say, hey, I'm arguing with people on the internet again, what am I really anxious about? What used to be my unconscious bad habit is now something I have trained myself to notice and become conscious of when I'm doing it: so it's transformed into a useful alarm for inner anxiety.

Maybe this is how your anxiety manifests. Maybe if you train yourself to notice when you are feeling the urge to police other people, you can transform this into your useful alarm to focus on your inner anxiety.
posted by MiraK at 9:50 AM on March 28, 2020 [14 favorites]

Consider that in most cases the number of people who have recently touched a given item for sale on craigslist is almost certainly smaller than the number who have recently touched the last thing you bought literally anywhere else. And then stop worrying about small change in the face of catastrophe.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:17 PM on March 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Everything posted on Meetup for me is either online or cancellations or 6 months in the future. There's nobody in my Meetup groups posting things for in person.
posted by kathrynm at 2:05 PM on March 29, 2020

Also Meetup

I recently realized that I had inadvertently forgotten to deal with canceling an event on meetup, despite putting notices on many other platforms that it would not be happening. I actually haven't canceled it yet because someone else put it there so I need to talk to someone else about it. Things have been busy and stressful recently and I just haven't gotten to it yet, and isn't everyone aware that things like that won't be happening?
posted by yohko at 7:32 PM on April 1, 2020

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