Review of Listia.com, an online marketplace where users can give away their old belongings and get new ones, all for free.
Listia is an auction-type website which allows users to post items to give away, which earns them credits they can use to bid on items posted by other users. The official website is listia.com, which was first registered back in 2002, but the website was not launched publicly until August of 2009.
Below is a screenshot of listia.com, as seen in March of 2014. As of January 2015, the appearance of the browsing section on the Listia website remains unchanged.
How it Works
Users sign up for the Listia website and then post items they wish to give away in an auction format. There are currently 23 auction categories, each with multiple subcategories. Credits are earned by posting items, and these credits can then be used to bid on items posted by other users. Credits can also be purchased or earned through performing tasks such as inviting friends or connecting to the site using Facebook/Twitter.
Listia operates similarly to ebay, which also includes watch lists, item description and photo, countdown to end of the auction, and bid/buy now features.
It isn’t uncommon to post a bid and find yourself immediately outbid, due to the practice of “proxy bids.”
One question we were asked prior to this review is what happens to credits on an auction you don’t win. The answer is that credits are only deducted after winning an auction, so you won’t lose credits if you don’t win the auction.
As with other auction or freebie sites, there appear to be a mix of new users, veterans, and those attempting to game the system. It’s probably a wise idea to check out the activity of anyone posting an auction before you bid. Sellers can earn verification badges, along with feedback from previous buyers. You can view all of a seller’s activity by viewing their profile.
The Free Shipping Catch
Although the site is free – and in most cases shipping is free as well – there appears to be something of a “catch” regarding shipping. Consider that most sellers offer free shipping, which means they are paying for shipping costs themselves. One veteran Listia user told us that he probably spends as much on shipping as he would had he purchased most of the items new.
Listia is not without its share of criticism. Although Listia maintains an A grade (on a scale of A+ to F) with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), users may want to browse the 21 pages of complaints filed to the BBB. These complaints vary from claims that Listia accounts were unfairly banned / suspended for questionable reasons to users who felt they were scammed by other users.
In early 2014, a telling sign that there are problems with Listia comes from a simple Google search. Typing in the word “listia” came up with several suggestions – two of which are related to hacking the site, as seen in the screen shot below. In January 2015, listia hack still appears in the top four Google search suggestions. Although Listia policy rules explicitly forbid hacking, it is apparently still an issue for some users.
Department of Labor Investigation
In May of 2014, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) reported that after an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division, Listia had agreed to pay 61 employees (both current and former) back-wages and damages worth $190,546. The results of the investigation found that Listia had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay employees minimum wage and suitable overtime pay. According to a DOL newsletter, the company had attempted to pay some employees in credits from the Listia website.
Google Trends History
The Google Trends graph below shows search interest in Listia dating back to 2008. Interest appears to have gradually increased since then with a recent peak in August of 2014.
Customer satisfaction with Listia is bound to vary greatly. There will be those who know how to avoid the pitfalls and scammers, and these users may find it to be an enjoyable experience. Those who fail to exercise caution – or get their accounts banned – may not have such a positive feeling about the site, as there are certainly red flags to avoid.
A number of very vocal complaints regarding account suspension should also be considered, although we did not encounter this problem. As with any website dealing with transactions with strangers, you should exercise extreme caution at every turn.
Listia is a great idea with marginal implementation. Complaints of scammers infiltrating the site have not been addressed to the satisfaction of many former Listia users.
Your Listia Reviews
Have you used Listia? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments below.
Updated January 16, 2015
Originally published March 2014