It’s become easier and easier to buy and sell secondhand items online. Here are some etiquette tips to help you have a smooth and enjoyable experience with your online marketplace pursuits!

Etiquette tips

Using apps or websites to buy and sell online can be a rewarding way to get rid of unwanted items and an affordable alternative to buying everything brand new. If you’re buying or selling online, it’s important to make sure you’re savvy, communicative, and aware of some of the etiquette with these transactions.

Pro tip: Basic etiquette will also help get you great reviews from your buyers and sellers.



  • Read the post carefully. Comb through the details of the post before you message the seller a question. There’s a chance the information you need is in there somewhere.
  • Skip the automated messages. Avoid “Is this available?” and “I’m interested” unless it’s paired with a legitimate question or a suggested time for pick up. This speeds-up the transaction and makes it clear to the seller that you’re genuinely interested.
  • Reply promptly. If you’ve expressed interest in an item, be prepared to reply to the seller quickly to organize pick up.
  • Be on time.
  • Bring the right amount of cash. This makes the transaction a lot smoother and you don’t have to rely on the seller having change (which they might not 


  • Feign interest. If you’re not sure how interested you are in an item, take some time to think about it. When you’re sure, contact the seller and suggest a time to pick it up.
  • Ghost people. If you’ve changed your mind, let the seller know as soon as possible. No one likes to be left on “read” with no reply. Communicating a change of heart allows the seller to move on to a new buyer quickly.



  • Use good pictures. Show items from different angles and take pictures of any imperfections. Natural lighting is usually better, especially for showcasing the accurate colour of an item. If you want to include generic product photos, ensure you include a real photo of the item so the quality and condition are apparent.
  • Make paying a breeze. Use round numbers so it’s easy for people to pay you. State whether your price is negotiable or firm.
  • Be honest about the condition of the item. Here are some common acronyms for buying and selling online:
    • NWT = new with tags
    • NWOT = new without tags
    • EUC = excellent used condition
    • GUC = good used condition


  • Be vague in your description. Try to offer a helpful description of what you’re selling. Provide measurements for furniture, sizing information for clothing, and make sure to disclose any imperfections. If you want buyers to pick up items from your home, consider sharing the general area of where you live (ex. Grouse Woods, North Vancouver). That way you weed out buyers who aren’t willing to commute that far. This will also save you time answering the same questions from interested buyers. 
  • Go rogue. Learn and follow the rules of the platform you’re selling on. If there are no specified rules, make sure to detail what your personal rules are for each sale. Make sure interested buyers know what to expect from the transaction. For example:
    • Do you allow long holds?
    • Does “first come first serve” mean the first person who contacts you has dibs? Or is it the first person who picks up the item?
    • Do you do drop-offs/are you willing to meet people? Is it pick-up only?

Did we miss anything? Share your suggestions for etiquette tips below!

Did you like this? You might like these posts too!

The art of reading reviews
Top 6 red flags for buying online from a private seller
Tips to protect yourself from buying counterfeit goods
5 things to consider before you sign up for a meal kit service
Shopping online? 5 red flags to watch out for

About Consumer Protection BC

We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at