Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I first heard about Kijiji when I set about selling my grand piano in early March of this year. I was unhesitatingly referred to the internet web site by the first two people whom I successively contacted about the undertaking, and they both spoke glowingly of my prospects of success in using the service. One person even went so far as to suggest that the piano would be gone within days. In fact the transaction took longer than that to consummate, but it did happen.

Never before had I either heard of Kijiji or had anything whatever to do with it. I have since learned that it is a subsidiary of the giant online auction eBay and that it was initiated outside the United States. It is now popular in many foreign countries, and apparently growing by the day. Kijiji is described as “a centralized network of online urban communities for posting local online classified advertisements”.

Unlike eBay, Kijiji is a free site for the advertisement of goods and services for sale or purchase. There are of course some limitations as a result, but for the neighbourhood transaction of business it seems to work well without the more complicated collateral services and strategies of long-distance transport and payment. In fact the Kijiji site strongly recommends personal contact between the parties because the opportunity for fraud is otherwise extensive.

For the uninitiated Kijiji couldn’t be simpler. I can say this because I had also tried negotiating the eBay web site and found it to be considerably more daunting (there were just too many choices, the implications of which I was unsure and the web site lacked proper explanation of the alternatives in my view). Because neither web site initially held any particular attraction for me, nor was there at the time any over-riding necessity to comprehend the web site machinations, it was the facility of dealing with Kijiji which ultimately drew me to it. In addition, subsequent usages (for purposes other than merely listing something for sale) of the Kijiji web site proved to be equally satisfactory. Indeed I began marvelling at the precision, speed and “user friendliness” of the site. When you think about it, most of us drive a car and have no trouble commanding the myriad of computers which make it go. But to find a web site which is as easily navigated continues to be the exception in spite of the ever-expanding world of internet traffic.

The gimmick (or “catch”) of course is all about the advertising. Within days of having posted something on the Kijiji site, you begin to receive daily email notifications of “specials” being offered, everything from manicures to tire rotations. And like discount anything, there are always the upgrades, those seemingly minimal but progressive ways to get you to spend some money to do more than you have already done for “free”. Nonetheless the local character of the site including its unsolicited advertising, make the entire experience somehow not only palatable but even welcome. It is for example, unique to find such a broadly based platform (you can acquire almost anything on this site, including personal acquaintances and knowledge about how to install an electrical appliance) which is still very much about the people next door. Most web sites leave you wondering with whom you’re dealing, whether it is someone in California or India.

In some respects Kijiji is an on-line garage sale, and the inferior quality of most of the products listed for sale preserves this appearance. It wouldn’t for example be the place you’d try to flog your A. J. Jackson painting or Cartier diamond engagement ring. On the other hand some people are using it to sell their half-million dollar real estate holdings. One soon realizes however that avoiding commission doesn’t guarantee a sale, nor does it eliminate the vast number of concerns which arise when dealing with a prudent purchaser of an expensive item. It’s the old story, “You get what you pay for!” I doubt that the realtors have packed their bags yet and gone home. It is possible that the juxtaposition of expensive homes with trashy personal effects may have the effect of raising the standard of everyday chattels and objets d’art on the site. This will however take some time, but I believe the development will unfold because there are so many opportunities for people of every stripe and means to use the site. It is indeed an opportunity for those who wish to adapt. I don’t know what the reaction of the web administrators would be to those who might choose to employ the free listing for what amounts to free advertising. I guess it all depends on the frequency and how much attention is paid to the hundreds of ads which are posted daily.

Judging by the number of times the name Kijiji has arisen in daily conversation and on the radio, I suspect it is a rapidly growing phenomenon. It has become a primary source of enquiry for almost anything. Its search engine gives accurate and speedy response. The programming is obviously superior. Plus, it’s fun to use!

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