TAMPA — Charlene Cardona used to be addicted, skimming the classified ads for time and place, rising early nearly every Saturday to make someone else's junk her treasure.
"I like to sleep in," the Plant City woman said. "My butt is not getting out of bed at 7 in the morning to hit garage sales."
And she doesn't have to, thanks to a growing trend on Facebook that brings the yard sales right to her newsfeed, furniture and clothes and knick-knacks only a click away, 24/7. The social media giant has capitalized on the organic communities that sprung up in traditional Facebook groups, introducing For Sale groups specifically for these transactions. For Sale groups, which debuted in February, provide simplicity for buyers and sellers: price, location and description, no neon orange price stickers necessary.
Online shopping isn't a new phenomenon, but users say older sites like Craigslist make them wary of being ripped off or worse, robbed. Ebay is sometimes seen as too niche. Facebook, though, is already folded seamlessly into users' daily routine.
"At 9 o'clock at night when you're sitting in your underwear and you decide you hate this lamp and you want to sell it, you can post it," said David Kirchinger, 45, founder of the group St. Petersburg Buy, Sell and Trade.
The familiarity and comfort Facebook users have both with the site and their own friend networks is the key.
"The community dynamic creates a more trustworthy way to buy and sell with other people that doesn't exist elsewhere online," said Facebook spokesman Bryan Lam. "People are creating group-based communities worldwide to buy and sell, founded around core principles like real buyer and seller identity, common locales, shared interests and open social interactions."
There are hundreds of For Sale groups in the Tampa Bay area, stretching from Dade City to Gulfport. Don't confuse the Hillsborough County Online Yard Sale with the HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA ONLINE YARD SALE, or Kirchinger's group with Pinellas County Buy Sell Trade Anything.
Some have strict rules. Others are a free-for-all. The groups attract HGTV binge watchers, do-it-yourselfers and reformed Dumpster divers. But now there are no more stacks of quarters, card tables or weather worries.
Cardona's group was one of the first in the area, she said. The Original Plant City Online Yard Sale Site has garnered a following in three and a half years of 30,000 people — more than half the city's population.
"With the whole computer age, everything is there within a click of page," Cardona said. "People don't like to have yard sales. It's so much easier to get rid of (stuff) online."
Most groups operate on a first-comment, first-served basis. Posts go up with a price, description and location, then interested buyers reply to the post with questions. Many deals are done through private messages, per group rules.
Items vary from baby clothes to Harley-Davidson motorcycles. But the growing popularity of social media sites like Pinterest and home makeover shows on HGTV or the Do It Yourself Network are what has skyrocketed group membership most recently.
"The shabby chic furniture movement is a new thing," said Julie Williams of Plant City, who operates 17 For Sale groups on Facebook in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. "That's really made it go one step further. It's taken it to a new height."
Groups with buzzwords like "vintage" or "antique" feed the craze. The groups have also opened up opportunities for small businesses or stay-at-home parents to earn extra cash with minimal effort.
"It keeps people from working a second job," Williams said.
She has been divorced since 1997 and raised four kids alone, she said. Selling online from home made life easier.
As a moderator for so many groups, Williams said she sees all kinds of interactions — calls for assistance, collaboration, information sharing. The groups have become community gathering spaces, she said.
Williams sometimes misses the thrill of the hunt, but she thinks that many people who use these sites still love a traditional yard sale, grass and all.
For Floridians, Williams said there is another obvious reason why online yard sales just make sense: "It's too hot."
Contact Katie Mettler at email@example.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.