Buy and sell exchange zone

Community Featured

Stellarton offers dedicated space for users of online sites

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been modified from the original post which mentions the word “safe”.

The Town of Stellarton is getting a dedicated space for its residents to buy, sell and trade with other consumers.

Paige Clarke, marketing and communications co-ordinator for the town, explained at last week’s town council meeting that many municipalities are hosting a buy and sell exchange zone. This is an area — be it an area of a parking lot or other space within the municipality — that is typically well lit, monitored by video surveillance and handy a police station for people who use online buy and sells, like Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace.

With millions of people around the globe making online purchases through these types of sites, Clarke says the town would have this designated space for someone who is buying or selling to meet. They would have this re-assurance that even if it’s not fully secure they know there will be light, that it’s monitored and if needed, that police are inside, she explained.

“There are a lot of pros to it,” Clarke told council, adding, “Being proactive in making sure our community and residents know we’re here and support them when they do their selling.”

Town Council agrees.

Mayor Danny MacGillivray noted, “The Town of Stellarton is pleased to be able to offer a well-lit and video monitored area for people to conduct buy and sell transactions. This method of procuring goods is becoming more and more popular. When residents or visitors conduct business in our town, we do our best to ensure it is done in a safe space, and results in a positive experience for all.”

Making purchases through an online buy-and-sell site is easy, but it can also be dangerous. For strangers to meet and exchange goods and/or cash, the challenge is always where to meet to ensure safety for all parties.

Clarke proposed an area in the back parking lot behind the town hall where there are multiple cameras and plenty of parking spots.

Stellarton Police Chief Mark Hobeck believes arranging a safe space for those who buy and sell online is a great idea.

“It’s not ground-breaking for us,” he said. “We’re following in the footsteps of what other agencies have done in other places and I think it’s an opportunity to provide a space where people can feel a little bit more comfortable in making a purchase or selling an item rather than an unknown place or even at their homes.”

Hobeck offered some words of advice for people who use these online sites.

“Buy and sell this way is a good opportunity for people to get rid of stuff from their home or to find good deals on things they’re looking for, but there’s always people out there looking for a scam or to cheat someone.”

Bottom line, says the police chief, is when you’re looking to buy something you really have to trust your instincts. “If it sounds too good to be true or if it feels wrong, it probably is and it’s probably something you should stay away from.”

Another safety tip to keep in mind, he advised, is if you’re going to meet someone to exchange goods for cash, try to meet them during daylight hours and try to meet them in a public space. “If it’s not our space make sure it’s somewhere else in the public where there is other people around.”

And don’t take any more cash than you need to complete the transaction, he suggested.

During his more than three decades of police service, Hobeck has seen the seedy underbelly of plenty of crime — including incidents related to the types of crimes of opportunity that may arise through buy and sell exchanges.

“It has happened — I wouldn’t say a tremendous amount of time, but to the point where we actually had people under cover looking to purchase items or sell items just in trying to catch people that are doing this sort of thing. It is prevalent enough to warrant investigation into it.”

Other tips he offered: Don’t give people your personal information, and instead of carrying cash use e-transfer of money.

And the end of the day, Hobeck had one major piece of advice:

“Use your common sense when buying or selling through online. Sometimes it’s common sense and sometimes it’s your sixth sense or ‘spidey sense.’”

Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray, left, and Police Chief Mark Hobeck stand in the town’s new Buy and Sell Exchange Zone. (Contributed photo)