Islanders cautioned against using online shop ‘n’ swap sites during COVID-19

Islanders cautioned against using online shop ‘n’ swap sites during COVID-19

PEI’s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison is warning Islanders against using online buy, sell and swap sites — for their own safety and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

She made the comments in her daily public health briefing in Charlottetown Monday.

“I’ve been asked to comment about shop and swap. There continue to be individuals purchasing and swapping a number of items online, and I would caution against this,” Morrison said.

“But if you need to purchase something you feel is essential, you should ensure payments are made online and there is no contact at the drop off. And if not an essential purchase, please delay any of these transactions.”

There are dozens of such buy and sell sites on Facebook as well as Kijiji, Etsy, eBay and others.

Dr. Heather Morrison cautions against buying and selling used goods online

Essential purchases only, says chief public health officer, or else ‘please delay any of these transactions’

‘Shut down until further notice’

A quick scan shows some sites seem to be operating as usual, while others have shut down for the duration of the pandemic.

“For the safety of all the buyers and sellers who are asking to self-isolate as much as possible at this time this site will be shut down until further notice,” says a post pinned by the administrator on the private Facebook group Buy, Sell and Trade PEI.

After being contacted for this story by CBC News and hearing Morrison’s comments, another popular Facebook site posted that it would also shut down effective immediately.

“After looking closely at the situation over the past several weeks, we are temporarily closing all PEI groups for buying and selling activities as a measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said a post from administrator Daniyal Zafar on the PEI Buy or Sell ​​site.

‘It’s a pretty tough decision, because people use it for a side income,’ says Daniyal Zafar of Ottawa, the administrator for this Facebook group and several others on PEI (Sara Fraser/CBC)

“We understand that on top of being a place to buy, sell, and trade, our community has a role to play in assisting our most vulnerable, so we will continue to find methods to do this on the admin side with community efforts. “

“This crisis will end, and we will be back to our regular old group, until then, let’s #stayathome and #flattenthecurve!” Zafar’s post said.

The administrator encouraged others to follow suit, and also offered to help people in need of essential supplies such as groceries.

“I know the groups are not required to shut down but I think I’d be proactive,” said Zafar via telephone from Ottawa, where he lives. “It’s a pretty tough decision because people use it for a side income.”

The post immediately garnered mixed reactions, with some calling it “foolishness” and others thanking the administrators for following Morrison’s advice.

‘My items are not essential’

Chris Pearce is a frequent seller on Facebook buy and sell sites, and he moved quickly after Morrison’s warning Monday.

Stores selling non-essential products are closed, and Islanders are also being discouraged from buying and selling goods used for health reasons. (Julien Lecacheur/CBC)

“To all my frequent good customers: I have canceled my ads as per Dr. Morrison’s update today. My items are not essential!” she wrote on Facebook. “See you after the pandemic [is] over and thanks for your support.”

Pearce told CBC News she supports others buying and selling this way, as long as the goods are essential.

“I personally think this is safer than going to the stores,” she said.

Ron Howse is another frequent seller and says for him it is business as usual, except that sales are down about 60 per cent.

Meanwhile, stores that sell previously-owned goods, such as Most Wanted Pawn in Charlottetown, are not making new purchases but are offering curb-side pickup of items they have posted online.

Manager Matt Bowness says video gaming consoles are very popular with customers right now. He said it was challenging to post online what the store has in stock, as he’s the only one in the story, but also said that business has been “pretty quiet.”

When customers order and pay online he will arrange a pick-up time. When customers arrive outside the store they will honk their car horn, then wearing a mask and gloves, Bowness will bring the item outside. Customers show their ID, then Bowness leaves the purchase on a concrete barrier in front of the store, or will put it in a customer’s car.

‘Appropriate precautions’

Many other PEI businesses of all types and sizes are offering similar curb-side delivery or home delivery for essential goods like food and groceries as well as non-essentials like books and records.

The Comic Hunter in Charlottetown sets up this table outside for customers to safely pick up merchandise they’ve paid for via e-transfer. (Submitted by The Comic Hunter)

Morrison said she’s fine with this as long as physical distancing and disinfection procedures are being followed.

What’s the difference between this and shopping via swap and shop sites?

“Businesses providing these services must have appropriate precautions in place, where we cannot guarantee this with the public,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness replied in an email to CBC PEI

“There has been guidance/directives to non-essential businesses operating in this way to ensure safety precautions are in place. Businesses are expected to have employee illness protocols in place as well as enhanced cleaning requirements of frequently touched surfaces to help protect employees.”

More from CBC PEI

Back To Top