The Marketplace Boom   //   May 8, 2024

How resale marketplaces safety-check hard goods like car seats & strollers

Resale marketplaces like The RealReal and StockX must verify and authenticate shoes, apparel and other soft goods on a daily basis. But for platforms that sell open-box or secondhand hard goods — many of which have safety risks or expiration dates — vetting products becomes a more high-stakes game.

On eBay, only certain sellers with top-rated accounts and $1,000 or more in sales in the last year can sell higher-risk products like car seats, cribs and bicycle helmets, provided none are in used condition or the subject of recalls. Kaiyo, a platform for gently used furniture like bookshelves and couches, inspects all items for wear and tear and signs of contamination, then rejects any pieces that are shaky, ripped, stained or have water damage. And GoodBuy Gear, which partners with brands to offload open-box items and returns of baby gear like strollers and pacifiers, has a multi-step checklist that each item must pass before going out for sale or delivery.

Resale in general is becoming more popular but is often associated with apparel. Still, more platforms are surfacing for customers who want to buy secondhand goods that are not clothes. Retailers like American Freight, for instance, have found success selling open-box appliances like washing machines and fridges.

Selling hard goods, however, can be challenging. Compared to soft goods, hard goods may require more frequent manual vetting, as larger products can rattle around during transportation or fall off delivery trucks, compromising their quality. In addition, hard goods that contain materials that can crack or break over time usually have manufacturer warranties. But, when those products are sold on secondhand marketplaces, those warranties may not carry over. Sometimes, the warranty terms have expired or no longer apply, and marketplaces must put extra guidelines in place to ensure everything they sell is safe.

Crucially, when it comes to products like bike helmets — which have a set shelf life, even if they’re not involved in a crash — or cribs — which don’t have an expiration date, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises against buying any older than 10 years old — these secondhand or open-box platforms must go through extra hoops to show they can provide customers the same reassurance they would get when buying directly from a brand.

Here’s how three resale platforms approach vetting their products to ensure they’re safe to use.

Ebay: Using tech to ward off bad actors

EBay, which had 132 million active buyers for the three months ending March 31, says it bars any products that pose a health or safety hazard. It also pledges that for every item that comes onto eBay, it “run[s] thousands of proprietary risk-based evaluations.” EBay is home to approximately 2 billion listings at any given time, according to its latest Global Transparency Report, which it released on Tuesday. Clothing and accessories are the top-selling category on eBay, per Printify, while fitness products rank third and bike accessories rank eighth.

So far, eBay has managed to block 99.2% of prohibited items before they appear on the marketplace, it says. These can include anything from counterfeits to prescription drugs to recalled products, Mike Carson, senior director of global policy and regulatory management at eBay, told Modern Retail. EBay uses a mixture of technology and human oversight to enforce these policies. For instance, eBay runs AI filters on every listing’s keywords, images and location data to look for indications of a violation. It also tracks recalls through consumer regulator databases and through direct contact with regulators. Manufacturers or retailers can flag recalls to eBay via email, as well.

Sellers who list certain hard goods like bike helmets, car seats and cribs on eBay need to make sure those products are new, per eBay’s policy. EBay has found instances in which people misrepresent the condition of these items, Carson said, although he emphasized that doing so doesn’t benefit the seller.

“If they misrepresent something that’s used when they said it was new, they’re probably not going to have a successful transaction. So that incentive is built in,” he said. In most cases, though, sellers who break the policy are not aware of the rules. “It’s not always a nefarious situation,” he said. “As soon as we can educate them, they’re usually more than happy to comply.” EBay offers protection to all buyers through its Money Back Guarantee.

GoodBuy Gear: Manually checking every product for safety

Likewise, GoodBuy Gear, which sells new open-box products or returns on its website and in its retail stores, also requires all items to be clean and in working condition. GoodBuy Gear carries approximately 1,200 baby and kids’ brands, including Bugaboo and Doona. Generally, it rejects under 5% of products, although that number rises to 12% for car seats, many of which can become damaged in shipping, Megan Larsen, vp of business development at GoodBuy Gear, told Modern Retail.

GoodBuy Gear gives each item it accepts a unique product code that employees individually scan when that item comes to the warehouse. Doing so generates a checklist that employees then manually go through to approve or veto the product. These checklists vary by category but include checks around broken parts, fractures or stress marks. A stroller typically has 20 quality checks, while a car seat has around 30, Larsen said.

In the past year, GoodBuy Gear has started accepting used car seats, and it has a checklist for these, too. Sellers have to sign a form that says the seat is less than eight years old, that it has never been involved in a crash and that they’ve only cleaned the product with manufacturer-specific cleaning products.

Car seats, both open-box and used, make up over 20% of GoodBuy Gear’s sales volume. GoodBuy Gear gets 400,000 to 500,000 unique visitors a month across its site and stores, per Larsen.

Kaiyo: Keeping hygiene in mind

Kaiyo, a used furniture platform, does not sell baby products in the same way that eBay and GoodBuy Gear do. However, it does sell weight-bearing furniture and kids’ furniture and evaluates all products to make sure they are stable and hygienic, Petra Wise, Kaiyo’s svp of CX and merchandising, told Modern Retail via email.

As of 2022, Kaiyo had some 6,000 items from a variety of sellers. That year, Kaiyo told Modern Retail it had grown more than 100% year-over-year for about six years. Kaiyo, which was founded in 2016, picks up furniture from sellers, although it does not accept household appliances, cribs, mattresses, electronics or disassembled or recalled furniture.

Kaiyo employees receive training on their first day of work, as well as once a quarter, on how to identify potential signs of infestation in a product, including markers of bed bugs, Wise said. Employees also inspect each piece of furniture that is brought in to make sure it is clean and structurally sound. Then, they re-clean the furniture, wrap it and store it in a temperature-controlled facility. 

“Kaiyo has stringent quality policies that allow us to provide our customers with a safe, sanitary and trustworthy experience,” Wise said. “We maintain a strict zero-tolerance policy for accepting items showing signs of contamination.” In addition, she said, “Because our teams meticulously handle each item end to end, buyers can purchase confidently, and sellers know that we’re doing everything we can to help maximize the value of their listings.”