Fairly used items: two sides of a coin
It is usual practice among some people to take old items, which they consider unwanted to the secondhand markets, hoping to replace them with new ones. These items usually include, household utensils, electronics, clothes, books, footwear among others. At these markets, dealers in secondhand goods readily buy the articles cheaply to sell them at higher prices.
Buyers of secondhand goods are everywhere, as an appreciable number of persons believe that fairly used items, especially those from Europe and the United States are more durable and cheaper than new ones produced locally. So, they patronise the markets for practically all their needs.
And irrespective of warnings by health experts that some of these fairly used items, such as clothing, toiletries and even electronics could be easy way of transferring diseases, buyers still flock to the secondhand markets, while importers and direct sellers smile to the banks.
But there is an aspect of this type of buying and selling that is often overlooked. This is the fact that, stolen items often find their way into these markets, which if purchased could land the buyer in serious trouble.
Explaining that secondhand goods come in different grades and prices, Mark Nwakpa, a secondhand goods dealer, said Nigerians are making good money from the business. According to him, some businessmen travel to European countries and the United States, where they obtain the goods, which range from vehicles and their spare parts to toys, clothes, household items, medical appliances and industrial machines. He said dealing in secondhand goods is a multimillion-naira business and that the market is huge.
“Secondhand market is complex, and there is virtually nothing one wants there that he/she won’t find,” he said. “Indeed, it is easier in most cases, to obtain used items in the market than get new ones. The market is so huge that dealers have to partition it into segments to deal with different items.
“When importers bring these items, we usually sort them out, depending on their grades and brands. This makes it easy for buyers to know where to go. It is to get the market organised, that it is segmented, so that buyers may know where to get specific products.”
Commenting on some of the wares, Friday Uchenna, who deals in industrial machine parts, said the items are unique because they have been tested and found durable. He explained that some of the materials are not really fairly used, but because they have stayed for too long on the shelf or are past shelf life, they are disposed off as used goods. So, when we come across such items, we separate them from used ones and sell at a higher price. Some of the items are also those that have been involved in accidents or goods with factory defects. Such goods have to be repaired before being sold.
For vehicle parts that were involved in accidents, he explained that the dealer either repairs them and then sell or he/she sells them in the state they are.
“If the items were repaired, the cost of repairs would be added to the selling price, though there is sometimes the risk that they are not properly fixed. But there are still buyers that would buy such items in their bad state and effect necessary repairs or use them as scrap to amend others.
“We come across all types of goods and we sell them according to their quality. We even sell some higher than prices of new ones produced locally, because we know they are of higher quality and could last longer than the locally produced types. We also galvanise some to make them appear as new and sell at a higher price. The main thing is making money and secondhand market is just it, because any good sells,” he said.
Uzoma Adichie sells fairly used clothes, and in her opinion, there is simply no comparison between imported items used and those sewn locally in terms of finishing and quality. According to him, foreign attires come with different labels, which give instructions on fabric maintenance. Despite all this, however, the clothes still come cheap.
Said he: “Sometimes, when we buy these clothes first grade, we wash, iron and repackage them as new, with the buyers not being aware of this. We use detergents with nice fragrance to wash them, which deceive buyers into believing they are buying new clothes,” he explained.
How safe is selling and buying fairly used items?
Madam Rita Nze said the business has its pros and cons. “Sometimes, we are trailed by security operatives, mostly Police or Customs officers, who often come to arrest sellers and even buyers, accusing them of selling contraband goods or stolen items. They extort various sums of money from us, that is, if such goods are not seized and the seller or buyer arrested.
“It is to protect buyers and sellers that we belong to different unions. And each time we bring in goods, the union scrutinises them to ensure they don’t belong in the category of goods security operatives go after. But after all such precautions, the officers still come, the union handles them,” she explained.
For Azuka Nmerenini, who deals in generators and used vehicle parts, the business is such that one can just not run away from police issues. According to him, some sellers of used goods come with the impression that they are the rightful owners and if dealers are not smart enough, they might be courting trouble, as such goods are usually stolen.
“Though there are people that buy and sell stolen goods, but such traders only put their customers at the mercy of security agents,” he said.
Still enumerating some of the shortcomings inherent in secondhand market, Yewande Azizat explained that there are some syndicates that connive with the police to defraud buyers.
“This group would display such items as, generating sets, refrigerators, vehicles or anything that easily draws attention for sale. After a buyer has paid and is about going away with the product, the security operative would stop him/her for interrogation somewhere off the market and probably take some money from him/her, giving the impression that the item in question was stolen,” she said.
For peace to reign, she said buyers are often made to forfeit such items, which are not usually receipted. Calling on buyers of secondhand items to always be on the alert, Azizat urged buyers never to allow themselves be persuaded to buy stolen or questionable items and that they should always collect receipts.
On what to look out for when buying secondhand items to avoid buying stolen goods, Michael Idu, a dealer in secondhand spare parts and member of goods monitoring group of Ladipo Market in Oshodi, said buyers should avoid buying from people that sell along the road, as such sellers are usually touts, who steal items only to sell same along the road. They usually relocate to another area after selling their wares and may never come to that location again.
Advising buyers to always take note of sellers and their shop numbers, Idu said buyers should not be too much in a hurry to purchase used goods. Rather, they should inspect them thoroughly and ask necessary questions, which if not properly answered, should be a warning not to buy.
“Buyers should watch out for any signs of erasure, alteration of names and figures and ask questions about them. They should not be carried away by the seller’s friendly approach or persuasion to lure them into buying questionable or stolen goods. They should also know the original price of the items of interest, as most times, these thieves want to dispose of the stolen items quickly. So, they sell at give away prices. Run away from such if you don’t want trouble,” he advised.
Other Signs To Alert You
• Sellers of stolen goods do not issue receipts and even if they do, some of the receipts do not have numbers and addresses.
• If the items are not foreign, demand reasons for selling and listen attentively to the answer, while also observing the body language.
• Do not buy items that are sold in hidden places or makeshift shops.
• Ask for documents showing proof of ownership or original papers in case of vehicles.
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