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Online car boot is a hit with buyers

By Canterbury Times  |  Posted: August 16, 2012

THE A-TEAM: John Mitchell, Julian Richardson, Jo Hobbs, Tony Rix, Lisa Braden, Jan Growns and Heather Farmes (front)

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MOST bosses would be delighted if their company was gaining 120 new customers a week, with a regular client base of almost 7,000 people.

And now a team of volunteers can boast those figures, for a scheme started as a Facebook page.

Kent Online Car Boot was set up less than a year ago, yet has become the first port of call for people looking for anything from an aquarium to a zebra – a toy one, at least.

Mum-of-three Jo Hobbs told the Times she was amazed at the site's success – and also at some of the things that crop up for sale on the digital-age online marketplace.

Jo, 35, who lives in Swalecliffe and used to run a cleaning business, said: "It was started last year by a lovely guy called Tony Rix.

"He called me up and said: 'I've started this really cool site for people to sell their stuff on. Please add all your friends!'

"I did that and then around Christmas he asked if I could come and help to run it, as it was getting massive. We've now got almost 7,000 members."

The forum has three parts: an online "car boot" sale, a trade directory and a "most wanted" page. There are some strict rules – you can't sell pets, no bidding is allowed ("a price is a price") and the members, like any community, sometimes squabble or get generous.

Behind the scenes, a team of moderators works together to make sure things run smoothly. It is necessary, because sometimes people try to sell some very strange things.

Jo said: "You'd be surprised at what has appeared. Bondage gear, knives; someone was even looking for 'spare parts for an AK47'. I'm not convinced they were joking so I banned them from the site.

"A lot of the work we do is more simple though; like making sure people put a proper description up, a price and a location.

"We also have to stop online rows: people can be very brave behind a computer screen sometimes and occasionally you'll see a ridiculous squabble over something for sale for about £1."

The team say members are very generous though. Jo said: "There's a little girl called Darcy Kay with a rare form of cancer, and so we have had several auctions to raise money for a charity that has helped her a lot called Chelsea's Angels.

"We also raise money for other charities; the other week we sold a chocolate cake for £230 in a matter of hours."

Many of the moderators hadn't even met each other in the flesh until last week, when Jo called them together for a team barbecue. She said: "They are really nice people, all putting their time in for free. I conduct the circus from an iPhone, it's amazing really.

"I had to stop work after my son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and OCD. I'm home most of the time and it's also a chance for me to have some grown-up conversation."

To join the site, search Facebook for Kent Online Car Boot.

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