humour,Life stories The Dark side of Facebook marketplace: confronting Racism online- Part one

The Dark side of Facebook marketplace: confronting Racism online- Part one

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Warning- The following post contains both silly and dark humour. Proceed at your own discretion.

I started this blog to talk about a range of racism, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination people receive daily in the UK and elsewhere. I was planning to share my personal experiences, but my recent experience turned this blog into Rachel’s English trifle.

I will try to be more serious in the next blog on this topic, I kinda promise!)

I have several drafts waiting to be bloggified or novelised. These outlines or drafts are inspired by a sudden FRB of thoughts that flood in when I am about to fall asleep.

Not trying to be EB White or Mary Shelley, but who knows!! I may have already been a quarter of the way there.

Believe you can and you’re halfway there.

Theodore Roosevelt

Talking about these FRBs (in an astronomical sense- literally). My FRB of thoughts often deliquesces immediately, unless I pen them down. But the problem is I cannot always type on my mobile phone without my reading glasses, and thanks to my organising skills,(or lack of) I cannot always find my reading glasses. By the time I see my reading glass and breathe a relief of sigh, my thoughts are already in Rwanda, with an unknown force preventing them to re-enter the brain. What a Patel to tell!!

It may sound like the silliest excuse to acquire a laptop- which it is. But the real reason is that sometimes quite often I am too lazy to walk to the office room from my bedroom at night.

My daytime is often encumbered and I usually have some free time at night when I can pursue my hobby. And if I keep a laptop by my bedside, I may also save some money on my energy bills by not heating an extra room. (Yes, second semi-valid excuse)

With a low budget and high ambition, my journey to acquire a laptop begins.

The first place I looked at was eBay.  I wanted a refurbished laptop with “Lowest price +P&P”.  The search returned cumbersome results, and I had to narrow it down to fit my budget.

There was still a lot to choose from. I could choose Santa laptops (that is- if a laptop could grow beards), religious ones (plug and pray) and Zen laptops that could help me practice patience while it boots up.

None of these was appealing.

I wanted a laptop that doesn’t want to take a shower, brush its teeth and perform a full yoga session before deciding to display the welcome screen. But I also wanted to spend less than my monthly energy bill. Quite a contradiction, or it seems.

The most frustrating part on eBay was these Ryanair-inspired sellers. You buy a laptop, then add the components, turning a £75 laptop into over £200, just like in Ryanair where you buy a ticket for £15 and when you add a seat, luggage, priority boarding and breathing facilities onboard, it becomes £150+.

Who would want to buy a laptop without RAM, or a hard drive, or a display?

I didn’t really care about the appearance of the laptop; it was the internals I was checking–literally the inside that counts (fast).

I couldn’t find any that would fit my budget.

The next stop was Gumtree, but it was short-lived because there were no laptops on sale within my range- both in price and distance.  

So, my quest to acquire a cheap laptop advanced towards the mighty Zuckerbaazar, otherwise known as the Facebook Marketplace.

First, there was an enormous selection to choose from. I could choose from “Lab Top” to “soiny viao” and “red laptop” to “selling because I don’t need it” laptops.

The first ad that caught my eye was a nice (cosmetical and specifications) laptop that was offered with a free bag. The price was pretty good too. Without thinking, I messaged the seller with the famous/ready-made verse “Is this still available?”

As soon as I pressed send, I noticed something unusual. The seller had ”forgotten” their password, and apparently it “can be reset in a local shop.”

I immediately “left” the chat.

Thankfully, the seller did not respond immediately, and the advertisement vanished shortly. Perhaps their partner, who they thought left them, returned with the croissant and milk, as promised. Or perhaps the seller realised the password was the word forgotten (all smalls no spaces), and it worked- as told by their dying partner.

My venture resumed.

The second one I inquired about was for a Chromebook. I never owned a Chromebook and at first, I was appealed by the idea, because I heard they are relatively faster.

But the seller said they won’t be available for 24 hours. Although the Chromebook was ridiculously cheap, I was not prepared to wait.

This seller answered all my questions and was very polite. (Five stars, seller! – if you are reading this). But I had already abandoned the ship, so I politely informed them that the dog ate my wallet. 

The third, and final one (so far) was the inspiration for this blog. As I stated earlier, I had something completely different in mind when I sat down to write this blog, but this seller forced me to change the plot.

This particular ad was posted a few hours before I contacted them.

“What is the screen size, please?” This was my first question, omitting the famous verse.

“I don’t know,” came the reply. A bit cold, I thought, but it IS the coldest time of the year.

“Do you have a model number for this, then, please?” I asked again, hoping to retrieve the information from the web.

I got the model number, checked online, and it matched my requirements. Quite excitedly,  I asked for the collection location. The seller promptly gave a city instead of the address. I thanked the seller and asked whether they prefer cash or bank transfer.

The seller responded promptly, with “I will get back to you”.

24 hours later, I was still waiting to be “get back”.  The laptop remained on sale, but the seller has gone into hibernation- so it seemed. With a sigh of disappointment, I asked the seller if the laptop was still for sale.

I received the online version of the cold shoulder. i.e. They read the message and ignored it.

It was strange. I liked the laptop very much and wanted it, but I was getting no response. As a second attempt, I logged into my other Facebook profile and searched for this seller in the marketplace.

This other profile isn’t called Sunil Karki, it has a Christian/Western name. I created this profile during the lockdown to start an online business which didn’t work out as expected, however, the profile remained active with my 19 precious friends.

Let’s call my original FB account profile one and the other account profile two.

I messaged the seller from profile two with the famous question, without editing or adding any form of politeness.

“Is it still available?”

The seller had ignored my message from profile one, so I wasn’t building up any hope.

To my disbelief, the seller replied almost instantly,

“Yes, it is”

I didn’t respond immediately. I waited, hoping that they would respond to my message from profile one.


After 20 minutes, I fired another question from profile two, and again, I received a very prompt response.

And I was still waiting for this seller to confirm whether they prefer cash or bank transfer on profile one.

Then I asked the seller from profile two if they have a preference for buyers.

This time, the seller didn’t respond.

My investigation didn’t confirm anything, but left me with a big question- am I overthinking or people do judge?

I moved towards another advertisement, using profile one. This time this seller promptly told me it was sold and offered me a similar one. This person was very polite and professional and answered my questions promptly. Unfortunately, the specifications didn’t meet my expectations and I had to decline.

With this pleasant experience, I semi-abandoned the idea that I was being discriminated against because of my name.

The search continued and I found another reasonably priced laptop. The advert said it had a missing lead, so I asked a question about it but didn’t get any response.

To ensure that I am not jumping to conclusions, I decided to use profile two. I also decided to use two versions of questions- the polite one and the not-so-polite one, for training and quality purposes.  

These were my questions

“Do you have a model number for this, please? And is it just the lead, or the adapter is missing too? Thank you,” (Profile one)

“What’s the screen size? Is there a model number I can google for specs, thanks,” (Profile two)

Guess which question got the response? Yes, the second not-so-polite one.

Not only I got a prompt response, but I also got a photo of the laptop.

I had to abandon the semi-abandonment I mentioned earlier. The culprit here was my name. Either it is very offensive, or it translates as “this man prints his own money. If you sell anything to this person, they will claim your house” in some language.

Or it could be my dodgy-looking profile photo.

I felt a bit uncomfortable, slightly offended to be precise. As far as I was aware, I was polite and just wanted to buy the laptop. Getting upset or angry was pointless, but I felt that I had to do something about it. So, I sent this exact message, using profile one.

“Thank you for your response. Apart from trying to buy a laptop, I was also doing a social experiment. You ignored the message from (profile one) but responded instantly to a message from (profile two) despite the latter being not very polite.

I hope you will never have to experience this or any other type of discrimination- because trust me; it hurts. I hope your laptop sells and all the very best. “

I also attached the screenshots from profile one, highlighting the time. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get any response.

Was it racism I experienced or was I overreacting? I understand that people need to stay vigilant and wary, as there are many scammers around. But not responding to a simple message because you have an unfamiliar name is simply wrong. I am confident that these two weren’t coincidences.

Whatever happened to the “thou shalt, not judge?” I wasn’t giving up.

More on the next blog.

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