When the World Health Organization was preparing to declare COVID-19 a global pandemic last March, the online classifieds platform Kijiji was inundated with high-priced deals on hand sanitizer, face masks and other panic items.
With toilet paper packages worth up to $ 80, Kijiji decided to temporarily ban the sale of these products.
A year later, the website is again inundated with pandemic-related ads. But this time around, prices are low and the listings portray a portrait not of greed but of broken dreams, loneliness, and financial despair.
Behind every advertisement there is a story about something lost. Here’s a look at what some Toronto residents are selling:
- Beloved Canon Photography Gear: “COVID Killed My Business.”
- Limited Edition Epiphone Les Paul Nightfall Guitar: “Never giggle, thank you COVID.”
- Ikea table and 3 chairs: “Because nobody dines with me.”
And it goes on.
“There’s always a human story,” said Kent Sikstrom, community relations manager at Kijiji Canada. Describing the site as a microcosm of the human experience, he notes that consumer trends “speak to what we all go through”.
Last year’s search trends reflected a country suddenly forced to work, play, and socialize in isolation – a 102 percent increase in searches for desks and office chairs, and a 112 percent increase in searches for treadmills, ellipticals and free weights Percent and three times more is looking for puppy and kitten companions.
The individual listings, however, suggest darker, more heartbreaking situations: lost jobs, downsizing, no grandchildren, bankrupt businesses, canceled birthday parties, and nonexistent holidays.
There are pet owners who hand over cats, dogs and rabbits that they can no longer take care of. Some sell loved items because they need the money, while others just have nowhere to go in their new Tory Burch wedges or weightlifting belts.
Every sales item stands for a year of change, adaptation and perseverance.
A bride-to-be who never had her big day
Aisha Ali met her fiancé on Twitter in 2014 because of a mutual love for Game of Thrones. She was 17 and lived in Toronto; he was 18 in New York. For seven years they flew back and forth as often as they could, They married until they finished school, settled down, and got their parents’ permission.
Ali says she sells her lehenga for less than she paid to import it. (Kijiji Canada)
But just three weeks before their planned wedding on April 17 last year, Canada closed its border with the United States, leaving the bride and groom stuck on opposite sides. The event for 100 people at the Markham Convention Center north of Toronto – complete with popcorn stands, photo booths, dancers, drummers, a 10-plate snack table and floral decorations to match the bespoke red and gold wedding dress of the bride from Pakistan, called the Lehenga – was made called off.
“It wasn’t even about the wedding,” said Ali. “It was the fact that I just wanted to be with him and finally start our life.”
Almost a year later, later, the couple are still waiting for that day. The lehenga that Ali used to sit and stare on is now wrapped in a bag waiting to be bought by a new bride who is more certain of her wedding date.
“I just hope it’s someone who is as excited about their wedding as I am,” she said.
5-string banjo has to work
It looked good for Mark Ducsharm, who was going into the pandemic.
A promotion at the metal shop where he is production coordinator enabled him to move from his shared apartment in southern Etobicoke to his own downtown location. However, after battling the mental exhaustion of the COVID news cycle for five months and missing out on his connections with friends and family, Ducsharm began spending money as a coping mechanism to stave off the familiar creep of the Depression.
Mark Ducsharm, pictured outside his Etobicoke apartment building on Tuesday, is selling his guitar, banjo, amplifier and couch on Kijiji to make ends meet. (Sam Nar / CBC)
A donation to a struggling friend, rising monthly living costs, and a loan to replace a broken car drove Ducsharm out of town and into a cheaper sublet in Etobicoke. Three months after scraping together money for rent for the first and last months, he is now selling his guitar, banjo, amplifier and couch to make ends meet.
“It was a decision I made not to go any further down the street and in a few months I’m still afraid the bills will be paid,” said Ducsharm, who is now more mindful of his sanity. “Selling those few properties got me back on schedule. Things are turning around.”
Camera and microphone for sale – like new condition
Jason (Jay) Kubassek felt like he had been kicked in the stomach when he first found out about the shutdown in March last year. The portion of his Toronto-based mentoring business that hosted live events for up to 500 people was nearing the tank.
Kubassek becomes emotional when he describes his decision to sacrifice his own financial stability so that he can hold onto his tight-knit group of 60 employees for the past 12 months. He’s skipped his own paychecks, foreclosed a house, and asked landlords to postpone rent on his company’s three offices.
“It was the right decision, but financially it was devastating,” said Kubassek, adding that his company was not eligible for government support.
As part of his efforts to stay afloat, Kubassek is selling the company’s live event equipment to transform it into a digital future and produce virtual events as The Wakeup Co.
“We’ll make it,” he said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”