Before Craigslist, there was ... radio!
What do you do when you have some extra honey, a trailer, or an old sofa to sell? How about if you're looking for an old local recipe for gooseberry cobbler, or maybe you want to find out who has scrap metal that you can haul to the recyclers? What if your dog just had puppies and you need to find homes for them?
You could place an ad in the newspaper, but that usually costs money. You could put up a "For Sale" sign, but only a very limited number of people will see it, and those who do will likely be in too much of a hurry to investigate. You could ask people you know, or post little notes on bulletin boards at the cafe and the feed store. All good ideas, but do you ever think of getting on the radio?
Radio trading shows, also known as "talk shows" or "trading-post shows," are call-in broadcasts that allow listeners to advertise items for sale or trade, and things they would like to purchase. Calling these shows is generally free. Hundreds of radio stations have these broadcasts and it is likely that you have at least one in your area.
Most trading-post shows are found on AM (MW) stations. They usually air in the morning, though some are heard during the afternoon hours. Most of the stations that have them are in rural areas, but some are in mid-size towns. They can be of any format: gospel, country, oldies, news-talk, variety, or community stations. The only kind of station that won't have a trading show is a "Top 40" or pop station. Most of these stations are owned by media conglomerates, use predetermined playlists, and keep a minimum of staff in the studio. But locally owned stations of all kinds may have trading shows.
Given the widespread availability of this advertising medium, it is surprising that more people do not use it. Unlike syndicated talk shows, trading-post shows are usually easy to call into and get on the air. Usually there is no call screener; the soundtrack of the show is audible over the telephone until the host gets to you; then it's your turn to go on the air.
Finding a local trading show
If you don't know of such a show in your area, there are a few ways to find one. You can simply listen--surf the AM dial every hour or so between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., the time frame when they are most likely to air. You can also ask people in the community if they know of any. Or, you can actually call the radio stations and ask them point-blank if they have a radio trading show.
Depending on where you are, it is quite likely that you will find not just one but several different stations with "trading posts." It is a good idea to write down the time of day, station (call letters, frequency and location), and phone number for each one you find.
If you're not familiar with these types of broadcasts, you should listen a few times before trying to call in. Keep a notepad handy in case you want to follow up on any of the callers. Most of these shows are aired Monday through Friday, or on certain days. Some of them air on Saturday, but virtually none on Sunday. If your local trading show airs on Sunday, it's a safe bet you live in a hard-core Adventist community.
Calling in: The basic rules
Once you've become familiar with the style of the broadcast and you're ready to call in with something yourself, make sure it's within the bounds of what is considered appropriate. There are a few things that are generally known to be unacceptable:
* Advertising for an ongoing business. If you are running what is obviously a business service or making and selling a product, the station will want you to pay for a commercial rather than using the free trading post. However, the boundaries on this are sometimes hazy. For example, someone may buy, fix up and resell vehicles as a part-time business, and in some cases a person who does this may be able to get away with calling regularly to tell about different vehicles for sale. It just depends on the station; some will be stricter by far than others.
* Pornography, erotica ("dirty" books), or sexually oriented items. We shouldn't even have to mention such things, but alas, we do.
* Anything that may be of questionable legality. That includes game meat, raw milk, guns, radar scramblers, endangered plants, and exotic pets or livestock (in some places).
* Check the laws where you live. In Indiana, for example, it is illegal to sell or "barter" game meat at all. You can give it to family and friends, or donate it to a non-profit food bank, but not sell it. Also, in the U.S., remember that radio is considered an interstate commerce medium since it can be heard across state lines.
That last one might make this whole thing sound too complicated, but it's really not. Most ordinary items are never going to be a problem, and as you get acquainted with radio trading posts, you'll get used to knowing what could be a problem. In the meantime, focus on the 99% of things that are not a problem, i.e., just about everything else. People use radio trading shows to buy and sell trucks, tractors, horses, drum sets, apples, desks, eggs, books, cookware, stereos, hay rakes, cinder blocks, flower bulbs, partridges and (seedling) pear trees.
The style of these shows is usually quite casual. Callers normally sound the way they would during ordinary conversation. On some stations the action is fast-paced, and the host(s) will try to move the calls along quickly. On other stations, generally those with lower call volume, the host can linger a bit longer with each caller, sometimes even asking questions and encouraging the caller to tell more about the items being sold or sought after.
Since there is usually no call screening, you will probably not be asked your name, and most trading-post callers do not say their names on the show. If there is a chance that someone else may answer the phone, however, you might want to give your first name so they will know for whom to ask. And when giving your phone number, remember to include the area code, since you will be heard by people in other codes also. Even short-range stations will sometimes be heard by faraway listeners if atmospheric conditions are right.
Take note if any particular rules are followed by particular stations. Some will have a limit on how often you can call (e.g., twice a week), while others have no such limit. Some stations will limit the number of items you can talk about at each call; others make a rule that you can only give out one phone number. On most radio trading shows the host will repeat your number at the end of the call and give you a chance to affirm or correct it.
In many of the listening areas where trading shows are heard, a sense of community forms around the show, and certain "regulars" may call once or more each week. Sometimes (depending on the host's style and the general rules of the station) the host may spend a bit of time chatting with these regulars when they call.
In addition to selling things, callers sometimes make other announcements via the radio trading posts. Announcing an upcoming event in the community is usually okay, as long as the event is free (for paid or ticketed events, the station would rather you buy a paid ad space, more likely than not). Lost-and-found announcements are also welcome, as are "wanted" announcements. Some listeners call in for other reasons: to warn others about a current scam or con game they have experienced, or to ask for a certain recipe, household tip, or other pieces of information.
Be a good listener
Of course, you can learn a lot about how to trade on the show, by actually listening to it. And you will likely hear about things you are already considering buying. As a buyer's market, radio-trading shows are about as cheap as auctions, sometimes cheaper.
On some stations, sellers will be allowed to give long explanations and histories behind the items they're selling, a feature which is sure to fascinate some and just as sure to bore other listeners. Since the caller is not paying for each word the way a newspaper advertiser would, being concise is not an issue, unless there are too many callers and the host is urging them all on. The most important thing to listen for, though, is any indication of location. Sometimes the item being offered is too far away to be worth it, if you can't arrange for it to be brought somewhere closer. But then again, distance is relative, and too far for a small item may not be too far for a large or important item. For example, it might be worth making a journey of 100 miles to buy a combine or thresher being sold at a bargain price, but it probably would be foolhardy to make a trip of such distance to buy a clock radio or an apple basket set.
Sometimes I have obtained remarkably good bargains from the radio trading posts: a filing cabinet for $12, a good typewriter for $10 (Ed. note: We can verify Jeffery gets a lot of use out of that typewriter!), and most recently, a set of nearly 30 old copies of Mother Earth News for $6. (Most of them were from the 1970s and the famous 40th and 59th issues were included in the set.) To put that in perspective, those magazines would have cost a total of $80 or so on the newsstand back then. On the other hand, not everything you may hear advertised on the air is a particularly good bargain. But it's a general rule that prices will be lower than at a private auction or in a newspaper ad.
Occasionally there will be things offered for free on the show, with or without strings attached. The only thing to be on the lookout for is the possibility that something you get free could be a liability, as if it is dangerous or stolen, although this is usually not the case. And of course, free kittens and puppies are often offered on trading shows, and they in their own way can be liabilities!
Home on the range?
Every radio station has a range, which is the area in which it can normally be heard, and the size of the range has a lot to do with the listenership. A more powerful station has a greater number of listeners, of course. But the amount of feedback you expect from a trading-post show does not necessarily correlate to the station's range size. Depending on a number of factors, such as the economics of the area and the popularity of the station's format, certain ones will be more active than others. For example, KKOW (860 AM) in Pittsburg, Kansas has a vast coverage area including parts of four states and encompassing sizeable cities such as Joplin, Springfield, and on a good day, Tulsa. It has a listener potential of well over half-a-million sets of ears. On the other hand, KKOZ (1430 AM) in Ava, Missouri has a signal that barely reaches the middle of the next county. It covers an area that is not only small in size, but rural and very thinly populated. Yet in my experience, the latter station's trading show gets more response than the former.
While I can only guess as to all the reasons why, the bottom line is that KKOZ has a more active trading post than KKOW. (The two stations are unaffiliated despite the similarity of call letters.) In fact, KKOZ claims that the trading post is the most listened-to hour of their broadcast day. One reason for the situation is probably economic, since KKOZ covers a relatively low-income part of the state, with a thrifty population. Another reason is that KKOZ is the only locally-owned radio station in the vicinity, and serves as the general community information source (broadcasting everything from severe weather coverage to high school sports, and from sermons to election results, in addition to a variety of country, gospel and bluegrass music.)
On the other hand, KKOW is a relatively specialized station (classic country music and a few talk shows) and covers an area quite economically and culturally different from the other. It seems that what activity there is on KKOW's trading post, strangely enough, is almost confined to the town of Pittsburg itself, which is not all that enormous as "big towns" go. (Pop. 20,276 in 2011 according to Wikipedia. --Ed.)
When a trading show is very active, callers will sometimes respond to an ad or announcement immediately, in an attempt to be the first. Other times, callers will wait until the show is over. But just because someone doesn't respond to your call right away, that isn't an indication that nobody will. Sometimes a call will come in a day or two later. Listeners may have to get to a telephone; you never know who is listening to the show while kneading bread dough, shaving, gardening, or giving a horse a shot. Some listeners may also be waiting to budget the cost or talk to their spouse. And remember, nobody should be on the phone during a thunderstorm.
Using the radio trading posts is a way to save some money, make some money (in some cases), and be more resourceful. If you become a "regular," you'll also most likely get to know more of the people in your community. Try it one of these days. Hey, I might be listening!
BY JEFFERY GOSS, JR.