(This article is sponsored by Kijiji)
Daniel Fu doesn’t come across like the guy who stars in the hypercharged Second-Hand Van show, a web series he does in partnership with the online classified service Kijiji. In fact, sitting on the Starbucks patio at the corner of Mainland and Nelson streets, the Coquitlam-raised Fu is calm, reasonable, and thoughtful.
On the program, however, he demonstrates a near-manic energy in search of cool secondhand goods.
The recently completed Season 2 features him zipping around the East Side on vintage motorbikes and sprinting on the beach near Tofino with a used surfboard. So what gives?
“When we’re filming, we’re going from place to place to place,” Fu explains. “So in order for me to get other people excited, I need to be very excited. I need to be very animated.”
Fu, 32, is no newcomer to the secondhand economy. He graduated from SFU in 2008 with a marketing degree, figuring that he would be hired by a company and get on with his life. But he had the bad luck of coming out of university just before a global economic meltdown.
“I couldn’t find a job, so I started looking online for something to buy and sell when I met my mentor and friend Jeff Schwartz,” Fu recalls.
Schwartz is also an old hand in the secondhand economy.
According to Fu, his friend sold enough secondhand goods over more than two decades to afford to live in the British Properties in West Vancouver.
“We had a conversation one day and I said, ‘There are all these shows—Storage Wars, American Pickers, and the like,’ ” Fu says. “Those are all made up. This is what you do. I’m like, ‘We should see if there’s a production company that wants to do a show.’ ”
This is what gave birth to The Liquidator: On the Go, a program about the secondhand economy broadcast on the OLN and Discovery channels. The pair travelled around the world in search of bargains, with stops in such locales as New Delhi and Palm Springs. It was fast-paced and outrageous and made Fu a recognizable figure to some on the streets of Vancouver.
“They didn’t know it was a Canadian show when they saw me walking around,” Fu says with a smile. “They would say, ‘Hey, aren’t you from the States?’ ”
After The Liquidator concluded, Fu was approached by Kijiji to do a web series, Second-Hand Van, to promote the secondhand economy in Vancouver. Kijiji is Canada’s largest online-classifieds site and, according to a Leger poll, the second-most-admired Internet brand in the country.
The program is designed to show local residents that it’s fun, easy, and safe to buy and sell goods through its site. The first episode of the second season shows Fu visiting Space Lab, a zany Chinatown shop full of vintage oddities. It’s a favourite haunt of film and television art directors in search of vintage props and devices.
Fu says that people in this sector need a website like Kijiji to find products for their productions. And this episode features people who hit their refresh button regularly on the Kijiji site in search of new products. “You can only make so much repro and then you’ve got to find the real stuff,” he says.
The episode called “Let It Ride” reveals a thriving vintage-motorcycle culture in Vancouver as seen through the eyes of rider Becky Goebel and mechanic Tony Potoroka, who builds old machines from the ground up.
“I think the demand is always there for collectibles,” Fu says. “Right now, even ’90s stuff is getting huge. I was a kid who grew up in the ’90s. Things I found were cool are coming back.”
According to Kijiji, Canadians bought, sold, swapped, or donated $1.9 billion in 2016. British Columbians, on average, bought 82 secondhand products last year—four times more than the average Canadian.
Fu said that working in the secondhand economy is an environmentally responsible way to make a living. He also points out that putting products on Kijiji, even for free, makes it easy to declutter one’s home without tossing a bunch of material in the trash.
“I try to recycle as much as I can at home,” he states. “If I can make money and take stuff away from landfills, why wouldn’t I? That’s my social responsibility.”
He acknowledges that some people have trepidation about selling products online. But he suggests that Kijiji’s platform is a safe place to do business. And if a person is meeting someone to buy or sell a product, he advises doing so in a public place, like the inside of a Starbucks. It’s a bit like online dating in this regard. And if the product is extremely valuable, like a Rolex watch, Fu advises meeting in front of an automated teller machine.
“Nobody is going to rob you when there are cameras everywhere,” he says. “A lot of times when people are selling higher-end products, I suggest they meet at a bank.”
If buyers are unsure about the authenticity of a brand, Fu says they can ask the vender to accompany them to ask a retailer to have it verified for a fee. “Chances are when they don’t want to go to the store, then it’s too good to be true,” Fu notes. “That’s a tool you should use.”
So what does Kijiji offer that other online classified services don't?
"You can promote posts, so you can always make sure it's at the top," Fu replied. "You can run special ads and ad spreads. There's a capacity for video and for uploading your website."
It's helpful to him because for Fu, it's all about cutting out the middleman.
Fu’s parents are immigrants from Taipei and he speaks Mandarin fluently. And he thinks that his heritage and his parents' example gave him the work ethic that he needs to succeeed in business and in life.
“If anyone wants to reach out and do a show in Mandarin, I would love to do so—especially here, with the mainland Chinese population growing so big,” Fu said with a smile. "Put that in the article."
This article is sponsored by Kijiji