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Everything Good in My Life Comes from Bunz, Too Bad It Might Land Me in the Slammer

Weed and booze trades are all well and good until it's a copper on the other end.


Photo via Flickr user Hagit Rozanes

I'm 35, so I must be too old to be considered a "millennial hipster" by New York Times trend piece standards. That being said, every day you can find me constantly refreshing and endlessly scrolling through the Bunz Trading Zone, haggling with moustachioed contemporaries over vintage makeup cases or antique Singer sewing machines in exchange for bushels of kale. If you're not one of their 36,000+ members in Toronto (hang your head in shame), it's Facebook's flea market where no money is allowed, only trades. Tokens and tall cans are the main currency.

Most people spend years running away from who they really are. I am comfortable in my surly Bunz hipsterdom.

I got my wicked cool vintage ottoman in exchange for a bottle of red. Twenty antique picture frames in exchange for two TTC tokens. A bag-full of last seasons' H&M fashions for moving boxes plucked from my basement. Nina, Django, Duke, and Miles records on vinyl in exchange for two blank canvases I just happened to have. I even found my new apartment through the satellite Bunz Home Zone group (I wish I could pay rent with tokens and tall cans, but alas...). The Helping Zone, Dating Zone, Feminist Zone, Anger & Venting Zone, and Punz Trading Zone also keep me rather busy. The joy of decluttering! Sticking two fingers up to capitalism! Fucking the patriarchy! Sharing puns! I feel like I can finally be me! #Bunz4lyfe! My anaconda don't want none unless you got... and I won't finish that thought.

There's an old saying though, "if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is." And Bunz is like that beautiful toy-boy that I can't stop texting even though he only replies with, "k." With the recent surge in media interest and membership (there's currently over 36,000 members compared to 3,000 this time last year), Bunz has seen an increase in profiteering, and has become rather toxic for women and minorities, but mostly it is also a hotbed for illegal activity. Turns out my wicked cool vintage ottoman could land me in the slammer.

It used to be the only problems on Bunz were the people who flaked on trades. That sucked but it didn't kibosh my Bunz buzz. Now the problems on Bunz are bigger, and the admins are understaffed and ill equipped to handle them. The main reason to trade an item on Bunz is because you can't sell it on Kijiji or Craigslist, so trading insured you might get something useful in the bargain. I had an unopened The Body Shop gift pack—worthless to the buying market—and I traded it for an iPad charger, something I could definitely use.

Lately, instead of following that ethos, the profiteering and unreasonable ISOs (In Search Of) has spiked. Bunzers are trying to get the full retail price of their items, or above market value for second hand/used items, or they're just flat out asking for money in private messages (strictly against the rules). Last week a Bunz member offered to trade their Birkin handbag in exchange for "a cute vintage car, or two years' worth of rent."

Imma let that sink in for a moment.

In a group where people trade cold slices of uneaten pizza for a double-double from Timmy's, someone wanted you to pay their rent in exchange for something you throw your shit into when you're in a rush to catch the bus.

READ MORE: What It Was Like to Party Inside the Mall That Time Forgot

So profiteering is a problem, but it's a little problem compared with the flagrant racism and misogyny of some Bunzers. There's an old white proverb: "How is that racist?!" which is the common refrain from gaslighters, trolls, and MRAs flooding the Trading Zone and the satellite group with comments, memes, and attacks that are queerphobic, transphobic, abelist, misogynist, and anti-refugee. The admins and mods of the group have had their hands full recently, banning and deleting users and threads that violate their terms of use. To their credit, they have kept up as well as possible, and are currently interviewing more admins to help with the overflow.

And if a good old-fashioned hate crime won't get you in trouble, then the blatant drug trafficking will. A very popular, very public, and largely unmonitored ISO of choice for most Bunzers is "420" or "smokeables." Bunz wants Budz! Your euphemisms are on fleek, bruh, but COME ON GUYS. When Bunz only had 3,000 members, this very public call for an illegal controlled substance might have flown under the radar, but now, with more than 30k, there are bound to be a few (dozen?? hundreds?) coppers lurking in the background. It is all too easy for The Filth to pose as a legit Bunzer, agree to trade with you, and show up at your house with handcuffs. (I'm not being paranoid, promise!)

Picture this: you organize to trade a little amount of pot, no biggie. Not enough to get you in trouble, but after being lulled into a false sense of security, you get to chit-chatting, and the discussion goes to larger amounts. And just like that, they've got you. You're fucked, and The Man is completely within their legal rights to do so. (Hurry the fuck up, pretty boy.) It doesn't count as entrapment. It's such a problem that last week a criminal lawyer had to remind Bunz that:

1. Despite Justin Trudeau's call to legalize marijuana, pot is still currently illegal.

2. You may think the cops are dumb, but even blunt instruments can decipher "smokeables" and "420."

3. Posting in code is not a legal defence and won't keep you out of jail.

4. The absence of money does not negate trafficking.

5. Entrapment is a very specific scenario that does not include one party offering illegal services to someone whom they do not know is a copper.

6. Sting operations ARE done on the little guy.

7. Even if you have a permit for medicinal marijuana, you are only permitted to buy from these dispensaries, otherwise pot is 100 percent illegal to buy. Still.

8. Giving booze and cigarettes to minors is illegal.

That last point should not be ignored. As I mentioned above, I have done many trades where I gave a Bunzer a bottle of red in exchange for their items, as have hundreds of others. Not once did I ask for an ID to make sure they were of legal drinking age. I just assumed everyone was a cranky, ornery 35-year-old like me. It didn't even cross my mind.

By the way, "it didn't even cross my mind" is (unfortunately) also not a legal defence.

So please enjoy Bunz responsibly. Don't put any self-incriminating evidence on a public site accessible to thousands of people. Toronto is a city of six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Everyone knows everyone. If you think word won't get out that you're trafficking illegally on the largest online broadcasting network we have, think again. Keep that shit in private messenger. Stick to tokens and tall cans. And for fuck's sake, don't wake n' bake then flake.

Follow Christine Estima on Twitter.