Gumtree has played a part in most people’s lives since its conception in 2000. Providing the great British public with many of its essential needs for well over a decade – whether it’s a new shed, one night stand or an unhinged flatmate, the online classified website has it all. On forming part of our digital furniture like television adverts and BBC weathermen did in the 1980s, the website provides a universal portal for people to share, trade and form new relationships. Embraced by the illiterate and super educated alike, Gumtree has cut through social and racial differences and provides a welcoming home for everyone in society.
Modern flatshares are almost entirely reliant on the success of a classified ad. What I have noticed is the clear discrimination working-class men face in trying to find a place to stay on Gumtree. The majority of the London flatshare adverts state they are after ‘female professionals’ or if gender is not an issue then professionals or students may only apply. Where is the guy who works in the crisp factory going to live? Is a ‘professional girl’ in a call centre working as a customer service representative a more desirable member of society than a hard working plumber on 35k a year?
Sticking to our own kind is entirely natural and women in particular have to be careful. Gumtree is a feral website and provides an anonymous forum for the dispossessed, lonely and members of society that nobody else cares about. Usually they are male but not exclusively. Gumtree has also exposed a shocking increase in illiteracy levels in this country. This poor guy certainly didn’t use a spell checker before replying to my flat advert in 2008.
i just wants to know if ur room is still avilbell,so i can halla at ya and c if u avbel to rent me one of those room witch going to be free by 12th of march.well i am studint n i allredy have my acommodation booked till 10th of march so i tink if ur room is going 2 be free n if u dunt have any problem with having 21 years old studint around,Every ting going 2 be allright.if u dunt mind ill going 2 leave u my number so u can get back 2 me.
Suffice to say my room was not ‘avilbell’ to Sean but after meeting a series of freaks, misfits and miscreants from across Europe and being rejected by all of them. Desperation takes hold and you have to take leave of your prejudices in order to pay the rent. As a result I have shared a living space with a motley crew of bizarre characters courtesy of Gumtree. For while the silent majority have been lovely, friendly and thoroughly decent people; like the American House of Representatives, the lunatic fringe always seems to have a disproportionate influence on any flatshare experience.
Some of my flatshare highlights have included a homophobic cleaning Nazi, a manically depressed doctor and one insanely hairy Georgian. All of these characters proved to be insufferable over time. It usually takes about a month before the hidden nuances of these professionals are fully exposed. For like George Orwell in his book ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’, I too have met “eccentric people – people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent”. Alas there is now a familiar place for the eccentric and ill-balanced to find a communal home, but I can’t help wish they would stick to buying a garden shed.