Wal-Mart tests free online classified ads

Retail giant is mounting a direct challenge to Craigslist with a beta of a free classifieds service, powered by start-up Oodle.com.

Wanna buy a cute, cuddly Shih-tzu? How about a 1993 Chevy truck? A three-bedroom, two-bath house in Maryland?

Think Wal-Mart.

Wait a second before you decide the big-box retailer has gone gonzo with the concept of selling everything under the sun. It's actually testing the waters with a beta of free online classified ads.

The site, launched last week and powered by Oodle.com, carries more than 40 million listings because it taps into Oodle.com's already-existing postings. Start-up Oodle.com aggregates listings from more than 80,000 local and national sites.

Wal-Mart's free service allows sellers and buyers to post and search for items in seven categories and in major U.S. cities.

The effort is a direct challenge to Craigslist, which offers free ads with the exceptions of job postings in some cities and brokered apartment listings in New York City. However, the two services aren't identical.

Advertisers can pay Oodle.com for higher placement on search results or via an auction-based system.

A report in The Wall Street Journal notes that Wal-Mart has piloted programs in the past before ultimately deciding against keeping them for the long haul. Movie downloads was one of them.

For a bit of entertainment, check out the list of items that can't be sold via Wal-Mart's classifieds.


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