Craigslist for Dummies

Written by Cel

Craigslist is a much-maligned resource. It has a bit of a sketchy reputation, which admittedly is somewhat deserved. But don’t let that scare you away! I found my current job on Craigslist, and my current apartment. However, where Craigslist (or equivalent sites like Kijiji) really shine is for buying and selling.

It makes a big difference to your finances when you buy used, and/or sell things you no longer want rather than just disposing of them. Doing both of those can reduce expenses of certain hobbies (e.g. video games) substantially. It’s not uncommon for me to buy a game, play it, then sell it for $0-5 less than what I paid. Once, I even made money buying a game on sale at FutureShop, then selling it for more than what I paid after I was done.

Here are some tips to follow to make your Craigslist transactions run smoothly. This may be common sense to those who are familiar with Craigslist, but may be helpful to those who are new to buying and selling through such sites.

1. Only buy things you are knowledgeable about – at least to the point that you can verify its condition. I have never once been burned by someone selling a bad product, but it does happen.

2.  Don’t waste time meeting people. There are many flakes, and you don’t want to travel for 30 minutes just to have someone not show up. I usually get people to meet at the lobby of my apartment. That way, if someone doesn’t show up, you have not wasted any time. If you don’t want people to know where you live, just pick the closest coffee shop near you.

If you do have to travel to meet someone, confirm the meeting with them before you leave. It’s very unlikely they will lie and say they are coming when they really aren’t – they just won’t reply.

3.  Post a detailed ad that gives all the relevant info about your item. If not, you have a lower chance of selling and will waste time replying to emails asking basic questions over and over.

4. Always confirm the price before you meet. Just because your ad says $40, won’t stop some asshole from showing up and saying “I thought it was $20”.

5. Don’t give out your address (or other location to meet) to multiple people at once. I saw one guy complain that he gave out his address to multiple people to come pick up his free furniture, and then he had to deal with the second and third people getting angry after they showed up and it was gone. I couldn’t understand why he would do that – you don’t want random people showing up at your place, you want one person – the guy who will take your item.

Only give out your address to someone when they have made a firm commitment to coming to pick up your item – either right now, or a concrete time and date (tomorrow at 6pm).

6. Price your items at a reasonable level. If you’re selling a used Xbox 360, don’t charge $150 if you can get a new one for the same price.  At the same time, if you charge too low, you may be losing out on easy money. See what other people are charging on Craigslist for the same or similar product, and price accordingly.

I recommend charging close to what you think is the maximum price you could reasonably get, and then waiting a bit. If there are no takers after a few days or a week, then lower the price. Don’t be in a rush to accept a lowballer who offers 20% of your asking price – holding on to an item for another week is no big deal if you’ve already had it for a year.

7. Articulate emails are important. If you’re buying, take the time to craft an intelligible email. It makes it more likely that the seller will want to sell to you (assuming they are offering a good deal and have multiple buyers). As a seller, I’ve often found that the worse the email is written, the less likely it will result in a successful sale.

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