Craigslist. Firstly, this place doesn’t get enough credit for being the marketplace of the future. It’s incredible that when we don’t want something anymore, we can upload a photo to the internet and a little while later a stranger shows up and gives us money for it. REAL DOLLARS! Let’s just take a minute and think about how cool that is. It’s like a continuous virtual garage sale!
Disclaimer: I am fully aware that there is a certain amount of unsavory activity and scams that transpire on, and because of the site, but for purposes of this article we are only going to focus on the classifieds portion. That is the buying and selling of perfectly good used goods.
In my experience, I’ve found that surrounding Craigslist transactions are two powerful emotions on opposite sides of the spectrum. A person either feels pride or shame when telling a friend or colleague where they bought their new sofa. Those that are proud are proud for a good reason. They got something they needed while simultaneously doing a favor for someone else; taking an item that is no longer needed off their hands. Those that feel shame are fools. They buy into the narrative that buying something new is best and give credence to those that think if you don’t buy it new, it’s not worth buying. Those people must be stopped. As Dime Dad, part of my mission is to eliminate the shame and build up the pride from the Craigslist transaction.
The pride comes from a sense of accomplishment in finding a good deal and saving money on something you needed. For all you new readers, real Dime Dads seek out those opportunities.
Top 3 reasons Craigslist should be the first place you stop to shop (and sell).
- Cost – used items have partially, if not wholly, depreciated by the time you view the posting
- The barrier to purchase is higher – Although you can browse in the comfort of your home, you can’t buy quickly and easily from your home
- Everything sells – If you have old things that you think no one will buy, think again. Remember, if you bought it new, someone will buy it used (for less)
A few months ago, I was enjoying the commute home from work on my bike when something peculiar happened. As I went to shift gears, The shift lever just popped off! It was a Friday, and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get the required parts and fix it by my Monday commute, so I went to Craigslist to rent a used bike.
Rent a bike, you ask? Why yes! After all, isn’t that what we do with most of our stuff anyway? We buy it, use it for a time, and then get rid of it. That is more or less the definition of renting.
That night I trolled Craigslist until I found the perfect replacement. It was a well-taken-care-of cyclocross bike that had been sitting around for a few years. Because it was nearly seven years old, it had already fully depreciated. Negotiating the price down was easy because the owner wanted to get rid of it. Less than 18 hours after I lost my reliable mode of transportation, I had another one! Let’s see you do that this easily with a car! (That’s another topic for another day, however.)
I knew this bike wouldn’t be mine for more than a few months, so I staged and took pictures immediately when I got home to use for my future Craigslist posting after I fixed my broken bike.
I enjoyed using this bike as my primary mode of transportation for a few weeks until I was able to obtain the necessary parts and fix my bike. It was a great bike, but when the time came it was easy to sell, and I even made a nice $50 profit!
Now, I don’t usually recommend buying items on Craigslist to “flip” unless you’ve got:
- Lots of free time
- A great eye for value
- A handy demeanor to be able to fix up a lot of variety of different items/appliances.
I have sold thousands of dollars worth of items I no longer use and have probably saved a few thousand by buying used as opposed to new, too. There’s nothing quite like the 30 seconds after the Craigslist transaction. Both parties are giddy and satisfied. The seller just got rid of something they never use in exchange for something they can use, cash. And the buyer just got a great deal on something they needed but was savvy enough to buy it used. It truly is a beautiful thing.
For those of you who are new to the Craigslist marketplace, or if you just want some tips on how to make your experience more enjoyable, please, see below:
Dime Dad’s Guide to Craigslist:
How to Sell:
Spend some time on your posting
If you’re going to take the time to post your item on Craigslist, you might as well take the time to do it right. The posting is the ad that’s selling your product, so make sure it does just that, sells the product. You want your item to sell quickly, and to do that, it has to be attractive to potential buyers. Wipe the dust off and stage it in a well-lit environment. Take high-quality, close-up shots that show off the item in an attractive way.
Write a description that actually describes the item and its current condition. Try to use words like charming words like “vintage” instead of “old.” While using words to sell this product, do not be misleading! Write a quality description of the item and how it has served you well, and then disclose any defects both in word and photograph that the buyer would need to know before making a purchase decision.
While this does require an upfront investment of time, it’ll save you time later. Nothing is worse than fielding question after question via text or email about the condition of your toaster. Even worse is when a potential buyer shows up to purchase and then walks away empty-handed because they were overly-optimistic about the item’s condition.
Try not to meet at your house
If you can help it, try to meet the buyer at a public place. Some examples include a nearby park or a grocery store parking lot. Doing this benefits both you and the buyer. While I mentioned earlier that we would only be discussing the good parts of Craigslist here, scammers are out there, and it’s just better to meet a stranger in a public place with others around if possible.
If you’re selling a larger item, like a couch, or meeting in a public place is out of the question for another reason, try to have someone home with you, so you’re not alone when you invite a stranger into your house.
Don’t use your real phone number
Again, scammers are out there, and since it’s just as easy to text or call with a different phone number, I recommend doing it. My preferred method is with a Google Voice phone number. I registered for a free phone number, and with the Hangouts app, I’m able to text and call for free. The app is available for free on both iPhone and Android devices. I recommend this to both buyers and sellers.
When selling on Craigslist, you are essentially a small business owner, and you should strive to provide excellent customer service. If you prefer text inquiries, write that in the listing. If you can’t respond to an inquiry while at work or otherwise occupied, put the hours you’ll be able to respond in the listing. That way people will know when to reach out or when they can expect a response. And finally, once an item sells, promptly remove the listing.
How to buy
Negotiate ahead of time
When engaging with a seller on the purchase of an item, always try to negotiate and settle on the price ahead of the meeting. The only time negotiation should happen at the meeting is if the buyer sees flaws or damage not disclosed in the listing.
If you reach out to a seller about purchasing an item, you are the driver of the conversation. If the price is too high, or you’re no longer interested in the product, let the seller know so they don’t have to wonder whether or not they should field other offers.
In closing, just try to be a good person, Craigslist, and the world will be a better place for it.