Hey y'all - there's a Southern Blizzard going on right now which means the bread aisles are empty, the hardware stores are out of shovels and sleds, and people are selling snow related stuff on Craig's list. D got K a great snowsuit on Craiglist yesterday when we were anticipating 15 inches or whatever the rumors were. However, it was kind of expensive. Doesn't mean we can't turn around and sell it next year when there are snow rumors for a decent price though.
So it got me thinking about buying stuff on Craig's List. It's like a never ending cyber-yard sale there. I've bought clothes for K off there - you can get some stuff in good shape since kids grow out of stuff so quickly. I also got my entertainment center VERY cheap and a fisher price toddler rocker. While it can be a place to get great deals, there are a few things to think about.
If you're the buyer...
1. Pay cash or use a pay pal account. Don't give random people you don't know a check. There are too many ways to steal your identity nowadays. Bring in small denominations so it is easy to negotiate and pay on the spot once you see the item. Which brings me to...
2. Negotiate via email, but do not commit to purchasing without seeing the item. No matter what the pictures look like, it may not be in as great shape as they say it is.
3. Be ready to go see/get the item right away, especially for hot items or items that seem to be a really good price. You can compare the item to new and used prices online just by checking it out on Amazon. The sooner you contact the person, the more likely they will be to hold it for you.
4. Buy local and be prepared to pick up the item yourself - borrow or rent a truck, etc.
5. Use common safety sense. When you go to visit an item or pick it up, Google the person you're buying from and the area you're going to. By Googling the person you can find out a lot about them and whether or not they're legit. If you can, bring a friend with you. If not, make sure you bring your cell phone and let people know where you're going and when you plan to be back. Go in the daylight and/or meet in a public place to make the exchange if possible. I hate to say that all of this is especially true if you're a woman, but you are more likely to be victimized than big men are unless you're a black belt in karate like some of my friends. And this should go without saying, but don't bring your kids unless it's a public place. Especially if you are purchasing children's items - there are some weird people out there. Though the majority of people you would buy from on Craig's List are probably honest and forthright, you don't want to take unnecessary chances.
6. Consider bartering - maybe you have an item they could use that they would take in exchange or as part of the payment.
If you're the seller...
1. Don't give out your personal information on the post (phone number, email, etc). There is an option to mask your email and allow someone to contact you via Craig's List. Use an email address that doesn't have your name in it (I have a separate account for these kinds of purposes).
2. If you feel the person is legitimately interested in your item arrange to talk over the phone or meet in a public place. You can give them your name and some contact information at that time.
3. If you have to invite someone to your home to see an item, make sure other people are home with you, other than your kids.
4. Be prepared to give change using cash, otherwise instead of $15 someone might say, will you take a $10 since you can't cash their 20.
5. Do not take a check. It could bounce. This is especially true for large items.
6. Do not agree to a payment plan - the reasons for this should be obvious. If they need financing, have them get a legitimate loan or pay with a credit card via paypal.
7. Google your items to see what they are going for new and used on various sites. Try to price your item appropriately given the amount of wear and tear and what others are selling it for. If you price too high you risk heavy negotiation and may get a lower price than you wanted. If you price too low, people with think there is something wrong with the item.
8. Post (good) pictures. People like to see what they're getting. I add "good" because I have seen pictures of people wearing the items in question in the pictures (Not good, people. No one wants to imagine your sweaty feet in their new boots, and if the item doesn't look so great on you, it doesn't inspire confidence that it will look great on them). I have seen pictures of people smoking on the couch being sold. Common sense, folks. Common sense.
9. Don't lie about the condition of the item, but don't list all of it's nastiest features either. After all you are trying to "sell" it. People are more likely to come see an item listed as "Well-used but comfy couch, recently cleaned, would look great in your apartment with a little TLC" vs "Couch for sale - multiple holes and pet stains. Would look good if you cleaned it or put a cover on it. Want it out of here by Christmas - you move it." That said, you should probably clean it and patch it up a bit first if you plan to sell. One man's trash may be another man's treasure, but most of us still prefer our treasure not to smell like the back room at a bar (or a pet shop).
10. Remove your posts once you've sold the item to avoid continued inquiries.
I'm sure there are other people out there with more Craig's List experience would could add to this post, so feel free!