Sunday, August 19, 2012

G's Craig's List Tips

I love Craig's list and have referenced Craig's list in multiple posts.  Craig's list may be a great way to score a bargain or to convert your unwanted possessions to cash.  The premise of Craig's list is to bring together local buyers and sellers.  The purpose of this post is to discuss this great resource and to offer some practical tips.

Face to face transactions are a key consideration; keep in mind that the "other" person whether they be buyer or seller will be different than you.  This can mean different values and different behaviors than yours - brace yourself; you will probably like some and may even enjoy some chit chat; some will test and may even exceed your patience and tolerance and some will not even be rationale (no, I'm not kidding, some will be downright crazy and I don't mean in a good way).  Example, I once sold a coffee percolator for $5 and even set it up to demonstrate that it worked.  Thereafter, I was contacted by the purchaser who expressed that he thought I miss-represented the item... are you kidding me, Mr. Big Spender?  In this case I flat out told the guy to bring it back in the condition that it left and I'd be happy to give his $5 back... yes, you will find some Craig's list patrons are just plain short of a full deck (and no, he never brought it back... sometimes you just need to tell them to put up or shut up).

Before even getting started, you need to evaluate whether Craig's list is for you.  If you don't want to deal with people like Mr. Big Spender, you might be better off to make a charitable donation.  The Salvation Army and Goodwill are excellent options.  Keep in mind that Mr. Big Spender may not be the worst that you see - you could get unlucky and land a stellar patron who swears and threatens you on the phone.  Yes, they're out there, also.  Fortunately, by far most of the sellers and purchasers that I have dealt with have been reasonable to deal with and I will continue to use Craig's list with reasonable precautions.

Tips for Sellers:

Price your item to sell.   If you don't have a good handle on pricing, I suggest searching similar posts or Ebay sales to assist you in setting a price.  If you over-price, your post will get stale and your chances to sell will diminish quickly as time elapses.  Even if you re-price, your post will still be stale and buyers may avoid it because they will think something is wrong with the item or post (otherwise, it would be sold by now).  If you do over-price and your post goes stale, I would suggest removing your post for a few weeks and then re-posting with a new price, a newly worded description and new pictures.

Do not; I'll say it again, DO NOT agree to mail your item anywhere for any price.

For the most part, avoid "holding" an item for a buyer.  Insist on a prompt transaction.

Be descriptive!  Provide detail!  Provide specifications such as model numbers, color , sizes and an objective description of condition.

Copy and paste information from manufacturers with caution - sometimes this can be too much information and turn off purchasers.  Also, make sure it's accurate.  Often items such as computers may differ from publicly posted specifications and the manufacturer's laundry list of specs is just too much.

Include at least one picture with your ad.  I don't understand these sellers who say "email for photos" - why aren't they included right from the start?  It just sounds like laziness to me and reflects on the personality of seller.  As a potential purchaser, if I need to ask for pictures, I am turned off right from the start (and likely won't bother responding at all).

Written receipts and copies of any warranties are appreciated.  A receipt is a way to provide the purchaser with some reassurance that they are not buying a stolen item.

Think through your sale environment.  Some will agree to meet in a public place "out of concern for safety."  This might be OR it could suggest to your potential sellers that something is wrong with the item (stolen, malfunctioning, etc) and you don't want them to be able to trace it back to you.  I had a teenage seller wanting to meet me "on the street" to sell his Ipod because his mother didn't like people coming to the house... could have been legitimate, but not too appetizing to many purchasers.  (No, I didn't buy it).

If you price your item well, you will likely get more than one inquiry.  Some may feel "first come, first served" is the "fair way" to handle this; I do not agree.  I strongly recommend using some discretion in selecting who you will respond to first.  Those jet setters who respond with their Iphone or smart phone within seconds of your posting, may not be your best bet... they will likely be off chasing the next "deal" and not be the most reliable.  I like the ones who respond promptly with reasonable grammar and a local phone number.  Yes, I have a little tolerance for a typo or minor grammatical issues, but if I struggle to read your inquiry, it turns me off.  I respond first to the inquiries that strikes me as most likely to complete the sale with the fewest headache.  When I have multiple responses to my ad, I do NOT respond to all inquiries.  Some may regard this as rude; I regard this as a prudent business decision.  Craig's list keeps your identification and email anonymous; once you respond to an inquiry, you have identified yourself.  Don't set yourself up to receive abrasive emails by unnecessarily emailing all 20 people who respond to your hot listing for an Ipad.  You may think you're being nice by letting them know the item's been sold, but after you receive a scalding profanity laced email in response, you may come to quickly agree that not responding to every inquiry makes good business sense.

For less popular items, you may not get a lot of responses.  For these type of items, you need to be prepared to respond promptly to inquiries.  Don't post your ad the day before you are leaving on vacation.  The greatest likelihood of selling is soon after the post; your post becomes "stale" after about a week and your chances of a sale will greatly evaporate.  Buyers can be very fickle; they want to buy NOW and NOW is when they send the response to your ad... in an hour, their mood may change or they may have spent their money on some other foolishness... don't miss out on a sales opportunity, especially when trying to sell a "hard to sell" type item.

Always, always, remove your post after your item has been sold This will save much annoyance for you and others.

Now that I have shared my hot tips for sellers, get busy; clean your house and convert that unused clutter to cash.

Tips for Buyers:

Be clear in your response.  Here is an actual response that I received from an "interested" buyer:
Subject:  intrested (sic)
Message:   im going to [location] tomorrrow morning at 9 if u can meet please let me know
First, at the time that I received this response, I had around 5 posts on Craig's List... so exactly which item are you interested in?  Second, most of my items were around $20, the proposed "meet location" was about 30 minutes from the posted location... would it really make sense for me to scramble to meet this wing ding?  Furthermore, the tone of this response is "everything revolves around me [buyer];" there is little consideration for the other party [seller].  I suppose if I were desperate, I might try to engage this prospective buyer, but I'm not desperate and prefer not to deal with this personality type.

As I stated in my tips for sellers, including a phone number is a good move.  Sellers feel that you are serious about arranging the transaction.

Be aware that spam filters may place your response in the Seller's "trash" folder.  Make sure your subject is clear as to your interest.  If the seller states in their add to place "key words" in the subject line of your inquiry, do it.

Avoid impulse buys.  Good deals come and go every day; if you miss one, that's ok, another one will come along.  Unless you already know market values, watch the listings for a few weeks before moving on to purchase so that you get a better feel for what constitutes a good deal.  Establish your target price.  If a post comes up close to your target price, don't hesitate to make an offer.  (I realize some seller's state "firm" or "no low ballers"... these posts turn me off in general as I like a little "haggling;" for these type of posts, I tend not to respond unless their posted price seems like a great deal from the get go).

Consider the sale environment... if the ad reads "something like $x.xx (ridiculous low price) if sold tonight" and then you need to go to an unsavory part of town at 11:00pm, you may want to reconsider.  Any sale that outright identifies that time is of the essence should be suspect.  Why are they so strapped for cash that they "need to sell tonight".  These types of ads speak to the personality and lifestyle of the seller.

Never feel pressured to buy due to an arbitrary deadline set by the seller.  I once went to check out a Netbook being sold by a local pawn shop that had advertised on Craig's list.  When I arrived, I was told that they (pawn owner) needed to know right away if I was going to buy it because someone just called and this other potential buyer needed to take a bus so the pawn shop didn't want the other potential buyer to go through the trouble if I were buying it... that was an easy "no thank you."

Examine the item carefully.  Craig's list is all about local face to face transactions.  Take your time, ask your questions and if the item or responses don't feel right to you, be prepared to walk away.  I like to understand why the seller has decided to sell.  This helps me to gauge whether they took good care of the item and also whether they may be willing to negotiate on price.

Regardless, of what the seller says in his/her post, consider your purchase "as-is".  The seller may say that there is "5 months" left on the warranty, but don't bank on it.  That 5 months may really be only 4 months OR quite likely that warranty may not be transferable.  Use extreme caution when purchasing electronic devices or items that are incomplete and "just need a few screws"... those "few screws" may turn out to be specially designed and hard to find and after time and aggravation may cost you more than if you just bought new from a reputable retailer.

Your time and travel is part of the cost.  I never cease to be amazed how far some people will travel to buy an item.  This may not be such a big issue if you are doing this as a hobby, but if you are using Craig's list to save money, you need to figure this as part of the cost.  If you travel an hour to buy a $10 item, was it really worth it?  Maybe you would be better off spending $20 and getting it new.

If you have a smart phone or tablet (either Apple or Android), there are "apps" which may be helpful.  Some of these "apps" may provide you an alert when an item in the category and with your key words is posted.  For "hot" items like the latest Ipad, these apps are very helpful.

These tips should help get you started if you want to find a bargain on Craig's list, but experience is also a great teacher; learn from yourself.  Now go out there and score a deal!

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