Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thank you, “G…” for wasting my time

Such was among the parting words of a perspective seller from Craig’s list.  
Over a weekend, I had spotted a laptop that had some impressive specs which the owner had relisted with a price drop.  His ad reflected that it was one of two that he was selling because his job was ending and he was going to be starting a new job in Arizona where they only used Macs (Apple).  In my response I indicated that if he could offer a package deal that I might be interested in both.  I included my local telephone number so that if the seller had an interest, he could contact me promptly.  I received an email back indicating that he would be willing to sell both for $400 (they had been listed at $220).  While this was a discount, I didn’t find it compelling and did not respond to it.  On Wednesday I received a phone call from the seller.  I expressed that the package deal was too much for me, but that I may be interested in one.  In conversation, the seller reiterated that he was moving to Arizona but apparently with the same company and that the company was switching over to Macs so there were more than 2 computers being sold.  I told the seller that I could call him Thursday morning so that I could examine my work schedule and work out a time to meet.  The seller responded that his phone may be changing also so it was left that I would email him Thursday mid-morning.  I sent a follow up email indicating the model that I was interested in at the $220.  The seller responded that unfortunately he no longer had that model available, but only had a model with very similar specs but a slightly slower processor.  On Thursday mid-morning I emailed asking if he would accept $200 and identifying a location where we could meet (based on his geographical preference from our Wednesday call).  The seller responded that the lowest he could go was the $220 and that he was not available until 730pm.  I didn’t respond.  I suspect that the seller may have attempted to call me at some point later in the day.  I don’t know for certain as the seller never provided his phone number and I did have some calls with blocked numbers come in.  (I usually don’t pick up the phone for blocked callers with the presumption that any legitimate caller will start to leave a message).  On Thursday morning I was greeted by the seller’s “thank you” for wasting his time message.  I extended the thank you back to him although it was clear that he didn’t see it that way.  This experience is a great illustrative learning experience.  

Here are some lessons learned:

1.  Timeliness is important for both buyers and sellers.  This cannot be over-emphasized – if you are trying to sell on Craig’s list, you need to respond quickly to inquiries by sellers.  Sellers can be fickle (yes, I’m guilty) – when they are inquiring is when they are most ready to buy.  In my experience above, I responded on the weekend because I was most available on the weekend.  As time elapsed, I had time to think about it and the deal collapsed.  Yes, in hindsight, I should have been more timely and clear to the seller such as clearly by stating that his price wouldn’t work for me, thank you and move on.

2.  Better to regret losing a deal than regret losing money on a purchase.  If the deal doesn’t sound right, run to the exit.  I tend to be an non-trusting person – the stealth-like operation of the seller and little inconsistencies (e.g. having multiple computers for sale, failing to identify the company involved, etc.) significantly contributed to this deal falling apart.

3.  Craig’s list is all about buying and selling locally.  When I provide my local phone number and a seller chooses to respond I think it is reasonable for them to reciprocate with their contact number (or at least not hide it).  This will be one of my new rules… why should their privacy be more important than mine?  A Craig’s list transaction is a gentle dance of building sufficient trust to consummate a deal.  I will note that my attitude here is not because I place any great reliance on the telephone number but I feel it is one of courtesy and a desirable basic quality to support a local transaction.

4.  Contrary to what is generally recommended, I prefer doing transactions at the seller’s home or work place.  What this says to me as a buyer is that the seller has a degree of confidence in what he is selling.  I believe it is far less likely to be stolen or defective if the seller is selling it from his home or place of work.  On the flip side when I sell items, I generally prefer the same.  The reason for this is simply that I don’t enjoy trekking all over town to wait for a buyer who may or may not show.  One caveat I will note is that if I don’t establish some level of comfort with the perspective buyer via email, the transaction will not progress to this point. 

5.  Finally, Brace yourself – There is a wide range of personalities out there and when you sell on Craig’s list you will encounter individuals who won’t be your “cup of tea.”  In those situations you will need to decide whether you can do business with them or if it is better to walk away from the deal.  Mr. "wasting my time" seller confirmed my suspicions as to his character.

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