Sunday, January 1, 2012

Craigslist tips and tricks

I am an avid 'Craigslister', and in my years of buying and selling (and giving stuff away for free) using this online marketplace, I've developed a list of tips and tricks that may help others.

Include Photos
  • Include as many photos as possible, from different angles, with doors open and doors closed, in different light.  "Photos can be supplied on request' isn't sufficient - just include the photos on the posting in the first place.  I will skip past listings that don't include photos, and I definately won't go to view an item unless I've pre-qualified by seeing a photo beforehand.

Use lots of descriptive words in your post
  • Write a descriptive post, but then also include a brain dump of search words in a section at the bottom of the posting.
  • When people are searching for dining table, if you want to ensure your 'kitchen table' comes up in the search, you need to include the word "dining table and diningroom table"
  • Include common mis-spellings of all relevant descriptors. ie. Armoire and Armoir
  • Consider the different ways to describe an item, for example: bedside table. Some may call this an 'end table' or 'side table', 'night table' or 'nite table'.
  • Consider the different ways your item could possibly be used by someone.  If you describe your item as a 'phone table', you are restricting the searchable terms and possible uses for the table.  Include in part of your write-up alternative uses for the same table, such as: entry table, console table, end table, bedside table, occassional table, entertaiment unit, bookcase, livingroom table.  Also include general terms such as "furniture', as well as the style of furniture, ie. 'modern'.
  • My personal style of furniture is 'shabby chic', and I search on this term  ALL THE TIME.  Make sure to include the style of furniture, or name brand of the item if applicable.

Make, Model & Measurements
  • If the item is clothing, be sure to include the size and brand label
  • Make sure to include the measurements of the item, even if you think it should be obvious.  For example, if you have bar stools for sale, indicate the seat height in inches.  I was recently in the market for a DVD player, but only have a  limited area on my entertaiment shelf to make room for the unit.  Your item will be far more marketable if you include all of the relevant information in the post description.  I don't know how many times I have disregarded a posting because I couldn't be bothered to email them to ask them for measurements.
  • Include the make and model of the item. Sony 40" LCD TV model #XX-XXXX.

  • Indicate your city name in the location field.
  • Do not include a list of cities (Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Moody), and do not indicate a sub-section or area of town as your location (ie. Champlain Heights or West End). Once you are in contact with an interested buyer, you can then be more specific about your location, but until then, people just need to know if you live reasonably close to them.  I have disregarded many posting because I'm not familiar with the area name they have listed for their location, so I move onto the next posting.

Free items
  • When you are posting free items on Craigslist, please be curteous to your fellow Craigslister.  Manage the transaction the same way you do a paid transaction.  Take the interested parties in order that they contacted you.  Commit the item to the first person that will come and get it, but advise the next in queue that you will contact them if person #1 doesn't follow-through.
  • Most free items go really FAST, so post your item at a time when you will be home for the afternoon or evening, and can manage the onslaught of calls or emails. Delete your listing as soon as the item is gone.
  • Do not simply put your item out in the back lane and put 'first come, first serve' in your posting.  I don't want to drive across town to find that the item is already taken.

Phone number
  • I recommend including your phone number in the posting so that people can call to enquire. In all my years of buying and selling on Craigslist, I have never had any issues doing this.

List only one item per post. 
  • If there are a few related items, it's OK to list them together.  Ie. Sofa, loveseat & chair.  If you are listing multiple items, be prepared to sell them separately and indicate separate prices for the items.
  • Do not have a laundry list of household items for sale with title "Moving out the country - must sell everything'.  When the list is too long, people don't sift through to find the item they are looking for.

Safety & fraud
  • Because Craigslist is a cash sale marketplace, there are bad guys lurking, especially for larger ticket items. Visit the "Personal Safety Tips' and "Scams & fraud" sections of for more tips, and always use your best judgement and listen to your gut.

  • If the item that you are selling or giving for free is damaged or doesn't work properly, be sure to disclose that.  I recently replaced my kitchen faucet because it was leaking.  I gave away the old one for free on Craigslist with full disclosure on the issue.  The person knew exactly how to fix the faucet and find the replacement part. It was a win-win.

Be on-time
  • As a buyer, be on-time for your viewing appointment, or call the seller and advise of your change in plans (tardiness, cancellation, reschedule).
  • As a seller, be on-time as well.  Your buyer may be travelling across town to view your item, only to find that you are not home when you said you would be.  This has happened to me many times.

Remove posting once item is gone
  • If you have multiple items listed together on one posting, go in and edit the posting to remove the item that has sold. 
  • Do not simply add "SOLD" beside the description of the item.

Keeping your posting current
  • Craigslist allows you to go into your posting and 'renew' it on a regular basis.  This will re-date the listing to today's date, and puts it at the top of the search listing.

Pricing and negotiation
  • Typically, used household or electronic items sell for 1/3 to 1/2 of the same/similar new item today. Do your research to see what other identical or similar items are selling for.  I've made the mistake of pricing things too low, and had an onslought of buyers eager for the amazing deal.  I've also priced things too agressively and had the item sitting unsold for quite a long time. My best advise is to start with an agressive price, and reduce the price until you start to get some nibbles. I almost always negotiate the price down about 20% for used items that I'm buying, and I always build in 10-20% for negotiation in my asking price, ie. if I want to net $50 from an item, I'll list it for $55 or $60. Know your pricing!

Test the item before buying
  • This seems obvious, but I've made the mistake before, and learned the lesson the hard way.  If it is a stereo, ensure all the features work and the sound quality is good.  If it is a vacuum, ensure the suction is good. If it is a chair, check for wobbly legs.  If it is upholstered, check for stains or rips. Don't just show up and hand over the money, thoroughly inspect and test the item first.  I don't shy away from items that are not perfect, in fact I'm often looking for a fixer-upper items with potential.  That said, any imperfections I find become bargaining tools to negotiate the price down.