Painless Selling on Craigslist

25 Jan 2007

This is an old article that isn’t related to the rest of my postings on this site, but it still seems to get a lot of search traffic. And since craigslist hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years, it’s still relevant. -jason

I love craigslist. It’s simply the best way to get rid of things you no longer need, reduce what goes to landfill and make a few bucks. (It beats ebay, since it’s free and you don’t have to pack items of schlep them to the post office.) I moved recently, and while re-evaluating my worldly possessions, I sold lot of things on craigslist. There is a bit of a learning curve, so here is the system I eventually settled on.

Create an account

It only takes a minute and then you can manage all your items on your my account page. (If you don’t, you have to painfully dig around in your email for the authorization links.)

Take photos

There’s no excuse for not having photos in your ad. Buy one, borrow one, use your webcam, whatever. Not only is this nice for the buyers, but if people know exactly what you’re selling than you won’t have to describe it to them in email or on the phone and they are less likely to show up and decide that they don’t want it. Yes, it’s a bit more work to snap a picture and get it onto your computer, but it’ll save everyone time in the end.

Control your contact information

You want to have some control over who has your email and phone number, so don’t post it in directly in the advertisement. Just focus on describing the item. (I initially posted full info and then people contacting me long after it was sold.) Use the anonymous email option that craigslist provides. It will save you from spam and phone calls.

Provide nearest intersection

You have an option of stating where you are located in your posting. Some people put something generic (like ‘Toronto’ or ‘GTA’) which is useless. Put the nearest major intersection so readers can figure out if it is a 5-minute walk or a 1-hour drive.

Have a boilerplate response

When someone inquires about an item, I answer any questions and then send them a standard response. This includes my address, basic driving/transit directions, phone number, and my terms. Saves a lot of time. My terms are: All sales final, Cash and carry and First come first serve. (more about the last one below.)

Dealing with No-shows

For some reason, craigslist buyers love to say they will come by and then don’t. So, my solution is first come, first serve. Put this wonderful phrase in your standard email that you send out to interested buyers. I forgot once, and this woman who wanted to come in five days was upset when I emailed her to tell her that I had just sold it. “You mean you sold it after we scheduled an appointment??” Did she expect me to say no to someone at my door with money, because she was maybe coming next week? People are crazy.

Email the non-buyers when something sells

If ten people email me about an item, and I’ve sent all of them my address, I don’t want them showing up after it’s gone. It’s a bit of extra work, but I send each of them an email saying:

Sorry, but xyz has been sold. Thanks for your interest!

Free items are a hassle

Nothing brings out the eccentrics like giving away something for free. And just because it’s free, don’t think that people will be any easier to deal with. First, if it isn’t total garbage, you’ll get a flood of emails. Then, you’ll get calls. Then you’ll have to setup a time for them to come and pick it up. Then you’ll have no-shows. In other words, it’s exactly the same amount of work as selling something, except you don’t get any money for your trouble.

I suggest a minimum price of $5, which is sort of a bozo filter. If you can’t sell it for $5, then just haul it out the curb and post on craigslist’s “free stuff” area with the address and no contact info, and your job is done.

Remove old ads

Great, you sold that old record player to some chump for $10. Now, go to your “my account” page, and delete the ad. (Some people like to edit their posting, and add “SOLD” or “GONE” to the subject. Unless your posting is so good it will make it to best of craigslist, it’s just noise. Just delete it.

• • •

So, those are my craigslist tips, now start selling some junk!

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