Monday, April 1, 2013

Craigslist Etiquette & Success Tips

As a Decorator and Home Staging Specialist I spend a lot of time shopping in general, particularly for great buys on a website called for my clients too, but mostly for myself. It provides the ability for buyers and sellers to come together like eBay does, without the need for auctions or any fees. It is all done locally, so there usually isn't any shipping involved.

It's amazing to see how quickly Craigslist has taken off in so many major and minor cities. Daily there are free items up for grabs, listings for garage sales and any items from artwork and bedding to cars, appliances and clothing! It truly is a great way to save money and recycle, so you're helping the planet too with fewer items in landfills!

As with most things in life, there is a certain level of etiquette that needs to be adhered to for all to be happy in the world of online selling and buying. Below I've listed some guidelines for both buyers and sellers.


You've decided to do a little 'spring cleaning' and have several items you want to post. Setting up an account is very easy and fast. It allows you to edit your posting later if needed, add/remove photos and re-post days later again if necessary until sold.

  1. When posting an item or grouping of items be sure to provide photos (if possible) and provide an accurate description including whether the items are new, new in box, gently used or very worn. If you are misleading, the buyer can refuse the item when they see it, and that just wastes everyone's time.
  2. Pricing your items can be tricky. The object of Craigslist is to sell items at a reasonable price, similar to a garage sale but not necessarily as low. Feel free to list what you paid for the item, what it is selling for new and provide a link to compare so your price really stands out. This is not generally the place to sell a $5,000 sofa or period piece. It's not impossible, but those are the posts that I see up for several months often with no sale-an antique store would be more suitable for those items. Ensure you add the words "Serious inquiries only please" at the bottom of your posting. I find this minimized the amount of bogus calls and emails that come my way.
  3. For safety purposes, provide your cell phone number and name only, do not outright include your address, unless you have a box of free items on your porch for pickup, or another specific location where you are not opening the door to a stranger. While you may communicate via email before meeting the buyer, it is important to speak with them on the phone if you can. If you feel unsafe in any way, do have a friend or your spouse at the house when the person arrives or bring the item on your doorstep where you can exchange your item for cash in a more public area. Also, by posting "we' or "our" in the ad gives the sense that you will not be alone and you do not live alone, warding off any creeps!
  4. If you post an item, you can expect that you will receive phone calls and emails. So, don't post right before you go on vacation or a weekend away, that is frustrating for the buyer. Make sure you'll have the time to respond AND actually be around for the buyer to pick up your item.
  5. Try to have some change on hand or remind the person picking up your item that you don't have change for the amount and you only accept cash. This avoids the buyer having to run out to a local store to make change.
  6. Do let the buyer know of other similar items you have for sale. I can't tell you how many extra sales I've made by doing this and it may only require a quick trip to an ATM to grab the extra items, you can even put together a multi-item package at a discount to move your unwanted items!
  7. Once your items are sold, be sure to go into your account immediately to delete your posted item(s), which is helpful for buyers but always minimizes unnecessary calls and emails for you too. In the case of free items, this is particularly important (I always include the fact that I'll delete once picked up) so that the buyer doesn't waste gas and time to drive to your home to find the items have already been picked up by someone else.
  8. Selling doesn't just include merchandise. You can also post services that you provide such as painting, house cleaning, tutoring, seamstress etc. This is a great way advertise and I know several people who have received business as a result.


As a buyer, these finds are a great way to cut costs in a down economy and keep more money in your wallet! Often the items are new or like new and are a fraction of the cost of even discount stores in your area. Here are some success tips to ensure you stay safe and happy.

  1. Be Respectful! Use the same level of regard for the seller as you would have for family and friends, if you say you are going to show up somewhere to pick up an item, do it! I have had several people tell me they are driving over to be left wasting my evening waiting at the house. If something comes up, call the seller, or at the very least email them so they can re-plan their time accordingly.
  2. Always Ask! It is not uncommon for me to receive several dollars off the price of an item, simply because I asked for it! I try to track the item and see how many times it was posted over the past few days/weeks and negotiate accordingly. If I know they haven't had any takers, I always ask for a lower (reasonable) price. If they hesitate I ask if I can meet in the middle of their price and mine since I have to drive over and get it. The other important thing to ask about is pickup location. I try to meet in the middle whenever possible or in some cases I've had the seller drop off the item off if they were in the area, but I generally don't ask for that. With the price of gas, it is worth asking.
  3. If you are going to pick up an item at someone's home be sure to bring a friend as you might be going inside the home which could potentially bring up safety issues. I've never had any problems at all, but better safe than sorry. Alternatively, you could agree to meet at a local landmark like out front of Target, or in a Best Buy parking lot, as I've done many times before. Especially if you are woman, and the seller is a man, this is best.
  4. Be courteous of the Sellers home and neighbors. Do call before you show up, and show up at the appropriate time. Once at the home do knock or ring the door bell once. It is not acceptable to drive into the driveway and honk your horn incessantly or yell hello loudly. Treat the seller as you would want to be treated. Once backing out of the driveway be sure not to drive over their lawn which could damage an in-ground sprinkler system.
  5. Be Creative! There are loads of free items everyday that get posted because someone is moving out of state/country and need to off load items quickly. Feel free to snatch those up and sell them yourself! Or find a great piece of furniture and give it a sanding and coat of paint and post it up for sale. I've found myself doing this more and more and it's been a great way to make some extra cash while doing something I love, re-purposing furniture.
  6. If you are in the service industry, use the item pickup experience as a great way to get your name out by handing out a business card. You never know who knows someone that might need your services. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!
  7. Buyer Beware! Once you pay for the item, it's yours! Make sure you test it out and ensure that it works, is comfortable, isn't broken/damaged before forking over the cash. This applies to all appliances, furniture, handbags, etc. Always have the seller plug an item in to prove that it works. Likewise, if you're buying a sofa or a chair, make sure it is comfortable and if it's not what you had expected, you can always walk away.

I hope you find these tips helpful in your online buying/selling world of Craigslist. I've been using this site for years and never had any problems. I've been cautious and I always negotiate! My pointers come from experience (just today I encountered the car honker loudly honking her horn to get my attention to come out with a set of bamboo blinds!)

Happy Craigslisting!

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