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Monday, September 20, 2010

My Personal Rules for Buying and Selling on Craig's List

Yesterday I bought the kids’ big Christmas present from a Craig’s List posting.  I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to pop up on CL, and it finally did.  That may seem ghetto to you to buy a used Christmas present, but it’s a great present that I wouldn’t have otherwise wanted to fork over the cash for, so I’m very happy with my purchase.  I got them the activity table from Pottery Barn Kids that they’ll use as a train table.  It retails for $350 (plus tax and shipping), but I bought it for $100.  Can’t beat that!  

I have bought a LOT of things from people on Craig’s List, but I honestly can’t remember ever buying something that was worth less than I bought it for.  But when I’m browsing CL, I do see a lot of crap out there, so that makes me think that there’s a bit of skill in selecting a good potential purchase from a seller on CL. I’ve also sold a lot of stuff on CL, and I think that that helps me also to know what would make a good buy.  

The main things that I have purchased from CL have been baby items.  Off the top of my head, I’ve bought: 
-a Graco infant car seat for Samuel (We got rear-ended when he was 6 weeks old, so insurance ended up buying us a brand new one even though we only spent $20 on that one.)
-a Graco snap-n-go stroller thing (I loved it, but now that I’m older and wiser, I bought something different for Isaac.  I ended up foolishly selling it at a garage sale when I could have gotten much more for it on CL.)
-a crib 
-a changing table 
-a dresser (for Isaac’s room)
-a Chicco travel system (stroller and car seat for Isaac)
-a Pack-n-Play 
-a bread maker
-an exersaucer (great buy!  I used the heck out of that thing.)
-a toddler bed 
-and more...

I think when looking for an item on Craig’s List, there are a few rules that I personally go by: 
  1. If there’s no picture, I don’t waste my time.  If the picture is crappy, then I might email the person asking them questions about the quality.
  2. I don’t buy clothes or shoes.  For me, I’d rather try them on.  For the kids, they’re usually sold by the lot, and I’m too picky to like everything in the lot, so I don’t want to pay money for stuff I don’t like.  
  3. I don’t buy something that I think someone may have had sex on.  LOL!  It’s true, though.  I won’t buy a couch and definitely not a bed or a futon.  
  4. I also won’t buy kids’ mattresses because of pee.  I’ve considered arm chairs, but even then I just think that there’s too much risk involved (bed bugs or upholstery stains or something).  I’m pretty much leery if it’s upholstered at all.  I don’t want to be sitting on it wondering if someone else’s DNA is in it.  (I got around this rule with the car seats and stroller because they can be washed.)  
  5. I decide what I want to buy BEFORE I look on CL.  I do the research and read reviews online to determine what a good purchase would be.  Then I do a search for that particular item on CL and wait for a good one to show up.  If I have time, then I’ll wait weeks or even months for it.  
  6. I always talk to the person on the phone before I agree to pick something up, and I always take Michael with me when it’s possible.  It’s usually women that I’m buying from since it’s mostly baby stuff, so I feel more comfortable since we’re all moms .  (I did break this rule yesterday when picking up the train table, but I didn’t want to have the kids see their Christmas present, and I knew it was another mom.)
  7. I never agree to buy it over the phone or email.  I always just say that I’ll come and take a look at it.  That way I don’t feel pressured to take it home with me if I don’t like it.
  8. I look at it for a long time, making sure that it’s just what I want.  If it’s not, then I’m not going to feel pressured to take it home with me.  
  9. I try to go look at it as soon after seeing the post as possible, because it’s first come first served on Craig’s List.
  10. I only travel far distances (up to an hour) for large purchases.  If it’s under $50, I try to stay within 30 minutes driving time.  The gas money makes it not worth it.
That’s all I can think of for now.  Feel free to add your own rules in the comments! 

Off the top of my head, I’ve sold: 
-a crib (We never ended up using it with Samuel, so I sold it back on CL when I was pregnant with Levi.  I wish I would have hung onto it because it was pretty nice.)
-a changing table (I sold it during my “I’m not having anymore kids” phase, but I’m glad I did because it was too bulky.)
-a Pack-n-Play
-music recording equipment
-an electric bass guitar 
-a wall hanging
-2 home office desks
-2 or more dressers
-a toddler bed (I sold it back for the same price that I paid for it.)
-infant formula (This stuff goes fast!  I’ve also posted it for free when I get those samples in the mail.)
-a breast pump (I wouldn't buy one, though. :-/)
-a bed (more hypocrisy, I know, but I knew that it was clean)
-a gas fireplace that didn’t work (they knew that)
-and more...
I don’t have as many rules for selling, but they’re important and always make a huge difference.  About half of them are for getting someone to buy the item, and the other half are for safety:
  1. When selling something on CL, the picture is KEY.  I try to take a picture using nice, bright but soft, natural lighting from a window on a flattering background (wood table, carpet, something clean and nice) with a clean and tidy room behind it.  People want to think that the product was well taken care of and kept clean and not kicked around in some cluttered room in your house. 
  2. If I can find the online picture of it from the company’s website, then I like to put that beside the pictures I took.
  3. I like to also include the company’s product description in my text, that way all the measurements and other specifications are correct.  
  4. I try to never sell anything for more than half of retail unless it’s new, in the box.  
  5. I always look at comparable listings to get a good feel for the price range for that product.  I try to land somewhere in the middle of the price range, unless I want it gone fast, then I price it low.
  6. I don’t count on a sale until they’re gone and the money is in my hand.  Some people are very flaky and won’t show up, so I make them work around my schedule instead of the other way around.  
  7. I also try to have them come over when Michael is home, and I don’t let them inside my house.  Even if it’s a heavy item, I bring it to the front porch.  If Michael can’t be home, then I call him and tell him someone is coming over from CL and call him when they leave.    
  8. I don’t give them my address over email.  I always make them call me for it.  That way I can get a feel for the person to make sure they’re not a crazy.  I know nothing’s certain, but it makes me feel better.  
I think that’s about it.  Do you have any other rules I didn’t include?  

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