Leave it to a wannabe hippie to find a new way for people to reach out and help each other. Well, that’s kind of the way craigslist got started.
Craig Newmark was a software engineer new to San Francisco and even though it was 1995, he knew the sense of community that the internet brought. And what better city to combine the internet and community than a city caught between Silicon Valley and hippie love?
Craig started craigslist.org as a non-commercial site that allows people to connect with each other in many ways. Buying, selling, seeking jobs, seeking love. Craigslist has evolved and devolved over the years but surprisingly it still functions in much the same way it was developed.
Simple text. No ads. User policed. And most importantly, free. Even Weird Al has done a song about it.
I’ve used craigslist.org for years. Very rarely, I will buy something and occasionally, I will sell something. I have yet to encounter any axe murderers but there are definitely some questionable characters out there. Thank God, those people never make it past the anonymous email stage.
I actually had some very positive experiences this past with my local craigslist site: raleigh.craigslist.org. I applied some Marketing 101 principles and lo and behold, I found success.
I have been spending the past few months doing my fall cleaning (something sounds wrong with that) and had amassed enough stuff to decide I had reached beyond the donation stage. I was going to have to have another…yard sale. Just the mere mention of it sends chills up my spine. The whole organization, hauling everything down, setting it up, making the signs, getting up at the crack of dawn, and then… the people.
This time, I decided to step things up. I called it a Garage Sale and actually held it in my garage. I think it sounds more elegant. And I was able to set up and simply open the door and VOILA, instant sale. Plus I was able to keep a bit warmer in the wee hours of the morning. And when I was done? Down came the door and off to enjoy the rest of my day.
So was it successful? I did the usual. I posted it for free on craigslist. But this time, I got smart. I listed out the big ticket items in advance and asked people to email me if they were interested before the sale. I also made it known that if the items didn’t sell in advance, they would be available at the sale.
Then, and this part is genius, I posted those items again in their appropriate categories (baby & kid stuff). I added pictures and cross-referenced this ad to my garage sale ad. I caught them in an endless loop and I had more responses than I ever have. Prior to the sale, I sold a high chair, a baby swing, and all of my maternity clothes. For decent money! Selling privately is always worth more than a yard sale price.
When the garage sale was over, I photographed the big stuff that didn’t sell and posted them individually on craigslist (I did delete my other ads because that’s just common courtesy). By the end of Sunday, I had sold a rocker/recliner, baby clothes, a doorway jumper, a play center, a carseat, and all of my Little People toys. (Please don’t ask me if I am feeling sad or nostalgic getting rid of this stuff. I am trying desperately to suppress those feelings).
Wow! Great! Right?
If you have never worked with craigslist, I’m here to tell you the pros and cons. Basically, I’m done with the pros. So here are the cons.
Craigslist is where superflaky people hang out as well as some shady people. Don’t worry. You can usually spot them a mile away. Luckily, I always anonymize my email address and only give out personal information once I’ve confirmed that the interested party doesn’t sound like a Dorothea Dix escapee.
However, to add a bit of fun to my drivel on selling baby crap, I thought I’d give you some real life craigslist responses I have received. Please enjoy.
For sale: LitterMaid Elite Mega Self-Cleaning Litter Box – $100
“Offering $50, can pick up thur eve, friday eve, or saturday am.”
“Still have this. Interested today.”
Sorry. I require full sentences with proper punctuation or some human interaction before I will consider your offer.
For giveaway: FREE Similac Formula (I had lots of samples that I wanted to give to someone in need)
“do you still have these”
From someone named CrazyKayKay. No, KayKay. I don’t.
For sale: Graco SafeSeat tan – $40
“Hi, I am really interested in the base. Gas is so high though and I am 1hr from Raleigh. I am going to take a long shot here and was seeing if you would ship this for the $40 down the road to me.”
That was a ballsy request but they turned out to be a nice person so I shipped it.
Found: Schnauzer needs somewhere to go (I found a lost dog but he was harassing my senior dog and I was looking for a foster home until his owner could be found. Be very careful with animals on craigslist!)
“I have interest in help you with the dog my telephone number is 323-xxxxxxx or email me and give you adres I can go today and pick up the god.”
It’s a dog, not a god. If you get the two confused, this doesn’t sound like a good fit.
“did he have on a blue sweater? my male schnauzer Rambo got out of my friends car yesterday around noon near Capital Blvd and Brentwood, I just got him from a lady in Wlson he still has tags on from her, he was wearing a blue sweater… he is a 3 year old male, weighing around 18 to 22 pounds and he is salt and pepper in color… would have put this ad up earlier but i had to wait untill i got back from the mountains…”
“do you live close to brentwood and capital blvd? my male schnauzer got out of my friends car and ran, we were unable to catch him he was wearing a blue sweater and has a collar with his a tag from previous owner… his name is rambo…”
“i have emailed you a few times and you have not replied, i just want to know if the dog you found had on a blue sweater??? my dog is missing and i would like to find him…please just let me know if you have my dog.”
Yup. Those were all from the same person. They sounded very desperate but not in the right sort of way. My husband talked to the people and they were quite shady. And no, it definitely was not their dog.
For sale: Recumbent exercise bike – $200
“Is it quiet? Will it fit in the back of my station wagon?”
It is very quiet but I don’t know how big your station wagon is.
“Can this bike accommodate someone who weighs 410 pounds? If so, please call Chester at (919) xxx-xxxx.”
I can’t say that’s something I’ve ever been able to test out.
For sale: Graco SafeSeat Step 2 carseat – $50
“HOW OLD IS CAR SEAT IS IT FOR TODDLER AND IT THAT HTE PICTURE OF YOURS IF NOT DO YOU HAVE PICTURE OF YOUR AND HOW MUCH NEED FOR GRANDSON”
Holy run-on sentence!
For sale: Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair – $20
“JUST EMAILED ABOUT CAR SEAT HOW MUCH IS HIGH CHAIR AND IS THAT YOUR PICTURE OF YOURS IF NOT DO YOU HAVE PICTURE OF YOURS NEED IMMEDDIATELY BOTH PLEASE GET BACK THANKS G-MA”
And please stop shouting at me, G-MA!
For sale: IKEA side table – $10
“I’d like to pick this up sometime after noon on Tuesday. Where do I come?”
See, first, we agree on the transaction. Then I tell you if that time is convenient. Then I give you my personal information.
So as you can see, craigslist can be a very valuable tool for offloading your crap as long as you use your best judgment and advertise things properly. It is sales and marketing after all. Have some craigslist stories of your own? Do tell!