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Brooke’s Bargains: Craigslist … To List Or Not To List?

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Written by Brooke WagnerDENVER (CBS4) - I have talked to so many people who have something they really want to sell, but just aren’t sure about Craigslist. I completely understand the apprehension. I was skeptical the first time I posted a listing. Since then, my “Craigslist Fund” has generated the little bit of extra cash I use to pay for eating out, kids’ field trips, and incidentals.

That said, I know there are stories of people getting robbed or beaten by someone posing as a Craigslist buyer or seller. Anytime you’re dealing with strangers, safety is not something to take lightly, so I try to be very careful and follow a few simple rules.

Awareness is key.

When you post an item on Craigslist, you can opt to use an encoded e-mail address, so buyers can contact you without you advertising your actual e-mail. I always use this option and never post a phone number or home address.

If a response to one of my listings feels “off,” I simply don’t respond. Sometimes I also get solicitations from vendors disguised as buyers. DO NOT even respond to an response that seems fishy! When you post your item, you’ll have the opportunity to deny vendors from contacting you about offers.

If my gut tells me there’s something wrong, I won’t risk it. It’s not worth it. I sell almost exclusively children’s items on Craiglist, so pretty much everyone I’ve ever dealt with has been a parent or grandparent, and they’ve all been super nice. Please note I have almost no experience selling items for grownups, like work out equipment, CDs, etc. So that may be a different world. Craigslist works really well for many people, but it’s an at-your-own-risk proposition.

My second big rule: Never, ever set up a meeting at your house when you’re home alone. I know it sounds mundane, but always check your peephole before opening the door! I often will step out on the front porch to complete the exchange, not inviting the person inside.

One option is to create a meeting place — pick a very public place, so lots of people will be watching your interaction. Even if you do a meeting, try to bring someone along for backup.

On the positive side, Craigslist is FREE, and there are some really nice people out there who are desperate to find a good deal on exactly the item you’re trying to sell! When everything goes right, it can be a solid way for buyers and sellers to connect and help each other. Not to mention, it’s recycling at its finest!

Some more hints:

– Take several detailed pictures of your item. If you don’t include pictures, chances are buyers will ask you for them and you’ll have to take them, anyway.
— Describe it thoroughly — size, condition, age, etc. Be specific – you don’t want your buyer to be disappointed when they see the actual item, so be straightforward about flaws. Likewise, if it’s in perfect, like new condition, write that.

– Group like items together.

– SELL IT! Market your item! Tell potential buyers why yours is the best choice! Is it like new? Is your asking price 90 percent off retail? Is it a hot item in stores right now? Ninety percent of the time I hear from buyers who were looking for the exact item I’m selling and are thrilled to find it at a bargain price!

– Find similar items, then price yours lower. I usually price things 80 percent off retail … or a little more, if an item’s brand new. For instance, if I were selling an Acme brand children’s scooter, I would do a Web search of “Acme child scooter Craigslist” and see what other sellers across the country are asking for theirs, then I’d chop off $5 so it’s sure to sell quickly. If you want the maximum amount for your item, ask the price you want, and write “price firm” in the listing. However, be prepared to wait longer for a buyer. The listing stays active for more than a month, unless you delete it. You can always delete through a link in your e-mail if you change your mind about selling.

– I always put a note in the listing that I only accept cash. You probably don’t want to deal with checks.

– Be prepared for flakes. Every once in a while someone sets up a meeting to pick something up, then flakes out. On those rare occasions, I move on to the next buyer and to not try to contact the flake.

Craigslist buyers don’t usually want to drive more than 20 or 30 miles to pick up an item, and I would be leery of out-of-state buyers who want you to ship to them.

Many people prefer to use eBay to sell because they can generally make more money with a national consumer base. I personally have not sold on eBay, however I understand Craigslist typically takes less work — and time is money! It all depends on how much time you have to dedicate. Even if you just have time to list a few items, you might be able to make enough money to pay the electric bill or buy groceries — and these days, that’s a great help!

If you’d like to give Craigslist a try, you can go to http://www.craigslist.org and select “U.S. Cities” to get started. In an upcoming column, I’ll address the technical aspect of listing — filling out the form, posting pics, etc. — with a tutorial.

Please note, these are all just my personal experiences — I am not an expert! Good luck!

In comments, let me know about your bargains, or your questions! I’d love to hear from you.

And, always check our CBS4 Deals of the Day.

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