musings of an impatient craigslist peruser

Subtitle: Why craigslist is a lot like false labor. And dating.

Recently, I had a meltdown post on Facebook that looked a lot like this:

…And by meltdown post I mean, not scary meltdown, so much as self admitted awkwardness. But moving along, there was a pretty large response out there from you guys…a resonating “I am with you” from you all. Whether it was a comment posted on our page below said meltdown post, or through some awesome fun emails, I was glad to know I’m not the only one who gets all kinds of flustered every now and again.

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That being said, I thought I would share a little from behind the scenes of the aforementioned meltdown post, along with what I’ve learned.

I’ve sold and purchased, at this point, probably close to a hundred pieces on Craigslist. When we were refinishing furniture full time, this was our main venue. It’s a great tool to use, so I lost count.

We all know the basic helpful tips of Craigslist: That we need to get a craigslist account to make our lives easier when listing things. And that you shouldn’t feel pressured to purchase something just because you go to someone’s house. Don’t reply to emails that say “is it available” {unless your reply includes the words your mom is available.} Cash is king, and you shouldn’t go alone because there’s tons of creepos out there who wear their memaw’s nightgowns and are moonlighting as serial killers, so for the love of all things midcentury modern vintage record players, don’t go alone. Duh. But here’s a few gems I learned along the way:

This list of observations comes from my experiences after the great leather monster purge of 2011: Musings of an impatient craigslist peruser.

When I began my search, I found my first sofa. A lovely Duncan Phyfe that will look super swell refinished in some awesome linen. It was stress free, local, and super easy. The sellers were nice, honest, sweet people. We were fast friends. The end. Then, I had to find a second sofa for our living room. And as all things in life can’t be that easy, the Craigslist blues set in. {Trust me. My friends were hearing about it for weeks. Woe. Is. Me.}

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1. Ahhhh craigslist. It’s a lot like false labor. And dating. 

Go back to whichever experience was more recent to you in memory. If you ever had false labor {blech} and we’ve all had bad dates. {If you haven’t, you were married at twelve.} So, just jump on whichever suits you as one of your most irritating experiences. I’m going with false labor. Because it was miserable, and plagued me with each pregnancy. I was frustrated and felt like a dummy all at the same time when said baby did not arrive within my time frame. Didn’t Aiden know he wasn’t supposed to fake me out and make me spend the night in the hospital the first time around? I’m working on not being so high strung. {I think there’s some pills for that.}

I said all that to say: Be prepared for the unknown. But just like dating, be ready to play the game. Purchasing a piece from Craigslist isn’t like hopping on down to the local furniture store and loading up your instant gratification to bring it home for an afternoon nap. You don’t get married immediately. You must be patient, precise, and deliberate. Patient enough to wait for what you want. Precise enough to email the seller back as soon as its posted so you’re at the front of the line, and deliberate enough to communicate that you really want the piece. Know what you want. Research. Don’t dawdle. Be quick. Be… super human. I know. It’s a tall order, right?

In three separate instances, the piece was sold right out from under me. When we’d set up a time to come and view, nothing was said about someone else. If they had, we could have made it work. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for people to be up front and honest, but I have three children, so I can’t very well drop them on their bums in front of a movie, and be all DHR nightmare of the year with a big fat “See ya, suckas!” while we drive three hours to Atlanta to see a sofa. We had to plan it out. This made it tricky.

There’s lots of different variables to work with, so just be prepared. The seller may not want to communicate with you, even though you’ve done everything possible to work with them, except shove cash in their face. They may even be playing you against another person, and at that point, you have to decide if you really want it. I’m not sure why, but people will be people. Different and unpredictable. Just be ready to play the game…

Case in point: I was drooling over a Ballard Designs slipcovered sofa available in Atlanta, and was pretty sure I was the first person to contact the owner, as I’d been stalking CL. I had a few questions, if I was going to make the drive, so the owner got back with me and said she would measure the sofa. When I hadn’t heard back in 24 hours, I kindly emailed her back and inquired if the sofa was still available, just touching base, insert awkwardness here, etc. She replied back with an “At work, HOLLA!” {okay. not really. But she did say, ‘at work, email soon.’} At which point {I’d already had two sell out from under me, so I was kind of tired of dealing with odd cookies.} I wanted to be all, “What? Who are you? How soon? what does that even mean? Who are these people and where do they come from? OH the HORROR!” 24 more hours later, I hadn’t heard back.

Because it was a little wierd, I may or may not have gotten Jamin to email her from a different account, pretending he was someone else, just to see if he could get a response. I really wanted that sofa. As it turns out, she was playing three people against each other. At this point, we were no longer interested in dealing with a dishonest person…even if it did take a little savvy on our parts to find this out. Major props to me for being a sneaky spy.

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2. Like dating, be open to long distance treasures. 

If you see someone who cranks your tractor, but he lives a few hours away {I’m spreading my metaphor pretty thin at this point, so just go with it} DO be open to it. Yes, there are risks, as mentioned above, and additional factors, like gas money, etc. But be open to surrounding areas. If there’s a piece you’ve been searching for, and it pops up four hours away, it’s worth it, in my book. Our Craigslist is a little smaller, and can be kind of a dud. So, if you have to drive for that treasured piece…go for it.

My advice: Be sure to mention to the seller, and be up front that you are from out of town, but really want that piece and will be willing to drive over. We did this with one person, who kindly waited on us to come pick up his dresser. When I did this with another lady who was located long distance, she was all, oh, BTW: here’s the giant cat claw places on the bottom of the slipcover where our cat has picked at the fabric. I forgot to mention this in the post, with close up photos of my ruined sofa. {It was listed as ‘like new.’} She wasn’t really up front about it, but when I was with her, she was kind, and saved us a trip.

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3. Stay the course.

If you want something truly unique for your home, something beyond the store bought, mass produced box, or even for a much cheaper price…it pays to stay with the search. The process can be exhausting. {Just like labor.} But stay with it.

Too many people cave, give up, and drive down to the local store when they’d “rather not bother” all so they can regret it later. That’s fine. But if it’s not your cup of tea, stay the course. I’m sure someone famous said that, and I’m too tired from perusing craigslist to see who.

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4. Something better really will come along

BE PATIENT. Yeah. We all know that. But easier said than done. We all have “the one that got away.” But if you miss out on a deal, it probably had roach eggs. {or (dating) bad genes and an itchy rash} So move on. There’s more than one awesome sofa out there. It just may take time. This isn’t something I want to hear, but good things really do come to those who wait.

Don’t dwell. You can’t control other people. I think I wasted the better part of an hour being good and steamed at Ballard-Designs-slipcover-aloof-play-you-like-a-fiddle lady. But just like I couldn’t shake my prego stomach and be all, “Aiden! Get out of my BELLY!” {I did break my water and get a nice dose of pitocin to get this show on the road when the doctor decided my time had come} You can’t rush the process of a good find. Something better really will come along. Mine did.

The find. Not the baby. Or the man. But that, too.

5. Be all kinds of techie savvy to save yourself some time. 

Pep talks, cliche’s, and massive metaphors applied aside, a practical tool that rocks my world: Download craigslist pro. The iphone app. available at itunes. The ultimate craigslist stalking tool on the go-one of my faves. You can search multiple cities at once, email contacts, save to favorites, and even filter out those obnoxious posts where people can’t be bothered to post a photo. {I can’t be bothered to respond to your non photo ad.}

Your turn, guys. What gems of great info would you recommend when dealing with the craigslist blues? Got any stories we can learn from? Good and bad, please do share + teach me, oh wise ones.

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27 Responses to musings of an impatient craigslist peruser

  1. I adore Craigslist and have to admit that most of my worst experiences have been my own fault because I did not get enough detail on the item. My favorite experience is that I bought a couch from this great guy (stay-at-home dad, ex marine, and cloth diaper make extrodinairre) who brought the couch in, upstairs and helped us take the other one to the curb!

  2. Beth Miller says:

    We’ve generally had good luck with Craigslist. We’ve bought and sold on there in the past 2 weeks. We bought a huge, used play set from a super nice lady (she held it over a week while my husband took it apart and transported it to our house) and sold our desktop PC to a guy who picked it up in a Hummer limousine (neighbors were a talkin!)! Hilarious! But, all that is said after I was scammed out of $2000 a few years ago (while pregnant, which is probably partly to blame :) ) while trying to sell 6, solid wood louvered doors. Long story, but I learned my lesson the hard way. Thanks for the post!

  3. Kelsey says:

    This post cracked me up! I have furnished pretty much my whole house in the CL free section…at most spending 20 bucks for something. CL is indeed a roller coaster but its also super exciting when you get that AMAZING piece that you know will MAKE the room…and you beat out tons of other’s! I recently got an amazing mid century modern dresser…it was in bad shape but it was FREE! I refinished it and now its one of my favorite pieces in my home! It can be VERY frustrating though…especially when you drive out to get something and the person has sold it right before you got there…or even the person is there LOADING IT IN THEIR CAR when you pull up! And you desperately want to say…Um I saw it first! But I guess that’d be pretty immature! lol you can tell I have experience in this area. ;)

    • MAN! I think I’d be pretty ticked if I went to the trouble to drive out there and they were loading it up! wow! that’s even lower! looks like they could bother to let you know. I’ve decided people just don’t want conflict. so they avoid it at all costs. looks like they could avoid it up front by being honest! crazy!

  4. Elz says:

    Ugh, our local city’s craiglist is horrible. I live in Lexington, so it’s the closest craigslist for people in the mountains so we ONLY buy from those listing Lexington as their address. It sounds harsh but the mountain people take awful pictures, refuse to email, and expect $300 for their vermin infested couch that has chilled on their front porch for a year. And they get scary mean when you try to lower the price. Creepers. So I usually prefer to stay in the city or drive up to Cincinnati or Louisville. :/ Or just go to Goodwill since we have awesome goodwills (probably donated to by people who refuse to lower their ridiculous prices so no one bought them).

  5. Elz says:

    Er, Lexington Kentucky, forgot to mention that ha.

  6. I wanted an Ikea sectional and they were selling on craigslist in minutes! Finally I found one that reposted so I assume the buyer never showed. I offered full price if they would deliver and they DID! I was so excited. I had been looking for months. I now have a denim Karlstad sectional. I wanted the white Ektorp but this really is more practical and still goes with my beachy vibe in the living room. :) Good luck and keep at it, when the time is right, it will happen.

  7. Christine says:

    You, dear, are one of the most entertaining personalities on the web.

  8. I definitely know what you mean about the Craigslist Blues! I have stalked Craigslist like crazy, given up, and repeated the whole cycle many times. Last week Craigslist threw me a bone though. I scored one one, but two large french nightstands and a corner desk in great shape all for $25!!! So yes, in then end good things come to those who wait!

    Great post!

  9. RonTopofIt says:

    A well thought out and written post. I had written a post years ago about Craigslist and I am still amazed at how flippin’ annoying people can be.

    I’m a seller more than a buyer, so I am often left in the position of people asking me, “is it still available?” What do you suggest I do when someone says “I’ll be over in two hours” and then never shows? You may have three or four other people ask to come and see the item, but do you really want to start handing our your address to folks simply because you have a “first come, first served” policy?

    And, as much as I hate to talk to people, I have found that phone conversations are much more effective than using email.

  10. Marissa says:

    when selling, I”ve found that if I have someone who seems really interested, I’ll give them my phone number to call or text me for the address. It truly weeds out those who really want the piece and those who don’t want to make the effort. I think because there is more of a commitment when you talk to a person for real.

    When buying, I would suggest two things a) bring someone and b) have change. I can’t tell you how many times I”ve gone to pick up a piece of furniture and it’s at an apartment on the second floor with no elevator . Someone could have mentioned that before I loaded up my kids. Hate to think how I would have done those on my own. Also, if you plan on bargaining on the price, please have your own change.
    There is nothing more awkward then settling on a lower price and then having to ask for change. Yeah, awkward from both sides…

  11. Oh my. My first experience with CL was awful. I attempted to sale our sofa. I got a response from someone named “Mr. Smith” very quickly and was excited that we might get the thing off our hands. We went back and forth for a week going over all his various special conditions (I’m living in France, can’t pick it up myself, need to have a driver stop by and he will give you a cashier’s check). I really wanted to be trusting, but it sounded totally suspicious, so I tracked his email and learned he was emailing me from Nigeria. I feel so stupid now looking back on it that I entertained it for so long!

    Since then, however, I have made several great finds/purchases on CL, like our amazing dining room table (bought out of a model home), and two of my craft room tables (like the one here: http://onesietwosie.blogspot.com/2011/02/crazy-about-color.html). We even sold a car/bought a car on CL!

    My mom, however, is dearly concerned that I will be murdered one day in my CL ventures… :)

  12. Ashley says:

    Craigslist can be a love/hate relationship. I’ve had overall good experiences, but have run across a few ridiculous people! Like the time we drove an hour and a half to look at a car. We asked lots of specific questions, one of them being about the interior, which we were told was in “perfect condition” When we got there, the first thing we notice is a HUGE hole in the drivers seat. By Huge, I mean you could see the foam cushion and it was pretty much the width of the seat, side to side, front to back. When we mentioned it to the guy, his response was “Yeah, but when you sit on it you can’t see it and no one will know.” I was ticked. Our 2 year old had even thrown up in the back seat on the way up! Oh well, you win some, you lose some!

  13. i am addicted to craig’s list. i love it. i searched for months and months for living room chairs. i was so glad i waited for the right thing…b/c i finally found some gems: http://queen-of-the-house.blogspot.com/2011/07/living-room-chairsat-last.html it’s so worth it to wait for what you really want. i also sold our couch for 600 and bought one that worked better for us for 450. that was awesome. plus we bought it from a single man who traveled all the time & was never home…so the sofa was in perfect condition. i’ve mostly had great interactions with people from craig’s list. i think the most frustrating is when you’re selling something and the buyer drags you along and gives you the runaround. but all in all, i big pufffy heart love CL. :)

  14. Hannah says:

    Ohmigosh! I’ve never had a bad experience on Craigslist! Or… maybe I did, but I was just never emotionally attached to anything that was bought out from under me. We did end up with a lovely chipper, which we use to make our compost heap more compact. Ok, now that I think about it, that’s probably not an item that one gets emotionally attached to, prior to actually getting it. Maybe if I had fallen in love with a couch…

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  16. Elise says:

    I buy and sell on Craigslist also and I really think there needs to be a 12 step program for people like us. If I can’t stalk Craigslist at least once an hour looking for that one perfectly perfect piece I start to hear voices and talk to myself all at the same time!! I have a sofa story also. I found the perfect vintage sofa to re – upholster for my living room.. lovely low tufted back, curved front, down cushions, gorgeous legs.. All set up with the lady to purchase for .. $35 !! bwahaha.. deal of the century.. she goes on vacation, she says I will call you when I get back in town..two weeks go by.. waiting..I can’t find her #.. fearfully waiting.. can’t find her post.. waiting and silently crying . Even a month later I still look thinking maybe, just maybe it might be there.. waiting for me also btw Love your blog!!

  17. jennifer says:

    Been looking for a sofa for my living room for I don’t know how long…thanks for the good tips. Will be downloading that app! BTW, we bought a car off craigslist…drove two hours to get it and it was well worth it! We did a lot of up front work to take the car to a local mechanic but I would totally do it again. Why haven’t I thought of buying furniture this way???

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  19. aprill says:

    I love reading your blog. cracks me up:) I have a definite love/hate relationship with cl. last week I had a lady ask a million questions about an item and ask id accept a lower price(im a sucker and wanted to and get it out) so finally suggested a time and place to meet and she then lets me know she lives mo where near me where and has no idea if/when she will ever be in the area. (“but I really like it”) she says. weirdies I tell u! I have also gotten a few great things for cheap or for free (Vegas is full of crud, but also a few goodies for free:) the most surprising thing to me is the nice people I’ve met buying and selling. i met my first “friend” after moving here and have even had a few playdates with her.:)

  20. Jayne says:

    Fabulous post, i get pretty frustrated with Craigslist and it’s good to know I’m not the only one!

  21. Jyll says:

    Recently I just lost out on a gorgeous apartment because the landlord was “sneaky” and told me he would wait to hear from me. Same thing actually just happened to me about a couch. So sad.

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