I was home alone. My girls were taking a nap. It was the middle of the afternoon and I was expecting a buyer for a computer system. It included a large flat screen monitor and a pretty well-equipped speaker system. I received the call that they buyer had arrived and went to greet them outside with the system.
When I got outside, four 19 to 20 year old Asian College students got out of the car and came toward me as one large group speaking…but not in English. I didn’t know what they were saying. I wasn’t expecting a group. They were very intimidating and I immediately began to worry that this meeting was a bad idea.
How to Ensure a Safe and Timely Transaction
1. Beware of E-mails! “do u still have this item” SCAM! “is your item still for sale” SCAM! “I’m very interested in what you are selling, but I’m out of town. I would be happy to send my secretary to come pick it up and send payment. Oh, and for the inconvenience, I’ll pay you $50 more than your asking price…please send me your address and contact information so I can send a cashiers check.” TOTAL SCAM! Avoid emails from people with totally bizarre names (Gorawylz Nubaizy) because they are most likely fake email accounts and avoid emails from people that you see asking about multiple items. Most of the individuals sending these emails are trying to get your email address to add to a list for who knows what. Responding to these emails is a sure fire way to get unwanted solicitations!
Do respond to e-mails when the sender is specifically inquiring about an item. “I’m interested in the French style desk you have posted on craigslist for $85. Is it still available?” Or, respond to emails when people include their phone numbers…it’s usually easier to just call them.
2. Once you’ve arranged to sell something, determine a good meeting location. Many people who sell on craigslist do so in public locations. I went with my sister to buy snow sleds once and we met someone in a McDonalds parking lot. I also met some college boys at McDonalds who wanted to buy a $15 beer making kit. They refused to meet me at my house and arranged for McDonalds so that “I didn’t feel uncomfortable during the transaction.”
In Glendora, meeting a person at the Library is a great place! What you know that the buyer doesn’t know is that the Library shares a parking lot with the police department. They’d be dumb to try something.
Because I sell mostly furniture, it’s unrealistic to be loading it and carting it to a public location so I sell (or rather, used to sell) from home.
3. Know when to give someone your address! I got a call from a buyer at 8:00 pm one night. They were heading out to come purchase a piece of furniture so I gave them my address and directions. 9:00 pm rolls around and they weren’t there. They aren’t answering their phone. It’s 10:00 pm, well past my bedtime and still a no show! Now I’m thinking they are casing my house waiting for everyone to be asleep so that they can break in and slaughter the family and take all of our goods. OK…let’s be real. I don’t have anything worth taking. But, at 10:00 pm crazy thoughts are running through my head about the gruesome ways I will be dying that night!
Lesson learned! After that experience, I was much more judicious in who I was willing to meet at night and what it was they were coming to buy. For a higher dollar item, I was more likely to take that risk. And, I used my instincts when I talked to people. The mom that called about a dresser for her daughters room that had screaming toddlers in the background posed less of a threat to me than the man that called asking unnecessary questions and trying to get my address right away.
Even now, when I arrange for a sale at my house, I NEVER….repeat, NEVER give my address until I know that person is on their way. And, I mean on their way, in their car. I give them the zip code and freeway off ramp so that they can get directions and have them call me when they get to the 605 Fwy…or 10 Fwy…a close but not too close landmark and then I give them the street number. That way, I know they will be there, when they will be there and that they were committed.
4. Take precautions at the onset of a sale. Be aware. When a person would arrive to my house to look at something, I would “be on the phone” with someone and end my fake phone call with, “I’ve got to go. Someone just got here to look at a piece of furniture. I’ll call you back in 10 minutes.” They didn’t know I wasn’t talking to someone but I’ve just established that someone is expecting me to call in a few minutes. I also would pay attention to the cars that arrived. Colors, license plates, who was in them and what the person looked like. If I had a funny feeling about someone, I paid more attention.
5. Make sure to have change. You are selling an item for $30. They come ready with $40. But, you don’t have change. Do you lose the sale while they go to get change and possibly never return? Do you end up taking $20 for an item that they were willing to spend $30 on? Just keep a small stash of 1’s, 5’s and 10’s when you have stuff posted on craigs.
6. Finally, be prepared for flakes. The world of craigslist is full of flaky, uncommitted people. I wouldn’t recommend holding items. Sell to the first person who can come with cash in hand!
I hope that information helps to give you confidence to go and sell your stuff.
Oh yeah…and the car full of college buyers for my computer system. It went smoothly. Despite my worry, they were simply there as a group to check the system and make sure it was what they expected.