I write about craigslist a lot. The reality of it is, without craigslist and other online venues (ebay and etsy), I wouldn’t have a business, least of all a store.

A few months ago, I did a two-part series on buying and selling via craigslist in my “Avoiding the Craigslist Killer” post. I hit on the major scams out there and ones that I’ve been confronted with via e-mail.

Well, this past Saturday I was hit with a doosie…and one that I almost stepped right into. So, I feel that since I recommend buying and selling via craigslist on a weekly basis, it would be worth sharing my experience.

Buyer: Large China Cabinet painted white. Hello let me know if its still available for sale asap

China cabinet in question

Me: Yes…it is still available. Do you want to see it today.

From this point, buyer asks about condition which I tell him its in good shape…yada yada yada. Then, it starts getting…err…unusual.

Buyer: Well am ok with the price and the condition so let me have the address or zip code of where it is I want to forward it to my transport company to calculate how much it will cost me for the pickup because i will not be able to come and see it due to my work thanks.

If I were selling from home, I would never give my address at this point in a transaction. But, since it is a storefront, I pass it along.

Me: Just want to let you know I don’t have refunds or exchanges so am always leary about selling sight unseen.

Buyer: okay, i have forwarded your address to my transport company and am okay with the transport charges also they charge me 450 i think have a very good business now hope you have a paypal account? thanks

From our first text to this one, only 24 minutes has passed. That means in 24 minutes, this guy was able to get a price for transport…on a Saturday morning…without knowing the weight of the item. Maybe that is possible, I just know in my experience in calculating shipping for large items, it takes MUCH longer than 20 minutes.

Paypal account? hmmm….strange that he jumps straight to that. Maybe I’m paranoid.

Me: I have paypal. Let me know when you are ready to send payment and i will send paypal account. What your name? Where are you having it sent?

Buyer: okay thanks you can send me your paypal email now and delete the post on craigslist so that I can make the payment now because I want to pick up tomorrow.

He is skirting my question. Who are you and where are you. Plus, I’m not available “tomorrow,” i.e. Sunday so it’s not ok to arrange pick up for a Sunday without making special arrangements.

Me: Ok. I will do that. What’s your name and location?

Buyer: right now am on sea but I will be shipping to my wife in NY the shipping company is also coming from NY.

If this isn’t a red flag, I don’t know what is. He is on sea!? Who makes craigslist transactions on sea. Really!

Me: OK…well, when you have a moment, please call me and we can arrange the details. I will need to send you a detailed invoice that includes your name and contact info along with a receipt for you to sign so that transport company has a receipt to show when they pick up. Thank-you.

At this point, I called the number texting me. I got a generic google voicemail that said to record my name for the caller and leave a message. No names identifying the caller and no calls even being accepted. Then, the buyer attempted to call me from a different phone number (different area code and all) that was patchy so we couldn’t talk.

Buyer: I’m sorry i can’t call or receive callsa the mo. i am on sea and i will not be back until next month i can only text so lets do this here…

This guys much to anxious to close the deal.

Me: I make a habit of only dealing locally for craigslist related transactions. However, i would feel more comfortable completing this sale through our etsy store. I can put this hutch up on etsy as a reserved sale and you can complete the sales process through etsy.com. I will email you the link to the item in our etsy store that way your transport company will have a sales invoice to bring to pick up and etsy is in a position to protect both the buyer and seller. If that is agreeable, I will get that posted about 2 this afternoon.

Buyer: can i just make payment now and Muches come over tomorrow for the pick up or? can i just make payment now and Muches come over tomorrow for the pick up or NOT?

Me: No. sorry. I need to ensure that you have the proper paperwork to protect myself and you.

So, there are a few reasons that I was hesitant to complete this transaction.

1. Craigslist strongly recommends that you sell locally and in person. For good reason. I have shipped items before and I’ve even traveled to sell stuff. But, each transaction is a case by case scenario where I felt comfortable with the deal because I spoke to a reasonable and accommodating person.

2. Paypal is not a fool proof system…for the seller! Paypal notoriously protects the buyer and not the seller. I know multiple people (including myself) who have funds withdrawn because of a buyer dispute. It takes months to resolve those issues…and they only get resolved with the cooperation of the buyer. This is my experience…you may have had a different experience from this.

3. What’s the worst that could happen? Money gets deposited into paypal. Transport company comes to pick up hutch. They take it. Buyer says he never got item. Money gets withdrawn. I’m out $700 and a high quality piece of furniture.

4. Perhaps this a bigger scam that I’m not aware of. I don’t know if there is a way to hack into paypal accounts with no more than the account email. But, since it links to my bank account. I don’t want to find out.

5. In the thousands of transactions I’ve made through craigslist (yes…thousands), every reasonable person not only agrees to reasonable, safe terms of the sale, but appreciates it. For example, wanting proper paperwork and receipts in place…that’s a no brainer! Not sharing the address until they are committed and on their way to purchase…they definitely recognize the safety measure and sense in that. So, when this guy was rushing me for accounts and addresses without agreeing to obtaining and signing an invoice, that just didn’t sit right with me.

6. And, maybe this wasn’t even a scam. Maybe it was a guy excited to buy a hutch for his wife and surprise her with a delivery in New York. But, who am I kidding. I don’t know any guy that would take the risk of surprising their wife with furniture without their consent.

All in all, I share this very wordy blog post to the avid seller, lest you get caught up in the excitement of a big sale and fall into a trap buy an over eager buyer/scammer!

Good luck future craigslisters!