Thinking of selling through a classifieds site like Craigslist? In today's column, online seller and blogger Bob offers some common-sense tips (with tongue in cheek) on trading safely.
Craiglist.com is a (usually) free website that promotes selling goods and services locally. There are hundreds of different sites set up. Pick any area in the country and you'll typically find thousands of items for sale.
The upside of selling locally on Craigslist:
No listing fees or selling commissions
No expensive packing and shipping
No returns - on-site, in-person inspection
Usually a cash payment
The downside of selling locally on Craigslist:
You might be murdered
Occasionally there are headlines of people meeting up on Craigslist for a local sale where the seller's safety is jeopardized. Please note that being murdered could seriously impact your profit margin. And while deaths resulting from a Craigslist sale are rare, robbery or physical abuse are more common (though also rare). Sellers should take some precautions when using this, or any other, locally-based selling platform.
A common solution is for the buyer and seller to agree to meet in a public place for the deal. But according to a statistic I just made up, 58% of Craigslist buyers don't show up! So, if this is the only comfortable route for you, try to arrange a meeting at a public place where you would either normally be or wouldn't mind being - like a coffee shop. For more expensive items you might even suggest meeting outside a police station (though this will surely increase your chances of having your buyer not show up).
It could be risky, but meeting at your home may be the best, time-saving option, especially when dealing with large items like furniture, industrial equipment or appliances.
If you decide to sell from your home, there are a few common-sense safety tips. First, be sure to get the buyer's phone number and other contact information and confirm that it is accurate by making a test call. Next, try to have someone with you. Anyone with enough digits and sense to dial 911 while you're screaming in the background, will do.
Accurately describe your item in your original ad so there are few surprises. Also, try to agree on a price, and payment type, beforehand. This should reduce the potential of any conflict even before you meet. If the buyer goes back on the agreed price and tries to talk you down so much that you can't agree, explain that it's not just your decision. That you have to speak with your husband, or wife, or parole officer.
Unless you're confident that you can handle a bad situation (you tough guy, you), avoid selling expensive items like gold jewelry. The potential buyer may be staking out your home, assuming you have more expensive items stored away inside.
Do not sell borderline illegal items like drug paraphernalia (i.e.: smoking pipes, bongs, needles or instruction books). Potential buyers may assume that you also have the drugs. Police might make this assumption as well, which could lead to another type of safety issue for that small group of people who are allergic to handcuffs.
Finally, a couple inexpensive gimmicks can discourage an aggressive buyer. Place 'Beware of Dog' signs and dummy security cameras in high visibility areas outside your home.
These can often be found used, pretty cheap, on Craigslist. Just try not to murder the sellers.
About the Columnist
Bob has been buying and selling online for almost 20 years. Some experts claim that his limited budget was the major cause of the 2001 dot-com crash. He denies the charge.