Rules of Craigslist: For Buyers

Craigslist-AdvisoryDo you see something on Craigslist you want to buy that has a great price? You do, but you’re worried about the stories you’ve heard regarding fake electronics, bad buyers and shady people. In honor of the disclaimer craigslist attaches to every mail that comes in, I decided to create a more exhaustive two-part series of rules to follow when buying and selling there. Using these rules as a guide, you’ll be more comfortable in the jungle that is Craigslist.

Briefly: With this list of Dos and Don’ts for the Craigslist buyer, you’ll be able to buy online with more confidence. Part one of a two part series.

Don’t buy without doing research – The most important piece of advice I can give you. Before buying anything online, find out everything you can about it. Know how to spot a fake. Know what you can do to test it. Know what to ask when you see it. Find out what regular retail price is and what others are selling on Craigslist for. Even better – bring another of the same item and compare it. You will never be unsuspectingly duped by a seller if you know exactly what you’re buying.

Don’t buy without reading the entire ad – Almost as important as knowing what you’ll buy, is knowing what the seller is offering. I have encountered far too many people that have asked about something that was plainly spelled out in the ad. Don’t ask if the box is included and find out you didn’t read the ad (that’s embarrassing).

Do make your first email one question – One first response to an ad, you simply should ask one question. It should simply be  “Is the item available?”. That’s it. The rest will start a dialog that may or may not lead to a sale, but start with that.

Don’t ask “why are they selling?” – This has to be one of the more common misconceptions. People seem to think knowing why a person sells an item will help them uncover some truth about the past or understand something new. The truth is, this information is irrelevant. What’s worse, I would suspect most sellers just make up stories like “I’m upgrading” or “I just don’t need it anymore”. Don’t waste your time asking this question because it won’t help you.

Do meet in a well-lit public location – Meeting a stranger to buy something has to be pretty nerv-racking for some people. I’ve met folks in all sorts of different places and locations. As a rule-of-thumb, make sure you meet the seller in a place like a coffee shop or a mall at a reasonable time of day. Do NOT ever meet at a person’s home or at some apartment building or late at night.

Do take your time, ask lots of questions, test the item – When you meet, make sure you ask about the device, defects, how much they liked it. Asking questions will make you both comfortable and may help you understand the device better. Most people are all too happy to explain how things work, which will help you make use of what you’re buying faster. If buy a cell phone, consider asking to meet at the cell provider’s store. If buying a lawn-mower, be ready to see it running.

Don’t bring out, or signal where money is (at first meeting) – A mistake some make is to pull out the money right away at meeting. The sad truth is, robberies happen. So, when you meet, consider keeping the money in your car and walking back when you’ve decided to buy. If you meet near an ATM, don’t take out the money until you’ve decided to buy. Never show money until you plan to use it. Always take precautions to ensure the safety of your belongings, the seller won’t mind.

Do explain your expectations – Want the packaging? Say so. Want to meet in a mall? Say so. Expecting something more than what’s in the ad? So so. Always make sure your expectations are clear and have been communicated immediately. If, for example, you needed the item to be new and only found out at the meeting – that ‘s a potentially expensive wasted trip.

Don’t say more than you need to – This tends to happen in almost every single situation I have seen. ou ask the seller a few questions and then the value is open. be careful not to share and share and share. At worst, you may provide personal details that make you a target for identity theft and at best you might just be sharing a soap opera. When you buy on Craigslist, just say what you need, and move on. That’s it.

Do be nice – When you see an item you like, and the price is reasonable (you did your research, you know). It’s always a good thing to take as much of the hassle out of the buying process as you can. Bring cash, buy at the asking price, meet at a easy to get to place and don’t be rude. You can be sure the seller has been hit by scam email, rude buyers and folks looking to get something for nothing, so they’ll appreciate it. This person you buy from may be the person buying from you next time!

Look for Part 2 of this series later this week when I look at how to handle Craigslist as a Seller!