We live in a society of rules and regulations; complete with an accepted set of social norms. Yet there is one place where these commonalities, courtesies, and social graces die hard: Craigslist.
Let’s face it: If you’re a car guy or gal of any sort, you’ve used Craigslist. It’s a great way to buy and sell parts and best yet, it’s free! But it seems there are those that abuse the privilege of such a wonderful tool of car-guy commerce. Whether through indecency, dishonestly, or just a lack of common sense, some people can be a real pain in the you-know-what. So, to combat further degeneration of Craiglist, I have compiled my top 10 Dos and Don’ts for Craiglist users everywhere.
Be On Time
If you make a plan to come pick up or sell a part, honor the agreed upon time. We’re all busy people, with limited time to do the things we like doing most. If you plan meet someone at noon, be there. And, if something comes up—as things are prone to do—let the person know so they aren’t left standing in the cold, waiting. Hint: a seller that’s been waiting on your late butt for an hour is far less likely to shift the price in your favor.
Learn How To Haggle
Buying and selling is an art, and as a buyer, you walk a fine line of offending a seller with a bad offer and paying more than you need to. One of the most common, and least effective, haggling tactics I’ve observed is asking for the lowest offer right off the bat, via a text message. When my phone jingles and some obscure and disembodied phone number asks, “What’s the lowest you’ll take for X,” I have to wonder, does that ever work?
A seller becomes more willing to negotiate as the likelihood of a sale increases. With your polite self present and looking at the part, and with the smell of a couple extra bucks wafting from your pocket like the spectral arm of a pie sent in a cartoon, he or she is much more likely to budge on the price than in any text message exchange.
Take the few extra seconds to add pictures to your add. This could easily be the difference between attracting an interested buyer or not selling your doodad at all. Even a cell phone photo that clearly shows the part (preferably from a few angles) is an immensely valuable selling tool. A savvy buyer will ask to see photos first anyway, so you might as well have them available from the beginning.
Be Responsive And Reachable
If you have gone through the trouble of creating an ad, make sure you’re available to respond to interested parties. Check your email regularly, or be around to answer your phone—if you’re so inclined as to list your number. I can’t even begin to express how frustrating it is when someone has a part I’d like to buy, and they won’t respond. Take my money already!
Read The Ad!
This one is a biggie, guys—possibly the most important takeaway from this column. If a seller has gone through the trouble to write a thoughtful description of what’s being sold, read it. There is little more annoying than having to repeat an ad, especially in a text message, because someone has neglected to read it before contacting you. Without exception; do this first. Now, if after reading the description you have legitimate follow-up questions, it is entirely within your right—and best interest—as a buyer to inquire further. You know that saying, “there are no dumb questions?” There are. They’re the ones that have already been answered.
Met People At Your Personal Residence
No one likes to imagine that bad things can happen to them. But, that’s no reason to take unnecessary risks. While countless good people buy and sell through Craigslist every day, there will always be scoundrels in our midst. Inviting a stranger to come to your garage-mahal, the place where you store your most precious automotive treasures, tools and cars—not to mention yourself and your family—is an entirely avoidable risk. Conduct transactions in a public place, ideally in the day when other people are around. Better yet, many police stations now offer designated spots at their stations for Craiglist transactions to occur. Play it safe.
Count Your Beans First
Car parts are several steps down on the pyramid of necessities. Food, rent, and several other vital costs of living inevitably take precedence—though I have skipped lunch for weeks at a time to bolster my parts fund. The bottom line is that if you don’t have the money, don’t waste someone’s time, regardless of how much you want the thing they’re selling. Carefully evaluate if the part is what you’re looking for and how badly you want it before being the infamous “Craigslist flake” who bails out of the deal at the last minute.
Exaggerate What You’re Selling
It’s a timeless tale of bait and switch. You show up to look at a part/car and laid before you is not the pristinely shined object of your desire, but a rusted and gnarled imposter. This sort of trickery is far more likely to earn a seller a fat lip than a fat wallet. Be honest, and describe what you’re listing as accurately as possible. If there is damage, detail it in pictures and mention it in the description. 99 percent of the time, the buyer is going to notice the problem on arrival, so why waste either of your time?
Call In The Middle Of The Night
It’s important to remember that on the other end of that phone number is a person, a person that like most members of our species isn’t nocturnal. Just because you cruise the local listings in the wee hours of the morning, does not mean it’s OK to bother others that late. You’d think this would go without saying, but alas it happens all the time. People have families and work in the morning, so be courteous. And besides, that offer you were going to make is far less appealing when you are waking someone up to deliver it.
Underestimate The Power Of A Phone Call
While text messaging is well on it’s way to becoming the prime form of communication of this country, don’t underestimate the power of a good ol’ phone call. Texts are cold, lifeless things—despite the amount of smiley faces you insert—and lack the warmth and sincerity of a human voice. There have been several occasions where picking up the phone and actually speaking to someone has lead to something in common: an acquaintance, an interest, a car, that ultimately lead to a better deal—and a few times, even a friendship.