The 4 types of responses you get when selling on Craigslist

We’re definitely not having any more babies, so as Younger Brother has outgrown his newborn stuff, I’ve been looking for ways to get rid of it.  Craigslist offers a nice win-win scenario: I get a little extra cash, while someone else gets gently used gear at a good price.  I’ve made $55 in the last month—nothing to retire on, but nothing to sneeze at either.

I learned pretty quickly to not get too invested in any particular response to my ads.  These responses tend to fall into one of four general categories:

1. The Scammers—”Is Item,,still available”

Message literally says “item”?  Delete.  Scammers copy-paste the same email to everyone.

2. The Window-Shoppers—”Are the baby clothes still available?”

Plausible grammar?  Correctly references the thing for sale?  Might be a more sophisticated scammer, or it might be a legitimate person doing some virtual window-shopping.  I don’t really understand why people use Craigslist this way, to be honest.  They haven’t yet decided whether they want the thing, but they go to the effort of sending an email anyway.

This group used to annoy me (if the ad’s still up, it’s still available!) but now I just write a five-second “yep, still available” reply and move on.  They rarely answer.

3. The Non-Readers—”What part of town are you in?” / “Location?”

Craigslist sales are in-person, cash-only transactions, so location does matter.  I completely understand why someone wouldn’t want to drive 25 minutes across town for some used baby clothes.  Which is why I use Craigslist’s handy “Show on Maps” feature.  All of my ads include street map with a pin dropped at the nearest major intersection, with the names of the cross streets written in text below the map.

Obviously, when it gets to the point of finalizing a pickup, the buyer will need my full address.  This category isn’t about that, it’s about the people who ask for my location right off the bat (or as their immediate response to a “yep, still available”).  Like the window-shoppers described above, these people haven’t actually decided if they want to buy the thing.  They also haven’t bothered to spend more than two seconds looking at the ad.

I reply to these people, but I’m a little snarky about it.  “I’m at Maple and Elm, like it says in the ad.”  Does this drive away potential buyers?  Possibly.  Were they likely to follow through on the purchase in any case?  Nope.

4. The Buyers—”I’m interested in the Graco swing.” / “Can I get both sets of swaddles for $15?”

The serious buyers—the people who are likely to show up and pay for the thing—send non-generic messages.  They indicate a definite interest.  They correctly reference the item for sale, and they’ve actually read the ad.  Maybe they offer a price, or ask for a deal buying multiple items.  (I say yes to any reasonable offer, because I’m not interested in drawn-out negotiations.)

Not all of these people will end up buying the thing; some will stop responding, while others will set a time for pickup and never show.  But all of my eventual buyers have come out of this category.

I’ve only been selling on Craigslist for a month, so I suspect there are a few types of replies that I haven’t encountered yet.  Do you have anything to add to the list?

10 thoughts on “The 4 types of responses you get when selling on Craigslist

  1. The “I really want your specific item, but can you drive across town to deliver it?” Or, for me, since we’re about 45 minutes out of the major city, people want me to drive up there. Once, it was to get rid of a free boxspring. She offered to pay me $20, but I was still like “um, no.” I got someone to pick it up for free in my town the next day.

    I really like Craigslist and used it a lot when I lived in larger cities. But, in my town, our facebook groups are much more active and a better bet.

    We keep debating the third kid, so I’m not ready to offload our clothes yet. But I have gone through and significantly downsized (both because we had too much and because I’d likely buy a few new things anyway if we do have another). Your post is a good reminder that I really do need to get rid of the big things (baby bathtub, swing, etc) that we hardly used and could definitely forego in the interest of more basement space.

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    • You didn’t use your baby bathtub? Ours has gotten so much use over two kids that I think it’s going to go straight to the trash/recycling when this one outgrows it.

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      • Nope, didn’t use the baby bathtub. We got a hand me down one, thankfully, so no money spent. But I either took a bath with my kids (especially with my first — she still loves to be snuggled right next to me) or used one of those bath sponge thingies in the tub. We don’t have a counter big enough for the tub, and if I was bending over anyway, I didn’t want to deal with a big tub cluttering up my only bathroom.

        Parenting is so a “ymmv” thing. I know this, and it still surprises me every time when someone found something useful I didn’t or vice verse. Like the changing table — ours has been indispensable, but I have friends who liked using the top of a dresser or just changing the kid on their bed instead.

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  2. I mainly have used Facebook groups. Maybe it’s partly a military thing as then you can restrict people some. So far I’m buying more than selling. As a seller I’ve gotten the “I’m interested but would you go out of the way for me” already. And here everyone wants to meet in a public place, not at a home. For sellers there’s always the overpricing items. They want more than half the new price as supposedly they barely used it, or didn’t use it. Sorry, but resale is less than half price usually used or not. I need to sell big items, but I may hold off on smaller stuff until a group garage sale event I have heard of in a few months.

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    • I’ve heard that a lot of Craigslist activity has moved to Facebook in recent years. Do you get fewer straight-up scammers that way?

      I kind of understand the public place thing from a safety standpoint, but I’m also not convinced that a park or a parking lot would really be any safer than my front door.

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      • I think there are fewer scammers depending on the Facebook resale group. Most are moderated, at least in part. Although I have found there are several groups per area, versus just the one Craigslist. And the way Facebook pushes or doesn’t let others see posts there can be an issue with potential buyers not seeing what you are selling.

        I don’t think the public place is any safer either, but if selling a higher price item I am willing to meet someone at a place I will be going anyway. Really you need to just pay attention, to their posts and responses and be heads up at the actual exchange.

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  3. We used nextdoor when we were living in paradise– everyone in the neighborhood. That’s probably easier in a densely populated area though. I hate dealing with Craislist unless it’s something like “Free X, pick it up here” (which we did in other cities we lived in) so I always tell DH that he can have all or part of the proceeds for his own personal spending if he wants to sell instead of donating.

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    • I’d forgotten that Nextdoor has a For Sale section… looks like folks around me mostly use it for large furniture.

      My neighborhood mostly uses Nextdoor for HOA-related drama and rebuttals to that one guy who thinks we should be a gated community.

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