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?

“Because it’s good for you”

I’ve always been a big fan of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.  So much so that at one point in my childhood, my parents decided that my brother and I needed to read something else for a while, and they put all the Calvin and Hobbes collections on top of a high bookshelf in their room.  That didn’t last long.  Anyway, in the strip, Calvin’s dad is always telling him that he needs to take out the trash (or shovel the driveway, or go camping with the family, or basically anything Calvin doesn’t want to do) because “it builds character.”

I was reminded of Calvin’s dad this week when the grad students in my department received an email from the enthusiastic new faculty member in charge of Journal Club.  Evidently I’m not the only grad student who has been staying away: just three students were in attendance this week, and that is apparently an unacceptably low number.

In addition to singing the praises of the talks that we all chose to miss, the email finished by telling us that we should come to Journal Club because it,

will help you learn how to be successful as a postdoc.

This irritated me.  (In a roll-your-eyes kind of way; I’m not upset about it and I certainly don’t feel guilty about my lack of attendance.)

For one, it’s extremely condescending, albeit unintentionally.  With the possible exception of the first-years, the grad students aren’t avoiding Journal Club because we don’t know what it’s about, or because we haven’t realized that speaking and listening and presenting are valuable skills for us to have.  We’re not attending Journal Club because we’ve tried it, been unimpressed, and have decided that there are far more productive ways to use our time.

So it doesn’t actually solve the issue.  Productive ways to increase attendance might include making Journal Club more interactive, spending more time on topics of interest to students, and encouraging speakers to start preparing their presentations sooner than the night before.  Or perhaps trimming down all of the other seminar-like events students are also expected to attend.

Finally, it illustrates the deeply-ingrained assumption that there could not possibly be any other reason to get a PhD other than to prepare for a career in academia.  Is it really that inconceivable that you wouldn’t want to follow that track?

To be fair, if my time in grad school is any indication, learning how to sit through boring talks without falling asleep is a valuable skill for a career in academia.  Perhaps that’s what she meant.