by Juliana Bledsoe
Craigslist is an amazing thing. It can help you find more cool, random shit for free or at a bargain than you can shake a stick at; and even a free stick if you feel like trying anyway. That being said, Craigslist exchanges can produce encounters that prickle with awkwardness.
People you meet through Craigslist can leave you at a complete loss regarding society, and I’m only talking about those you meet in the “For Sale” section. The missed connections and dating sections are a whole other story.
There is not yet an established precedence for the etiquette of how you’re supposed to deal with people when buying and selling things locally through the site. There are obvious requests, like when people ask you not to text or to email your name and number for more details so that the seller knows you’re a real person, and people still manage to screw it up.
I’ve been stuck with no idea what to do when people show up to buy something and clearly have no idea what they are looking for or left feeling as if a seller is expecting some kind of tip when I agreed to pick something up for free.
Though you’ll never really know what to expect when you meet up with a stranger to make a deal, there are a few things that you can prepare yourself for, which will help make your Craigslist encounters go smoother.
Remember that people are always out to get theirs, so you will likely find yourself dealing with people who try to talk you down on the price of something you’re selling. Keep this haggling aspect in mind when you post an item price on Craigslist, and make sure you know going into a negotiation the least that you are willing to accept for your stuff.
Being firm on your price beforehand can keep you from feeling like you have been taken advantage of later. Giving yourself some room to negotiate can also keep you from feeling pressured to accept less than you think the item is worth.
Buyers should also keep this in mind, but face a different set of challenges. It is OK to try and negotiate a lower price, especially if you have a valid reason, but in the end, you are entitled to nothing. You want it that badly, you pay what they are asking.
You should also be very clear about how certain you are that you are going to buy an item, so that a seller doesn’t feel like you’ve wasted their time if it doesn’t pan out.
Last year I was looking for a dryer to put in my apartment and contacted someone who agreed to bring over the one he was selling for me to look at. It wasn’t in as good of condition as I was looking for, and when I told him I wasn’t interested, he lashed out on me for making him drive all the way for nothing and screwing him over. I had never said that I was agreeing to buy it, but I felt so attacked and guilty that I gave the guy $10 for gas, and mostly just to get him out of my face. Not only was I upset afterwards, but then I had to wait another week to save up enough money to get a dryer.
This brings up another important issue: you should try to be as clear as possible about who is responsible for pick-up and delivery, especially with larger items. Both buyers and sellers have to be conscientious about this because, after all, both time and gas end up costing money.
You will find yourself face-to-face with weird people that you might not otherwise interact with, even finding yourself in their home or them in yours through the process of exchanging goods. I’ve always found it best not to get too involved or you might end up putting your foot in your mouth when you realize that some lady’s dollhouse like décor is actually the remodel, and not what she is getting rid of.
Don’t feel like you are responsible for someone else’s seller’s remorse, but if you’re feeling supportive, you can humor them and listen to them longingly talk about how they wish they had used that juicer more, before you give them twenty bucks and go on your merry way.
Whatever you end up dealing with, it’s best to just keep it light-hearted. Everyone has their puzzling quirks, and some are just more pronounced than others. You can crack a joke or pet the person’s dog if you’re feeling it, but you don’t have to feel obligated to sample the casserole surprise that came out of the oven or grab something off the top shelf if you’re not up to it.
If all goes well, both parties end up happy, and whether or not you see them again is basically up to you.
Juliana Bledsoe studies journalism and Spanish. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.