Too good to be true maybe?
April 16, 2010 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Avoiding stolen items on Craigslist?

I have found an extremely cheap piece of furniture on Craigslist. Looks like the person is moving out of town and is just trying to get rid of everything. However, the price is so low and the item so new I wonder if it is stolen. Any way to be sure? I plan to go and pick it up, so no, this is not some CL mail scam.
posted by molecicco to Shopping (16 answers total)
I am not sure how one would go about checking on stolen furniture... Depending on the brand and now elite it is, there would be some serial # tracking or something. You can certainly ask the seller how long he/she has had the piece.

If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Maybe it is a knock off?
posted by lonemantis at 5:59 AM on April 16, 2010

If you want to be extra sure, get the name and contact info of the seller when you get the item. Afterward, go down to the local police department and explain the situation and they'll check to see if they have any cases involving it. Be sure to tell them if it has any special identifying features or serial numbers. If it does end up being stolen, give them the info for the seller.

You have to be careful with these "too good to be true" cases, because if down the line you are caught with the item and it is stolen it can be argued that you knew you were receiving stolen goods because no reasonable person would expect to get something for way below market value without knowing something was wrong.
posted by Menthol at 5:59 AM on April 16, 2010

While I agree that it may sound too good to be true, the individual may indeed be moving and want to offload items quickly. I have had a LOT of issues with giveaways on CL and Freecycle and the like and therefore I never list something as free (even things we would have otherwise given away) but generally list things at what may seem an insanely low price.

I would recommend, however, that if you choose to go see the item you do not go alone and that if you choose to purchase the item you pay with a certified check or the like (and, as noted by Menthol, try to get contact info from the seller).
posted by labwench at 6:14 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I hear 'ridiculously cheap furniture on Craigslist,' I think 'bedbugs.'
posted by sugarfish at 6:18 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it is soft furniture (like a couch), I would also think about the possibility they are getting rid of it because they have bedbugs.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:18 AM on April 16, 2010

The bedbug issue is a very good thing to consider.

Furniture is unlikely to be stolen and sold for cheap. It isn't impossible, but low-priced furniture is not "calorie dense." It's hard to move, hard to store, hard to steal as a result, and as you've described, there isn't really a return here. It may be stolen, but that's unlikely.
posted by OmieWise at 6:31 AM on April 16, 2010

I've bought lowpriced furniture on Craigslist before. The couple times I did it, it was from people who haven't planned very well and were moving like the next day or something. They had their houses all boxed up except for the items they were selling (I suppose it could have been stolen, but that would be an elaborate ruse with all the moving paraphernalia; plus furniture is really heavy). They just want someone to cart away their stuff for them, so they don't have to do it. A lot of times it's cheaper to move without furniture and buy new stuff in the new locale, than paying for movers to haul your stuff.

I hadn't considered the possibility of bedbugs (shudder).
posted by bluefly at 6:48 AM on April 16, 2010

I just posted something practically brand new on craigslist for ridiculously cheap because I really don't care about the money and I just want it to go away and not take up space in my house. I would have listed it for free except that I thought people might assume it had bedbugs. I even left it on the porch for the people to pick up and told them to leave the money in the mailbox, knowing there is a chance they will just take it and not pay me, but that's worth it to me for someone to take it and make good use of it.
posted by thejanna at 6:50 AM on April 16, 2010

People tend to sell couches pretty cheap because they're so hard to move. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by delmoi at 6:55 AM on April 16, 2010

Response by poster: Good call on the bedbugs. But the person is also getting rid of some other electrical appliances, so I buy the moving thing. And now that I think of it, if I were to steal a couch this large, I would sell it for as much as I could, really.

It is a leather couch. Does that affect the possibility of bedbugs?
posted by molecicco at 7:19 AM on April 16, 2010

I have a couch that I can't even give away...some things are just impossible to move. YMMV
posted by Gungho at 7:19 AM on April 16, 2010

Yeah, I traded a good fairly new leather sofa for a cheap camera because I didn't want the hassle of trying to move it, again. (top floor of a 3-story low-rise) Not nearly what it was worth, but needed to get rid of it quick before moving.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:36 AM on April 16, 2010

Furniture seems low risk for being stolen. Most furniture appears to depreciate significantly upon purchase, barring a few famous designs or high end makes, and it's difficult to move. Compared to high-value items like electronics or jewelry that are easy for one person to grab and have a fairly robust used market.

Given the context of them selling other appliances it sure appears to be a legitimate moving sale.
posted by 6550 at 8:18 AM on April 16, 2010

Couches are notoriously hard to get rid of. They are such a pain to move. The free section in my CL is probably at least 1/3 couches and loveseats. Maybe the bedbug problem factors in, but I know I've personally gone to extreme measures to not have to move couches before. That being said, I also know people who have gotten practically new couch-like pieces of furniture for dirt cheap off of CL as well.

If you like it, you can check for bedbugs, and you can move it, I say go for it. You're probably doing the seller a favor as well.
posted by cgg at 8:20 AM on April 16, 2010

To answer your question in a non-furniture context, my spider senses get a-tingly when CL posters don't describe items well at all, or with suspiciously general language. For example, I whitewater kayak, and occasionally boats will get stolen. They're usually pretty easy to spot when they show up on craigslist, since the descriptions will be general and the seller won't be able to answer specific questions about the boat.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:04 AM on April 16, 2010

Single data point: I've sold stuff for peanuts under similar circumstances -- I am indeed, that sucker who was moving the next day and hadn't planned. You get better results with "cheap" than "free", it's true.
posted by zvs at 2:34 PM on April 16, 2010

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