Craigslist etiquette
August 16, 2014 10:54 AM   Subscribe

What is proper Craigslist etiquette as a seller in this situation? I listed a couple items. Someone replied. I arranged to meet them at 3:00 today. Then my co-worker said he might want them and he's the one coming over to be a manly presence while I sell this stuff, so I feel obligated to him. Then I got swamped with about twenty other e-mails wanting to set up times to look at the items, and one offering to buy one sight unseen. How to proceed?
posted by HotToddy to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
Tell your co-worker that he can have them if the person you are meeting today at 3:00 doesn't show/doesn't want them. Don't worry about all the other emails unless your co-worker changes his mind about taking them.
posted by fancyoats at 10:58 AM on August 16, 2014 [24 favorites]

2nding fancyoats. If you said you'd meet someone, they've got first dibs. It's fine to ignore all the other CL riffraff if your 3pm appointment backs out and just sell it to your friend.
posted by jabes at 11:05 AM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Honor the commitment you already made.
posted by trunk muffins at 11:08 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, honor the commitment you already made, but learn from your mistake; Label everything on craigslist as 'first come first served' and actually stick to taking down the ad as soon as the stuff is gone.

If past craigslist selling experience is a guide, there's a 85% chance your buyer wont show up, or that they'll call you incessantly trying to get you to hold onto it for them, and never come pick it up. The Craigslist Flake is an earned stereotype in this world.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:19 AM on August 16, 2014 [12 favorites]

Then my co-worker said he might want them
Because it is a co-worker, yeah, you need to make sure you don't do anything to tick him off. So keep the appointment at 3pm. If that guy either doesn't show or doesn't buy, give co-worker his shot.

and one offering to buy one sight unseen.

If neither of the two above people make the deal, email this person first. If they don't come through either, then you can start contacting others.

Though, honestly, when I advertised something (not on CL, just a flier or newspaper ad or whatever), and someone called me and said "I have cash and can be right over" and I had an appointment to meet someone later, my reply was "Hey, you know, if you get here first and with cash, it's yours." And he did and I sold it to him. The guy with the appointment never did show up so I felt I did the right thing.

Since the offer to buy sight unseen is the only one who is making some kind of verbal commitment to close the deal and everyone else is just trying to keep their options open at your expense, I feel there are limits on how much commitment you owe these other people. So, you know, be polite and keep your word but you only have one real offer here. Everyone else is still in the category of looky-loo -- interested but not committed.

So, on preview, what furnace.heart said. Don't put yourself in this position again.
posted by Michele in California at 11:21 AM on August 16, 2014

Since you made a commitment already, it's the right thing to honor it. However, for future sales, there's nothing wrong with letting people know that the item goes to the first person who can actually get you the money in hand, even if arrangements start to be made.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:23 AM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would feel 100% fine with canceling on the 3 o'clock appointment if you want to sell to your coworker instead. You haven't made any sort of binding commitment to the 3 o'clock and you're welcome to decide to sell to someone else, give to someone else, keep the item, whatever, it's still your thing until it becomes not-your-thing.

I'd only be comfortable giving at least a couple hours notice of the cancellation, though.

When selling things on Craigslist, I regularly make 2 appointments in a day with people who are looking to come buy stuff. If the first appointment comes, likes the item, doesn't negotiate me down to nothing, and can take the thing away immediately, it's a done deal and I email the 2nd appointment to cancel. Sometimes I mention it upfront "Hey, there's one person before you..." but just as often, I don't, depending on the situation. As a buyer, I fully expect that cancellations are a possibility.

Also, I try to only make these sorts of decisions based on maximization of ease, money, and efficiency. So just as you're not obligated to the 3 o'clock, I don't think you're obligated to sell to your coworker either. Buy him some beers or take him out to lunch as a thank-you instead if you don't want to sell to him.

I don't trust someone who offers to buy "sight unseen" though, I want someone to come, look at the item, and hand me some cash.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 11:38 AM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The person coming at 3:00 is not obligated to buy it. He can look at it, decide not to get or decide it isn't worth full price and that is all acceptable. So, I think that you can also decide not to sell provided that you can give him enough notice that he can adjust his plans. This is why getting a phone number when you set up the appointment is really important - it would be rude to make him drive over and then say "sorry, already sold".

On the other hand, your co-worker isn't even sure he wants to buy it either. He knows you are planning to show it since he volunteered to be there for you. So, he shouldn't be surprised or offended that you want to follow through on the offer to show it the craigslist person.

You don't have to reply to the other craigslist emails right away - you can wait and see what happens at 3:00. I think it is polite to respond with a short note that just says "already sold" although lots of people don't do that. Also, take the listing down once the item is sold for your sake as well as theirs.
posted by metahawk at 12:23 PM on August 16, 2014

Craigslist is a real grab-bag. I've had VERY good luck selling stuff on CL. But it's first come, first served. I'd honor your commitment, giving your work friend seconds if the first guy doesn't want it.

As for the "I'll give you cash sight unseen," that can be a scam, so don't worry too much about that. Then it turns into a wire deal, or a fake check or some other rip-off.

Send everyone an email after 3:00 telling them the item has sold or letting them know that it's still available, first come, first served.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:26 PM on August 16, 2014

Lots have said it in this thread, I learned it first from an old friend who was forever selling something in the newspaper or greensheet and is now a ebay and craiglist psycho power seller -- whoever is there first with the bread. Period.

I looked for my current pickup for months and months. A long, long time. I knew exactly what I wanted, down to the color even, the interior package, everything. And I wanted it clean, I wanted it mint.

One afternoon I sign into craiglist and the truck is there, with pictures, it's the truck I'm looking for, just put onto craiglist minutes before. I call INSTANTLY, I told the guy I'm on my way RIGHT NOW WITH CASH -- none of this 3 PM bullshit. It was high summer, about seventeen thousand degrees, the A/C in my old pickup didn't work, it's rush hour traffic, the guy is north Austin and I'm South Austin, the guy says "Oh, no need to fight traffic in the heat." and I told the guy "I'm on my way RIGHT NOW WITH CASH" and mapped his house, filled a big honkin' water bottle with ice water, climbed into my ratty old pickup, sat in 40 minutes of gruesome central Texas stop and go and bought the prettiest pickup in Texas.

He'd gotten something like 18,977,381,017 more emails in the time between me hanging up the phone and forking over the bread. He had *no idea* how much the truck was worth; I bought it for a song, I'd have paid double without blinking an eye. More than double. I'd have paid pretty much whatever to get behind the wheel. It's like a brand new truck, 16 years old when I bought it.

Anyways. Craiglist Rule #1: Whoever is there first with the cash. Period.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:03 PM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree with most here that your commitment is to (a) the guy you're meeting at 3:00 and (b) your co-worker, in that order, but only if one of them has cash in hand. No commitment to anyone that says they'll "think about it."

Also, the person who offered to buy it sight-unseen is probably a scammer.
posted by mmoncur at 3:17 PM on August 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Co-worker didn't want it after all and 3:00 paid full price. Everyone is happy!
posted by HotToddy at 3:43 PM on August 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

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