What happened to Craigslist
January 12, 2018 4:40 PM   Subscribe

The last few times I've used craigslist to try to sell things, the majority of the responses I've gotten were scammers. This last time I posted 5 or 6 items at different prices points and every single response was a scammer. Does anyone use Craigslist anymore? What should Craigslist be doing about this? Is there some longform journalism I can read about what happened?

The latest scam was like 6 text replies from different phone numbers requesting I email the respondent's wife about the item. If you follow these through any dialog it comes down to a money wiring scam. It's sad to me, as Craigslist was one of the last non-corporate sections of the internet.
posted by latkes to Human Relations (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In my neighborhood and city Facebook groups and Nextdoor have really given Craigslist a run for its money. You can be neighborhood specific, so people are closer and less likely to flake.
posted by k8t at 4:46 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]

I haven't had this problem and sold some things and tried to sell other things over craigslist this last fall. However, I live in a small city (about 120,000 people -- much smaller than the Bay Area) and perhaps they don't think they'll have much "return on investment," so to speak, by spamming in the smaller areas.
posted by sevenofspades at 4:51 PM on January 12

I think it’s all Facebook Marketplace now - people trust it more because you can see who’s fake more easily.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 5:16 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

My town reflects k8t's answer above.

First, there was Freecycle, but that was overrun with people *wanting* things, not giving away things. Craigslist seemed like the adult answer to Freecycle, but that didn't last long.
Facebook Marketplace and the narrowing down of neighborhoods you can do on Nextdoor seem to do a good job of weeding out the scammers.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:51 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

It's pretty much Facebook and Neighborhood in my (hometown) area, too. Along with a narrowly local classifieds page.
posted by stormyteal at 5:52 PM on January 12

Sadly, CL has become pretty worthless for most stuff.

Occasionally you get lucky and hook up with a legit buyer. I recently sold a 1980s 32” Sony Wega flat-face tube tv to a couple of guys from Purdue U. They were deep into retro gaming and, apparently, an old tv like that is like gold. It’s the screen the old games were made to be played on.

But wins like that are far, far, far outweighed by the scammers, griefers, and general jackholes playing around with you.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:21 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

I've bought and sold electronics (iPhones, TVs) on Craigslist in Oakland in the last year without running into too many spammers, so maybe it depends on what kind of goods you were welling.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:21 PM on January 12

Craigslist always had scammers. Even in like 2006, only like one in five job postings was real. But they were at least balanced out by real people. Today, the real people have all gone to Facebook Marketplace.

I posted my old car for sale on CL before I moved last summer, and even at a mere $400 I didn't get a single real offer for it for almost two weeks. Even when non-scammers would email asking questions, I'd respond to set up a test drive and they'd ghost on me. As the move got closer, I was complaining to a friend about it, and he told me to put it on FB Marketplace. I had multiple offers within hours.

It is sad. Not only was CL kind of cool and non-corporate (and easy to use!), but it's replacement, FB, is just horrible. I'd love to be able to just avoid FB entirely.

I suspect the ubiquity of FB played a part. CL was really only useful to people in the hearts of major metro areas. If you lived on the outskirts, it's usefulness was limited. And of course, if you lived in a rural area, there was no CL. As an example, the CL I browse most often now is Boston, even though I live an hour away. There's no separate CL for Lowell, and NH is too decentralized to be useful. But I'm not going to drive two-plus hours to somewhere like Brockton to buy some random children's toy just because we share the same metro area.

I also think CL skews toward a particular demographic (younger Xers and older millenials - I would say "young people", but we're not going anymore), whereas FB is more varied. That's helpful when trying to sell a big item like a car.

Discussion item: I'm surprised Amazon hasn't tried something like this.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:39 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]

It's been this way for a few years, at least here in NYC. I've had a nice NAD stereo receiver up there for a few weeks now and have only had one serious buyer contact me earlier today, but even he just stopped responding eventually. Like almost everyone else has said, apps like LetGo and Facebook marketplace are better bets these days.

On a side note, I don't know if this is just something that happened to my account or everyone's but my posting history on Craigslist was recently deleted. I used to be able to see everything I'd listed going back over 10 years. I even got in touch with someone that bought one of my cameras that I regretted selling years later and was able to buy it back. But all that is gone now and that sucks so screw CL.
posted by Venadium at 8:02 PM on January 12

I have had great experiences in the past three months selling closet doors and flooring on Craigslist. I've also been looking at apartment subleases and am doing well and reaching real people.
posted by amtho at 8:07 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

Don't use the text/ phone option. People crawl for that and will send you virus links as well as be lame scammers. The email only is usually still good. By which I mean 50% reals and 50% people sending you money from their agent.
posted by fshgrl at 8:13 PM on January 12

Venadium - I think they just have hidden the older listings; on my My Account page, I have a "find your postings" section with links to most recent, active, inactive and all postings.
posted by neilbert at 8:20 PM on January 12

This probably varies greatly by area: I haven't had problems selling furniture / housewares / small electronics on Craigslist -- in fact, I've found CL buyers more committed and considerate than buyers through OfferUp, e.g. -- I got the vibe that OfferUp was conducive to purchase flirting, whereas CL felt more like arranging a business transaction, which is what I wanted.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:41 PM on January 12

Apartment rentals are going strong in my area. Lots of real properties on them. I secured my last two apartments this way.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:51 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

I still use Craigslist to buy, like I got a used Precor elliptical there. And I still use it as my main way of apartment hunting. But I also remember scammers always being there. One was an apartment listing where they immediately asked me to fill out a form with my bank account info, and given what a "great deal" the apartment was, it was an obvious scam. And when selling, there were always some scam emails, but I just ignored them. They've actually done a better job lately at weeding out scammers, in my opinion - I'm not aware that this is a new problem.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:51 PM on January 12

CL stopped being a thing for me when I moved to Canada. Up here, it’s all Kijiji, FB neighbourhood pages, and the local subreddit.
posted by Kitteh at 5:35 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]

We used Boston Craigslist in the last six months to find apartment rentals, buy and sell furniture, advertise yard sales, and give items away via free posts. There were a few scam apartment listings (gorgeous places with mouthwatering prices and owners that just happened to be out of town, gosh, but maybe you could fill out this super invasive questionaire and wire them the first month's rent? Blessings!) But most of the apartment and all of the furniture listings we responded to were legit. We also got lots of traffic to our yard sale and free posts through CL.

Craigslist has a flagging system and big bold warnings about scams on practically every page. I'm a Facebook abstainer and it pains me that it's poised to replace Craigslist for community classifieds. CL is far from perfect but it's dead simple and best of all isn't an agent of our eventual dystopian future.
posted by prewar lemonade at 6:11 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]

Sounds like it's hit and miss. I sold a juicer on CL in Brooklyn about 6 months ago. Got two legit inquiries and sold to the second. It must depend, as someone said above, on what you're selling.
posted by swheatie at 7:34 AM on January 13

yep CL is full of scammers but still very useful. this is the disclaimer I use:


Do to the fact that CL is a hotbed of SCAMMERS I MUST INSIST ON THE FOLLOWING:
Please reply with a valid phone number & I will call as soon as I can.
If you choose to reply in any other manner or NOT return my call I will flag your reply as spam.
Sorry NO exceptions! don't waste my time & I will not waste yours!"

seems to work for me........
posted by patnok at 11:08 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]

This is my reality right now- I have listed a couple of items in the past few weeks, and right away I get several replies from scammers. I did eventually sell the old car I had listed, though. I use the text option for contact, even though that is the preferred way for scammers to contact. I have started just replying with a link to https://www.craigslist.org/about/scams when someone texts me that they are ready to buy and have a check all ready to go. It saves everyone time. I'm not willing to do FB, so CL is pretty much the only option where I live.
posted by Maxwell's demon at 3:16 PM on January 14

Kijiji has the same issue in Canada. Many people are tire kickers, scammers, or cheap. I only donate items to Goodwill now. It's not worth the time or hassle to sell an item online.
posted by GiveUpNed at 10:38 PM on January 14

Hmm... Well, it seems there is a range of experiences. In Sacramento, CA, selling furniture was a total washout with only scam replies. However, it did seem helpful for listing a garage sale.
posted by latkes at 2:22 PM on January 15

I've found Craigslist to be useful, though it's usual to have several scammers and the occasional nonscammer yet not worth the bother type. Just don't spend any more time on them once you know what you're dealing with. If you aren't getting legit buyers try dropping the asking price by at least half.
posted by yohko at 4:41 PM on January 15

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