Now that we’ve discussed some tips and tricks for locating the absolutely awesomest vintage stuff Craigslist has to offer, it’s time to move on to the topic of acquisition.
So you’ve found a promising looking piece in a poorly lit photo, touted as “good old dresser, need gone by Saturday, $50 OBO, pick up only”. How to proceed?
First, decide if you would like to negotiate or not.
Situations in which to consider making a lower offer:
If the posting says “OBO” (or best offer)
If the posting says “asking $____”
If the posting does not say “price firm”
When the posting says “price firm”
Fairly straightforward, right? If the posting indicates that the seller may consider something less than asking price, an offer is fair game. Even if the posting doesn’t indicate that, offers are kind of expected on Craigslist, and the worst they can say is “no”. (I mean, they could be rude about that, but I’ve never run across that, and the key is to make a respectful offer, see below). But if I post that something is “$___, price firm” and someone sends me a lower offer, it’s kind of annoying. It’s like – did you even read the posting? Respect the negotiation.
When making an offer, just use common human decency. Don’t offer 10% of their asking price. Don’t insult them by telling them their price is too high. Don’t give a sob story – “Money is tight but I really need your fabulous-gorgeous-mid-century-dresser to complete my bedroom redesign, so will you please take 10% instead”? (If money is tight, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t just look at things within your price range? If your budget is $100 for something, why look at things that are $300?) Obviously, there isn’t a perfect formula for how much to offer, but just make an offer in good faith that is respectful of their time.
Always a good bet: “Would you consider taking $__?” Polite, succinct. Worst they can say is no, or they might counter offer.
And always bring the exact amount of cash, when you go to pick something up – don’t count on them to have change, or accept a check.
You can contact a Craigslist seller in one of two ways – email or phone number. I prefer sending emails because I have a semi-phobia of talking on the phone, and also I sound like a twelve-year-old on the phone, which has led to people requesting to talk to my “mom or dad”…. However, sometimes the seller opts out of email or expresses a preference for phone calls or texts, and then I try to bribe Bryan into calling for me, mostly unsuccessfully. Super professional advice here, people – free of charge!
When sending an email:
- Use complete sentences.
- Sound intelligent and polite and do your best not to come across as a scary serial killer writing a death threat. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m actually a little scared of the substitution of “u” and “ur” for “you” and “your”… Do your best not to frighten the seller.
- Mention the item they are selling in the body of the email. This convinces me as a seller that you are a human and not a spam bot.
- Express the correct amount of interest.
- “I would like to come purchase” = it’s the coolest most amazing piece ever and you’re ready to commit to it sight unseen. Sellers will take this seriously, and may make an appointment with you rather than someone who just wants to “come take a look”.
- “I would like to come see/purchase” = you’re pretty sold on it, but it sounds a little less non-committal.
- “I would like to take a look at” or “I would like to come see ______” = standard level of interest. You don’t want to commit to anything beforehand.
- “I am interested in ____” = a good preface for some questions about the piece, or for not sounding too crazy gung-ho, if you want to make an offer.
- [Optional] make an offer. See above.
- Outline your availability
- If you can come right away, mention that. If you can’t come until Friday evening, say so – don’t expect the seller to hold the item for you, but if you are serious about purchasing, they may.
- Include a phone number.
- A phone number conveys that you are a serious buyer and gives the seller a quicker means of contacting you than email. If you’re open to texts, mention that – I always say “feel free to email me a response or text me at ______”, due to the whole dislike of phone convos thing…
Roughly the same advice applies for calling or texting.
If they tell you the item is already spoken for, it never hurts to be the backup. Say: “Would you please let me know if that falls through? I would still be interested.” So many buyers are no-shows, and I’ve actually had sellers call me back multiple times saying, “It’s yours if you come get it.”
If the item is already spoken for, sometimes you can offer more. We’re getting into some shady business here, but if you absolutely MUST HAVE it, consider making the buyer a higher offer.
So you’ve found the item, contacted the seller, fixed a time/place/price. Now it’s time to get there, and get it home. This should be super obvious, but maybe it isn’t: make sure you can get it home. Ask for measurements, if they aren’t provided, and then measure your vehicle to make sure it will fit. Or arrange to borrow a friend’s SUV/truck, etc. Measure the friend’s car and make sure it will fit! So many people have showed up in their little sports utility vehicles certain that a dresser will fit in the back with the seat down, only to find out, oh yeah, it’s 45 inches wide and the trunk opening isn’t.
I promise, I am not just picking on other people here. We went to pick up a Lovesac Sactional Couch in our little VW Jetta, convinced it should all fit inside because it came apart in pieces…
We got it home, eventually, but it would have been so much better if we had just taken our truck there. I was worried about pieces flying out the back… some ratcheting tie down straps like these will totally solve that problem though. If you don’t have some, get some. They are a lifesaver.
Okay, I was really reaching here for another heading that ended in “tion” (helpful list here, for anyone interested). The last topic is safety. Craigslist is The Internet, and The Internet, as we all know, is a bottomless pit of evil and evil-doers. And mama always told us not to talk to strangers.
Maybe it’s not smart. Maybe I’m being naïve.
But sometimes I go by myself to buy things.
And I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t sweet and helpful and just a decent human being on a superficial level. This one time I followed a woman out to her overgrown and secluded and falling down barn, and that was probably my dumbest moment, but I had driven over an hour to her middle of nowhere farm and I wasn’t about to leave without getting those chairs… And she was really nice and I didn’t get murdered.
So maybe don’t follow my example. If you can go with someone else, that is totally ideal. I always prefer to have Bryan with me. But if you do go alone, make sure someone knows where you’re going. I don’t know – I figure, I have the address and the phone number and the name of the person I am going to meet, and so does Bryan… I also may or may not do a little Google research on them and/or Google street view their house beforehand…
Be smart. Be safe. Avoid shady situations. (Like that time we went to buy a rug and the lady had her welder friend cut into someone else’s storage unit so she could sell it to us.) If at any point you get a serial killer vibe, bail out of the situation.
But I bet you’ll meet a lot of nice people, and gather some great stories along the way!