My Story: Buying and Selling on Craigslist

contributed by Nikka Kensel


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"Reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle" has become more popular, more important, and more necessary, and nowhere is this more evident than on Craigslist, the Internet's very own virtual garage sale. Craigslist is a website of local classifieds and forums for more than 550 cities in over 50 countries worldwide. According to their posted information, Craigslist is community moderated, and for the majority of those of us posting ads, the service is free! (They make their money by charging below-market fees for job ads in 10 cities, and for brokered apartment listings in NYC.)

Craig Newmark started Craigslist as an email list of San Francisco events in early 1995. Since then, the website has branched to include listings for jobs, apartments, houses for sale, personal ads, and classifieds. These days, Craigslist users self-publish more than 30 million new classified ads each month! Posting an ad to sell items is much easier than eBay, it is free, and there is no shipping involved, because you post ads on the Craigslist city site closest to you.

So set aside some time to get your kids to thin out some of their gently-used toys and make two piles: one to donate to charity (reduce and reuse) and one pile for making cash (re-purpose and recycle).

Start by cleaning your toys and photographing them. You don't want to sell anything that you wouldn't buy at a garage sale, and you must represent your toys' condition accurately.

Once you've downloaded your digital photos to your computer and reduced them to email attachment size, you are ready to start listing. Go to Craigslist and look in the right-hand column to find your nearest city. If it's not listed, click on "more cities" at the bottom for a full list. Once you are at your local Craigslist site, then click on the "my account" link on the left to create your free account. Creating an account helps you track what items you have posted and edit your postings more easily. Your deleted postings are saved so you can re-post them later if necessary.

After you've created your account, you can post an ad directly from your account page, or you can get back to your local city page and look under the "for sale" heading in the middle of the page. In this section, you can click on "baby + kids," "games + toys" and "collectibles" to find all sorts of neat toys to get your kids. Here you can also get great ideas for how you want to list and describe your own items. Classified ads are listed with the most-recently-posted at the top. You can search for what you are seeking in the search window near the top.

Are you ready to post? Then click the "post" link at the upper right hand corner. This takes you to a page where you will create a title for your item, price, your location (such as your town, neighborhood, or major cross-streets), and a description. You will also be able to upload up to four photos of your item. Yes, you need pictures to sell your toys. Would you buy a used toy from a stranger if you didn't know what it looked like?

Strategies for listing your gently-used toys:

  • If you have ever sold something on eBay, the same principle for titles applies here. A lot of people don't have the time or inclination to wade through all the new toy postings daily, so they will be searching for specific terms in the search box. If you are trying to sell a Sesame Street item that plays music, for example, you might title it "Sesame Street Music Box Toy Elmo Cookie Monster!" Put as many relevant terms in the title that might come up on a search, even if it isn't grammatically correct.

  • Be accurate in your item description. The more information you give, the more comfortable people will be in buying your toys sight-unseen. Popular and mind-easing phrases to use (only if they are true in your situation) are "Toy never played with or drooled on," "Item comes from our smoke-free and pet-free home," "Toy has no rips, tears, stains, or icky smells."

  • I have found great success in selling toys in large lots. This way, I am only driving out to meet someone once and I can make more money this way too. I price used toys to sell, but it makes no sense to sell a toy for $3, only to have to drive ten minutes to drop it off. You don't have to limit yourself to lots of four either. Just photograph more than one toy in each picture and you can create a lot of similar-themed or age-appropriate toys and charge $10, $20,or even $50 depending on the quality and quantity of your items.

  • At the end of your item description, Craigslist will give you the option of letting buyers contact you via an anonymous email address or any way you choose. If you list your phone number, expect to be called all hours of the day until you remove your posting. Use the anonymous email address; you'll be glad you did. Another word to the wise: many people have no problem meeting people at their home for picking up or dropping off items. If you are selling large pieces of furniture, this is necessary. However, I've never encountered anyone put off by the fact that I prefer to meet at a local, nearby business for safety reasons. You can email or phone potential buyers to set up a mutually-convenient place and time. Just remember that Craigslist is addictive, and you may just find yourself spending all your new cash on more gently-used toys for your kids.

Nikka Kensel is a stay-at-home mother of three young children. She has a Masters degree in Education, and after eight years of observing and instructing college-aged people, she decided it would be more fun to observe and instruct little ones instead. When she's not clipping coupons and scouting out bargains, she can be found at garage sales with her children all clutching the quarter they're allowed to spend. Though some in her own family might call her "cheap," she prefers the term "frugal" and tries to elevate it to an art form. She enjoys freelance editing work as a means of bringing in extra income. You can contact her at nkensel@yahoo.com

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com

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