Craigslist selling--Jasmine's Tech Dos & Don'ts

Get schooled by CNET editor Jasmine France. This week she gives tips on using the free online classified site Craigslist to buy and sell goods.

Jasmine's Tech Dos and Don'ts

When I was but a wee lass hunting for my very first San Francisco apartment, Craigslist was just starting to make a name for itself as an instrumental tool for such endeavors in the Bay Area. Now, the site is the place for classifieds online, with a presence in hundreds of cities around the globe.

One of the many useful categories on Craigslist is the "for sale" section, which allows you to list your unwanted goods and search for those that are lacking in your life--and it's totally free, to boot. As a seasoned navigator of this area, I've picked up on a number of useful tidbits that I would like to pass on to you in the hopes of making your experience in this online economy as stress-free as possible.

My cardinal rule for selling anything online is DON'T be deceptive. In my opinion, being an upstanding human being goes a long way in this world, and that extends to offloading your unwanted goods on other people. Beyond that, you want to be as clear and as honest as possible when describing your item because the person who comes to inspect it is going to see firsthand what the deal is anyway. If your written description is inaccurate, you're simply wasting not only other people's time but your own as well.

That brings me to my next point, which is DO provide as many details as possible about what you are selling, including at least one clear photo of the item. The more descriptive and upfront you are about the product in your ad, the less time you have to spend responding to a volley of e-mails asking an endless array of questions. Again:Time is money. DON'T waste yours.

On that same tip, DON'T try to sell utter crap or list something for more than it's worth. And if you're trying to unload something but don't really care about getting money for it, DO consider offering it as a trade for something you would rather have, or even for free to the person with the best story. If you say something along the lines of "for whatever you think is fair," it can be quite interesting to see what people offer--and you might end up with something really cool that you didn't even think about.

Beyond that, DON'T shy away from being clever if you've got it in you. If your ad is amusing as well as descriptive, it has a chance of making it to the Best of Craigslist section, which gets a lot of traffic from people randomly perusing. This will increase the visibility of your ad, which is always a good thing. Plus, you'll be brightening someone's day, and what's not to like about that?

However, DON'T forget that Craigslist is a site that is largely community-run. Follow the rules as closely as possible and try to avoid overtly offensive language. This can be a tricky area, since it's tough to tell what might irk the Craigslist trolls populace. When in doubt, check out the FAQ page or post questions in the forum--just be as clear as possible and DON'T be overly sensitive. (Fair warning: there are some nasty regulars that haunt the forums.)

Finally, it would be remiss to not touch upon the safety issues that are unfortunately inherent to sites like Craigslist. Whether you're buying or selling, DO use an anonymous e-mail address or at least one that omits your last name. Also--especially if you're a woman who lives alone--DON'T invite a stranger into your home to view an item. If at all possible, meet at a public location such as a coffee shop. For a product that isn't portable, ask a friend to be in attendance when potential buyers stop by.

I can wholeheartedly recommend buying and selling on Craigslist, as 99 percent of my experiences have been positive. If you follow the advice above, I expect yours will be too. And if you have any tips of your own, I invite you to share them below.

Last week: The art of tweeting

 

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