i try it!- craigslist.

20 01 2010

every major city in the u.s. has its own craigslist, and if you don’t have a major city that’s major enough (sorry portland, try again!), your state will likely have one. they actually have a nice tidy list of all the craigslist sites in the united states, so you can search around and find the one closest to you. if you’re interested in that sort of thing, you can check out the  long and sordid history of craigslist,  but in its very simplest definition, it’s a free online classifed service that you can use to do everything from find a date to sell your old couch. i’ll leave the finding a date part up to you, but i’ve sold more than a few unwanted thing on craig, and i thought it would be helpful to run through the process a little.

1. ebay vs. craigslist. if you have something small and valuable, or something unusual where you might want a larger pool taking a look at it (and attempting to outbid each other), ebay all the way (that’s a post for another day). craigslist is best for things like furniture that are too bulky or heavy to ship easily/inexpensively. or for stuff that’s kind of weird and might not cut it on ebay, but maybe some crazy person in your area might want. for example, today i listed a lot of cool old books that were kind of falling apart, but still awesome (both too heavy and a little weird).

2. choose the right category & be descriptive. the key to craigslist success is to make sure you have accurately described your item, so that people will be able to find it. this starts with the category you choose (they’ve got a very wide selection from event tickets to farm equipment, so choose carefully!), and using multiple key words that mean sort of the same thing to guarantee that anyone searching for anything even close to your item will still stumble across your post. because they are falling apart, i actually listed my books under arts & crafts rather than books (however, if i haven’t gotten appropriate response in a week or so, i will move them over to books), and used key words that i thought would be enticing like: books, ephemera, illustrated, graphic design, & screen printing.

3. pictures yo! just because you describe something as “totally awesome”, or “danish modern”, or “practically brand new”, doesn’t mean that anyone believes you. anyone seriously looking to purchase something on craigslist wants to see photos. big, beautiful, descriptive photos. there’s actually a search function where people can look at only posts with images. basically, no pictures means no traffic.  craigslist has a photo upload function that’s pretty simple, but the pics turn out to be really small and not that great. i recommend a photo hosting site (i like tinypic.com). you upload your photos, and they spit out the HTML code you need to paste into the body of your post to make your pictures show up big and pretty. i also recommend sizing your photos to 800 pixels across for maximum viewability.

4. the price is right. it’s craigslist, so lower is definitely better. i’ve seen tons of high priced items languish week after week. in short, people trolling craig for a dining room table aren’t looking to pay $1500 for one. price your goods low enough to be appealing, but a little bit higher than what you’re willing to take for them. craiglists sales involve a lot of haggling. you will get shaken down on the price at least a little,  so leave a little room for that to happen.

5. don’t get scammed. especially if you post something for sale in the $100+ range, you are likely to get at least one or two fraudulent inquiries. anyone telling you that they will overnight a cashiers check, or pay you via paypal- probably not on the level. i always say LOCAL PICKUP ONLY, and never take anything but cash.

6. use the buddy system. if you arrange a meeting with someone to come to your house and buy your stuff- never meet them alone. invite a friend or husband or girlfriend or whatever. i’ve never had a problem, but better safe than sorry.

7. prepare for people to flake. for every 3 people who inquire about you item, 2 are likely to flake on the transaction. whether they make an appointment and never show up, or just say that they’ll take it and then never email you back, it’s all just par for the course. don’t take it personally.

8. repost! lots of people are trying to sell things on craigslist all the time, which means that if you post something on monday, by tuesday it’s likely to be buried 3-5 pages down. if you find that your inquiries have dropped off, try tweaking your price & keywords, and reposting your ad (you must delete your original ad first).

for something meant to be so simple, i know it’s a lot of things to learn/remember/do. but once you get the hang of it, craigslist can be an invaluable way to get unwanted (but still decent) crap out of your house- and make you some quick cash in a pinch. and if you don’t have anything to sell, you can always troll for entertainment purposes, or find yourself something to buy (there’s even a free section).

i try it- selling my books!

9 12 2009

if you have ever attended college, there is a statistical likelihood that you are still toting around a number of cumbersome volumes from past classes that seemed important to hold on to at the time (the smart kids always sold theirs back right away)… but now are just weighing down your life with their uselessness.  sorry plutarch, i’m never going to want to read about the lives of noble greeks & romans again… and i most definitely am not going to be spending any time leafing through my old art history tomes (the hefty, dust-gathering bastards!).

i love books, i do, but it is important to me to make sure that my collection is a carefully curated grouping of things that i actually have enjoyed reading, want to read, or will use regularly as a reference.  everything else must go! despite my steadfast philosophy, i still somehow managed to move an entire box of books that i don’t need or want into my new condo. um, oops.  so i decided to see if i could make money getting rid of any of them:

1. first stop ebay. i had a few three investigators (my favorite juvenile serial detective series ever) lying around that i thought i could get a few bucks for.  and i was right! i sold a series of 11 for $34, and one very rare one for $35. and then i got eviscerated on the shipping. ebay has this thing where they are trying to keep shipping prices honest (great idea!)- but it makes it more difficult to set a fair shipping price without already having things boxed up,  measured & weighed- which i didn’t do in advance. bad move. i ended up charging $4 shipping for things that ended up being $8-$12 to ship. boo-urns. that’s a significant bite out of my already meager profits- not counting listing fees and ebay commissions… not great. unless you have a hot big-ticket item (or you’re doing ebay as a job), this definitely isn’t the easiest way to go. and for the love of god- prebox, weigh, & measure everything- it will save you big time!

2. next stop, local booksellers. there are 2 local bookshops in portland that buy books, cunningham & yes books. cunningham told me immediately that they were not taking books in the crankiest way possible. yes books however told me to bring my stuff down before 6 and we were good to go! i had a big box of old nancy drews, brains bentons, vintage hygiene books, and other random pretty nice stuff. toted my box into the store with high hopes, and after minutes of scrutiny, i left with most of my stuff, and $8. not so great. basically one step up from dropping things off at the goodwill.

3. third stop, goodwill. ok, this isn’t really a money making scheme, but after hauling all the books to the bookstore- only to have 90% them rejected for condition issues (or just didn’t want them), i couldn’t bear to bring them back in the house. i could have tried more places, or maybe listed them on craigslist, but the effort wasn’t worth it for just a few more dollars. i wanted them out!

4. final stop, valore books! this was the most fruitful and exciting part of my journey. i had a pile of old college text books that i knew that the used bookstores wouldn’t want, and i had read at some point that there were places online that would buy back your books and pay for shipping!! and they were right! there are actually a bunch of sites that do it: ecampus, bigwords, textbookbuyer… but i went with valore because they had been positively reviewed, and their website was easy to navigate. very simply, you type in the ISBN number into their search engine, select the condition of your book, and it will tell you roughly how much they will pay for it. it’s usually between $2 & $10 a book. not much, but worth it to get things out of your life that might have otherwise ended up at goodwill. there were a few books that they didn’t want, but it looked like i’d be getting around $32 bucks for the lot- and all i had to do was print out packing list and the FREE SHIPPING LABEL, slap it on a box, throw it in the mail, and wait for my check. and a month later, it arrived as promised, and was even for slightly more than i thought ($40!). sweet.

after all of the above trials and tribulations, i would most definitely use valore again (i might even start scoping for hot looking books at the goodwill to send back- why not, it’s free!), but would probably skip on ebay or selling locally unless i had something really special where going that route would maximize my $$$. however, i can not stress enough that the very best time to sell your textbooks is at your school bookstore- IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOUR CLASS IS OVER. unless you can look at it and really know that it will be a lifelong reference- dump it before it takes over your life!