The Gentleman & Gentlewoman’s Guide to Proper Craigslist Etiquette: for the Buyer

And now it’s time for part 2 of our Gentleman and Gentlewoman’s Guide to Craigslist Etiquette! Last time we showed you how to be a polite seller, and today we will show you the most courteous and proper techniques for buying items on Craigslist. Many storage hunters use Craigslist in conjunction with storage auctions, and will buy items at discounted prices in order to resell and to supplement their inventory. Indeed, there are some manners you’ll have to remember before you get started, however.

The Email

craigslist buyer etiquetteThe most important thing when buying on Craigslist is the initial email you send to the seller. When writing a query email, keep it simple and polite, but add enough details so that the buyer knows you’re not just a spammer. Here are some examples to inspire you.

An example of a bad email:

“hi wonderin if its still available thx”

Why this is bad: Need I explain? The obvious grammatical errors, lack of punctuation, and use of chat speak are going to make your email look ridiculously unprofessional. In fact, most sellers are going to ignore these emails completely. If you don’t spend the time to create a proper email, sellers are going to assume you’re not serious.

An example of a good email:

“Hi, I saw your ad for the flat screen TV and was wondering if it’s still available. If so, I’m very interested. The price sounds good, and I’d like to set up a time and place to check it out. Thanks for your time; looking forward to your response.”

Why this is good: Specifically referencing the item in your email lets the seller know that you’re not just sending the same spam email to every seller. Also state your interest in the piece and inquire on a time and place to meet; stating all of your information up front will reduce the amount of emails you have to send back and forth, making the transaction run smoother.

The Meeting

You probably already know from attending storage auctions that it’s vital to show up on time. It’s not fair to leave the seller (or anybody, for that matter) waiting for hours at your mercy because you decided to grab dinner before you headed out. Showing up late is the perfect way to ruin a perfectly good sale, so don’t do it. If you know you’re going to be late, call or email ahead of time.

craigslist buyin etiquetteIf the price has already been agreed upon, many sellers get very frustrated when you try to haggle them down on the spot. Don’t do it unless the price is negotiable, and don’t be obnoxious about it. Remember: you’re not doing the seller a favor by buying his item; he can probably very easily find someone else to buy it. Don’t push your luck too far!

Speaking of money—make sure you bring some with you! The chances of the seller having a credit card processor is basically zero, so definitely bring cash, and bring enough with it. If you’ve agreed upon a price, there’s absolutely no reason not to bring unless cash…unless you’re trying to scam the seller into giving it to you for even a lower price. Please don’t do this. It’s obnoxious and many people have no qualms breaking the deal with you. It’s in your best interest, and the interest of the seller, to complete the transaction quickly and easily.

When loading the item into your car, don’t expect the seller to be your personal heavy lifting monkey, unless they stated in the ad that they would help lifting. They are in no way obligated to help you. Always inquire about the size and weight of the item if it’s not stated in that ad, and plan accordingly. Bring a friend or partner to help if you have to.

The Afterward

etiquette for craigslist buyersEven if you feel a twinge of buyer’s remorse because you can’t sell your newly acquired bright orange couch, let alone give it away for free, don’t even think about trying to get your money back. This isn’t Walmart, where they’ll happily take back your items no questions asked; this is a private seller who most likely really needs the cash, and isn’t going to be too happy to hear from you after you’ve bought the item. Consider it a loss; as a storage hunter, it’s something you have to be prepared for at the auction, or anywhere else you’re making a deal.

And that concludes this week’s lesson in etiquette! We all hope you’ve learned valuable lessons on how to be the very best Craigslist users you can be. If you’re feeling saucy, why don’t you try some of these techniques out for yourself? You’ll be amazed at the results.