now I’m sure all of us have used (or at least heard of) craigslist. if you haven’t, it’s basically an internet-based classifieds section for jobs, places for rent, things for sale, and everything in between. and I mean everything. you can even find “friends” on craigslist. analyze that any way you want.
anyway, craigslist has a massive following in san francisco and the rest of the bay area. who needs ebay when you can sell bike components to someone locally. I’ve literally sold all my old componentry off of craigslist, it’s really a great resource. it also helps that the bay area has a lot of cyclists. I’ve found a lot of great things on craigslist as well, including a hed3 front wheel that I traded for my rear specialized trispoke (after I figured out that I couldn’t convert it to a front wheel…ah, the pista concept days…). I was able to buy a wrecked 1995 m3 with a european spec engine, the s50b32, but I digress.
my point is that craigslist is king out here in san francisco. yet somehow, I still manage to get e-mail confirmations like this:
I’m in the midst of selling old pedals, bars, stems, seatposts and saddles, in order to buy my speedplay pedals and eventually my bike fit appointments. I’ve already sold a couple of items, this guy’s response was towards the look keo carbon pedals I took off my cannondale track, pre time atacs. he could’ve stopped at, “3pm is fine. see you then.” he already had my number, and I had his. adding a physical description regarding the situation seemed a bit unnecessary…my response could’ve easily been, “I’m five foot eight, holding the pedals that you want. I am also wearing black framed glasses, in jeans.” he probably wouldn’t have showed up if I wrote that back. but it’s true, I am that tall, I will be holding pedals, and I’ll be wearing my glasses, in jeans, just like I said. yet somehow, it’s just not appropriate for selling or buying things.
I’ve made an etiquette list for buyers and sellers for craigslist, to aid in the effort to move bicycle componentry in the internet universe. this is 50% out of frustration, 50% out of genuine hilariousness, and 50% to see an improvement in how people interact regarding the sale of bike goods from the internet. that’s a whole 150%.
– post a photo, period. the year is 2011, you no longer live with windows 95 or millennium edition. if you’ve found yourself on craigslist selling something, I know you’re somewhat tech savvy. a photo from 27ft away with a 1.3mp kyocera phone camera will not cut it. invest in a decent digital camera and don’t mess with color settings at all. keep it on auto and let the camera do its job. this isn’t a flickr competition, no one cares about your awesome depth of field. people want to see the item, use the flash if your item is way back in the garage next to that broken water hose you refuse to throw away because, “one day we might need it”. if the flash is too strong, put a piece of tape or paper in front of it to diffuse. get creative. but not too creative, no one wants to see your awesome polaroid affect from your iphone, either. find a good middle ground, and either host your pictures on a 3rd party site, or if you’re really lazy, use craigslist’s image embed. photos help sell (unsaid fact).
– have a price listed. nothing is more annoying than seeing, “e-mail me with offers.” you’re going to end up getting butt-hurt because everyone low-balled you for your super rare 2007 raleigh rush hour pro, in the yellow “team-edition”. if you’re willing to take a little less for your listed price, you might want to put, “reasonable offers considered,” but know that most buyers will take that as a welcome mat on the low-ball arena. “…or best offer” is the same way. if you’re not willing to take less, then don’t put these deceptive words after the price. your price is your price, move it up or down when you feel like it.
– don’t cross-post. if you posted something for sale on a forum, don’t just post a link to the forum in your listing. use that really complex copy and paste function that all computers have to put actual words on the page. I’ve looked into this with great effort, coming to the conclusion that all computers have this copy and paste functionality. no one want to click a craigslist listing, only to have to click another link to go to your forum post. now if you’re selling a pre-built bike and are using the manufacturers bike model page as a reference to potential buyers, then that’s a different story. but still, have the componentry listed out, and use the link as a reference point.
– respond in a timely manner and communicate clearly. you’re posting a great deal on a campagnolo record 10 group, including the limited edition t-shirt they only gave to 40 people in north america? cool, but don’t post it if you’re leaving on a trip to costa rica in an hour. that really makes no sense. have a gauge of how long it takes to sell items within a certain amount of time. are you trying to sell a unicorn on wheels, or are you trying to make rent? post and respond to e-mails, that’s how the internet works. if you’re willing to sell an item to someone, make an effort to sell it by responding within 12-24 hours. that time frame is hilariously generous considering most people have internet and e-mail access on their phones now. if you have someone interested ahead of someone else, you are obligated to give the first person 24 hours to buy the item before moving onto the next person. I’m talking about the final, seal-the-deal, type e-mails, not prospective buyers.
– no life stories. I cannot stress this point enough. no one wants to hear how you’ve spent $10,000 on a pinarello, but now you’re wife is pregnant (somehow written in a surprising manner) and now you need to sell the bike to afford some diapers. no one cares why you are selling an item, they want the item because they want to item, not because they loved your memoir. exceptions can be made for extra unicorn items, some background would be nice for a yamaguchi pursuit ridden by an olympic track champion. chances are, you may end up shipping this item away if it’s that rare (if you’re willing to ship) and an awesome, true story would help.
– travel, or do not travel to sell an item. if a buyer is another city away, are you willing to meet them halfway to sell the item? or do you want buyers to only meet you in the city? have this already sorted in your head, and say it in your listing if it’s relevant: pickup only, local sales only, willing to travel, not willing to travel. easy button.
– take down listings after the item sells. this seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many times sellers leave their postings up after the items are sold. leaving items posted with bold text that says, “sold!” is pointless. it wastes the buyer’s time, and it wastes your time and your e-mail space.
– specify specifics. is the item damaged, or is it in brand new condition? you know how much information it takes to sell a specific item because you’ve bought specific items before. so then be specific with details if it’s relevant.
– do not write in all caps. no one actually believes that your keyboard is broken and now writes in all caps, and even if that is the case, are you that cheap not to buy another keyboard that actually works?
– limit your keywords to relevant things or don’t have them at all. why am I pulling your nitto noodle handlebars and pearl stem while looking for clipless pedals? in theory, you’re getting more views, but chances are, you’re listing is going to get flagged and you’ll have to end up re-posting it saying, “don’t flag my listing! wahh!”. it happens all too often. no one wants to land on a listing to see more keywords than actual words written by the seller. I’ve also seen sellers that pull keywords from all the listings in the known universe, placing them at the bottom of the page in a microscopic font size, thinking that it looks more hidden that way. the only way it’s going to look more hidden is if you don’t include all 258 of them. be considerate of people browsing.
– do not write checks. if you have a check book, chances are, you have access to some sort of bank, which means you have access to cash. atm machines are all over the place, find an atm and get some cash out. granted, there are times where you need to get a lot of cash out for those unicorn items, in which case, going into the actual bank would be better. if there’s some sort of time constraint like picking up your nephew from the zoo past the time that banks are open, then explain the situation briefly to the seller, seeing if you can pick up the item the next day. there’s a fine line between explaining the situation, and telling a life story. do not tell a life story. on the topic of financial transactions, the seller may want to do a wire transfer, or paypal. they are the one’s selling the unicorn item you want, you will do what is needed to get said unicorn item.
– do not write, “is this item still available?” and proceed to never write a response back if/when the seller responds. if you’re interested and want to buy the item, say so: “I’m interested in the item, cash in hand, willing to pick up as soon as you’re available”. that’s much more enticing than an open ended question.
– the time for price negotiations are done prior to meeting, on the phone or via e-mail. if price isn’t mentioned in previous communications, the seller assumes the price that is posted is the price you are going to pay for the item. if you have not mentioned anything previously regarding the price, why shouldn’t they? unless there’s some unsaid damage or more than “normal wear and tear” on a used item, the price is the price. do your price negotiations before actually spending time to meet with the person, it saves everyone time. there’s nothing more annoying than scheduling time to meet with a person only to find out they’re about to low-ball you. find out as much information as you can about the item from the seller if you’re still on the edge about the price.
– buy the item if you want the item. do not buy the item if you do not want the item. this is a very important point. if you are willing to travel to get the item, then do it. but don’t try to make some invisible middle-ground for the seller to abide towards.
– no life stories. this applies to buyers as well. nothing is more boring than hearing that the buyer of your anodized blue cane creek 1 1/8″ cupped headset is going to put it on his son’s pinarello that he also bought from craigslist, but that unfortunately needs a new headset because the guy had it next to an old water hose in his garage for 10 years (full circle, whoa!). the only time a brief life story may be told is if the seller asks what you’re planning on using the item for. and even then, you shouldn’t feel the need to tell them anything. darth vader doesn’t need to tell you what he’s going to do with your reynolds carbon wheels. he just wants to buy them off you.
I think that pretty much sums it up. I’ll probably add to this as time goes on. if you have any frustrations to add to either side of the fence (buying/selling), feel free to comment.