The People you Encounter on Craigslist

You’ve never really experienced the true diversity of our species until you’ve attempted to sell a <$10,000 car on Craigslist.

For those unfamiliar with the process, here’s how it all happens for a car enthusiast who isn’t a millionaire:

You have too many vehicles, most of which are in a varying state of disrepair.  You want to free up funds for something else that caught your eye which you totally don’t need, while telling your wife that the money is for a much needed home repair.  You haphazardly slap together the easiest thing to sell, take a few sub-par pictures, and toss that bitch up on Craigslist.  Before you know it, the emails start rolling in from seemingly sleep-deprived internet zombies, of all different breeds.

I firmly believe that there are 5 types of people you will encounter from a seller’s standpoint.

  1. The internet low-baller/barterer with astonishing grammar skills.
  2. The 15 year old who’s pretending he isn’t 15.
  3. The million-question guy.
  4. The zero-question guy.
  5. The Prince of Siberia who wants to send you 650% of your asking price.

The internet low-baller/barterer will arrive like clockwork, usually very shortly after an ad is posted.  You’ll be asked if you’re looking to trade for a “mint” 1996 Blazer with no floor.  Negating the fact that your vehicle has a book value 6 times that of said Blazer, even if it was actually “mint.”  Sometimes they’ll start the communication with a cash offer sight unseen, often for fraction of your asking price.  Their poorly-written messages usually require everything short of Google Translate to try and comprehend.  I wouldn’t even bother responding to these people, because they aren’t here to negotiate.  Their total budget for a new vehicle is exactly one Chevy Blazer, not a lug nut more.

The 15 year old is usually pretty easy to pick out.  Certain ads attract them more so than others.  They tend to be on the prowl for cheap, trendy cars.  Miatas, for example, will bring them in droves.  They are usually way too excited, and often can blend with a version of the “million-question” guy, creating an annoying hybrid.  The extreme enthusiasm usually blows their cover pretty early in the conversation.  99% of the time, they even don’t have ¼ of the asking price, and their mom will tell them it doesn’t have enough airbags.  You aren’t going to make a sale here.  Move along.

The true million-question guy poses a more complex scenario.  This person is genuinely interested, however full of way too many questions.  He’s going to drive you absolutely insane.  You’ll put up with his first set of questions, only to have them start flying again mere hours later.  A sale can actually be made to this type of person, but expect the transaction process to be equally as annoying, and post-sale communications will likely follow.  This should be treated as a last-resort sale.  Like when its November here in New England, and your Harley is still for sale.  That’s when you should entertain million-question guy.

The zero-question guy is often the overlooked buyer.  The zero-question guy knows what he’s looking for and knows what it is that you have.  He doesn’t ask questions because he knows the answers already.  These people are often ignored, however they are your most valuable potential buyer.  75% of the time you make a sale on Craigslist, it will be to the zero-question guy.  Transactions are easy, they usually negotiate the least, and they’ll be in and out the fastest.

The Serbian prince is probably my favorite.  These are the scammers.  They spend their entire lives scouring the internet hoping to find an unsuspecting elderly woman who would be so kind as to deposit a $90,000 check and then return $85,000 to the prince.  This is probably the most common type of scam, but there are some more elaborate ones I’m seeing pop up lately.  The majority of the world can spot them pretty easily.  You obviously won’t be making a sale, but it can really be great fun to bait these people to waste as much of their time as possible.  I’d elaborate more on my methods, but I try and keep my writing workplace-friendly.

The motto here: the guy with the least questions usually buys the car.  And he’ll give you pretty close to asking price too.  Everyone else is just going to waste your time.  Time to get that old hunk of shit sold, so you can buy a new… kitchen table?

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