Anyone who has ever sold anything on Craigslist has probably encountered this problem: people contact you expressing interest in an item, you respond to their inquiry letting them know that the item is available, then you never hear from them again. Whatever, their loss. If you sell, or have sold, a lot of items on the site you have probably had this taken a step further and had to deal with a no-show. A Craigslist flake.
For those who have never had the thrill of hawking wares on Craigslist, this is how it goes down. You list your item for sale on the site, with a price. Someone, via email or phone, agrees to meet you at a time and place for a transaction. If the item for sale is something big, like a large piece of furniture, odds are the meeting place is your home. If it’s something like concert or event tickets, a public place is usually better. Some people like to do all transactions in public places like a grocery store parking lot, which is completely understandable. But sometimes after establishing a meeting place and time, the interested buyer never shows up. They flake.
Dealing with a no-show at home is one thing. Sitting in a parking lot waiting on a stranger who never shows is another.
My wife and I recently moved, and when we did we decided to get rid of all of our furniture and just start over with new stuff. Since we had some time left in our old place after we had moved into our current apartment, I turned our old bedroom into a veritable Craigslist showroom and filled it with our old furniture. For the first week or so while selling, I could not believe our luck.
No no-shows, no flakes, no one wanting to dicker. People showed up, checked out the item(s), paid us in cash, and hauled our old stuff away. Some of them were even really nice. Then that luck ran out. I started dealing with no-shows, non-responders, spammers—flakes. I tried to figure out what happened, but found no explanation for our change in fortune. Just like the items that did sell, I was posting each item with multiple photos, providing good descriptions, etc. The only thing that changed was the price of the items.
What I suspect is that there is a tipping point in prices of items for sale on Craigslist that determines the likelihood of dealing with a flake. That is, a minimum price threshold exists and once you price an item below that threshold you are more likely to get flaked on. All of the items we did have luck with and easily sold were not that cheap, although we priced it all to move since we were dealing with a time constraint.
This is a list of items we had no trouble selling, except for a few non-responders or people trying to talk me down on price (who I either trolled or ignored):
Bedroom dresser: $150
Leather chair: $75
Trekking backpack: $35
Leather couch that my cats destroyed from the inside out: $25 (was surprised to get this but it was still a pretty sweet couch)
Here is a list of items that caused my Craigslist misery:
Exercise mats + inflatable ball: $15
Pair of plastic IKEA chairs: $10
DSLR bag: $15
Old trekking poles: $10
Booda cat litter box: $15
With the items on this second list, I got spam, flakes, no-shows, no-shows who apologized for not showing who then became non-responders because, gullible me, I tried to reschedule a meeting, non-responders who showed up when we weren’t home because I foolishly gave them my address before confirming—on ALL of the items. And we kept lowering the price because we wanted to get rid of this stuff (we eventually put all of this on the curb). As I lowered the price, the amount of crap I had to deal with increased as I was contacted by people treating Craigslist like a yard sale, which it basically is. Well, this comparison holds true except for the ‘personals’ ads and the Craigslist forums that have basically become the Wild West of the internet.
And so I now have an interesting research topic: When selling things on Craigslist, does a relationship exist between item-price and probability of dealing with a flake? From my very small sample size it looks like once something is priced below $20, you’re more likely to deal with bottom feeders and flakes. This of course requires further investigation.