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Monday, January 10, 2011

Tips On Selling Stuff On Craigslist

Tips On Selling Stuff On CraigslistI used to love selling stuff on eBay, but I lost my love for that site years ago. Selling via online auction on the Internet's #1 auction site should be very efficient, but for me it's not.

First of all, the fees are too high. IMO, eBay used to be great for both eBay and sellers, but these days it's only a good deal for eBay. They dominate the market, so, of course, they're going to charge whatever the market will bear. For sellers, the economics of this can only work if you're selling big ticket items. Otherwise, it's almost always a waste of time. IMO, selling anything for less than $100 is tantamount to selling lemonade on the sidewalk in summer. Cute for while, and great for anyone who just wants to stay busy, but otherwise it's child's play.

So I'm very happy to report that I'm enjoying moderate success selling on Craigslist.

Craigslist is far more efficient than eBay. Not only do you not have to pay to list your items, but you also don't have to waste time running to the post office to ship your stuff. The lines at my local post office are furious more often than they're tame, and driving to another location would be a waste of fuel.

Moreover, when you sell on eBay, you're probably going to receive payment via Paypal. In my experience, more often than not, I've had to take yet another hair cut via PayPal's transaction fee. Poo!

With Craigs, you list, you sell and the buyer comes to you with cash. Love it. Another thing I love: the buyer doesn't have to worry about shill bidding, something that still happens every day on eBay (the clever scammers know how to setup shills that are virtually impossible to detect.)

I have a few tips to share for listing on Craigs:

  • Include lots of detail in your post. The more detail you add, the more prospective buyers are going to feel that you are honest and honorable. If you can't remember the exact date when you bought your item, include a reasonable estimate, and make it clear that it is in fact your best guess.

    Also -- and this may seem old fashioned -- but I always include a "reason for selling" at the end on my posts.
  • Tell A Story: If you can tell a story about your items, do it! Buyers will appreciate it. Selling that great bike because you developed a pinched nerve and can't cycle anymore? Tell them all about it. Selling that sowing machine because your ex moved out years ago and left it? Share those details! Buyers often like the idea of telling their friends and family the story behind their Craigslist purchases. Human nature.

    Not a good idea, however, to post any fiction. Savvy buyers can often tell when a story is made up, and if they detect even the faintest whiff of BS, they're likely move onto something else in a flash.
  • Always include an image! If you can't include an image with your post, the odds on a successful sale go way down. I love photography so I always add high quality pics. But even if your images are far from perfect, include at least something. If your image(s) are blurry, have weird tints or are poorly composed, you should make an effort to do better. If you can't, just use whatever you've got.

    If I have a receipt, I like to scan it, blot out sensitive details with Paint Shop Pro, and include it in my post. I believe this adds much to my credibility as a seller.
  • If you know your price is fair, stick to it! Some buyers will stop by your house then inject as many complaints about your item as possible. Then they'll say something like, "I think I'm going to pass" to get you to lower your price. Bottom line: if you know your price is fair, then don't fall for any such manipulation, especially if others are interested in your item. I very recently let someone walk out my door when he tried this on me, then later sold my item (a Fuji road bike) a few days later at the price I wanted.
  • Pricing really isn't that hard: Setting the right price can seem like a daunting task, but don't stress out about it. Search eBay for similar items and see what they are going for there. You can also search Craigs to see what others are listing for.

    If what you're selling is very unique, and you can't find any comparable items anywhere, I recommend setting a price point that you know is competitive, but also won't have you crying tears of regret after the item sells. Don't lowball your stuff. If it doesn't sell at the price you're comfortable with, just relist the item after a week or two (Craigs makes it easy to relist. In your account, click the [manage] link next to your item to delete your post, then return to your account and click [manage] again to relist it.)

    Caveat: relisting your item will cause it to rise to the top of your chosen Craigslist category, which is great because that translates to a lot more eyeballs on your item. But if you relist your items too often, it'll be seen as "excessive bumping" and Craigs may delete your post. I recommend waiting at least 7 days before relisting any item.
  • Check The cash: Don't trust anyone. Someone may try to pay you with counterfeit money, and not even realize that their money is fake. Happens all the time. Check each note -- especially the big ones! -- under a bright light. For example, for a $100 bill, check for the watermark, red and blue threads, the plastic USA100 strip and the sparkly/raised 100 in the bottom right corner on the front side of the bill.
  • Scammers are not hard to detect: you may be wary about using Craigs because of all the scammers lurking on the site. It's true: there are lots of scammers on Craigs, but, IMO, they are easy to thwart.

    The simpleton scammers will reply to your post with something like:

    "I'm very interested in your item. I can't buy now, but I'm willing to pay you an extra $30 above your asking price if you can hold it for a few days. Please send me your name, address and phone number so I can contact you when I'm ready to pick up your item."
    Have a good laugh at these, and delete them right away. These idiots are so lazy they can't even be bothered to include details of your specific item.

    Some scammers are a bit smarter, and will reply with something simpler like:

    "Is your bike still available?"
    This could easily be a legitimate buyer, but if they later ask for your name, then you know you're dealing with a scammer.

    On Craigs, it's very, very simple: NEVER GIVE ANYONE YOUR REAL NAME! You have no reason to. I always sign my emails with either my first initial or one of my nicknames from college. When a potential buyer stops by, again, I use my nickname. You won't be able to avoid giving strangers your address (unless you deliver), but as long as they don't know your real name you don't have much to worry about.

    I also don't mind giving out my cell phone number. Makes communicating much more efficient. However, I only reply with it after at least some trust has been established in the initial email conversation (one or two replies if often enough for me.)

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

How to Get Paid and Go Broke Without Really Trying: A Job Offer Scam to Watch Out For

scamSometimes when you're desperate, the right job just falls into your lap, and if you're really desperate, you may not realize you're being suckered into an international money-laundering scam.

I lost my teaching job this year because of county-wide budget cuts, which has put a severe financial strain on my family while I look for something to pay the bills until a permanent teaching job opens up. There aren't a lot of places where a BA in Creative Writing gets you more than minimum wage, so when I saw an ad for English teachers on Craigslist.org, I jumped at it.

Reply to: amfrank007@yahoo.com
Date: 2008-08-27, 11:26PM EDT

I need a good and reliable English Tutor for my Kids....Attracts Great salary and benefits...Send your resume.

Adalberto Martinez Frank

In a flash, my resume was on its way to Mr. Adalberto Frank, and within 24 hours, I received a response that made my poor, unemployed heart flutter.

Hello [real name censored] ,

Good to hear from you and sorry for the late response, I have been busy with work and family at the same time .I acknowledge receiving your application and your resume which is very impressive. Please be informed that you are among the three people shortlisted for the teaching job.

Note: The teaching lesson will take place in my residence and here is the address where we will be living in the US and We will be arriving precisely by September 9th

6500 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
My childrens' name are John and Prisilia (A boy and a girl). We are originally from Spain but right now in the UK, my children speak little of the English language and i want my children to be tutored together for 6hrs to 10hrs per week. My children always get along together and they are very active. I can offer $30 per hour for both children because i want the best to prepare them to start school at fall.

I want you to reply me with the following details below 1. The days in the week you will be available to teach the children and numbers of hours per day starting from september 10. The children are available to be tutored any time and any day during the weekdays and weekends. 2. Your suitable charges per hour for both children if $30 if not suitable for you. Also your total charges per week because i will like to make payment weekly 3. The total cost of gas/transportation to my residence per week.
Adalberto Frank

Maybe I should have been suspicious that he found my resume so impressive. I'd only taught high school English for a single year, after all, and from what he was saying, he needed someone with ESOL (English as a Second Language) teaching experience. But the money was too good to pass up. $30/hour was more than I'd made during my teaching year. I couldn't softball how much it was going to cost to drive to Orlando, otherwise it would end up costing me more in gas to tutor the kids than I was being paid, so I sent back a lengthy reply, hoping that my transportation costs didn't bump me right off the short list. I mean, he could easily find someone in Orlando with at least as much teaching experience as me, right? And why was he looking for English teachers in Tampa anyway if he was moving to Orlando? I didn't dwell on these questions for very long because the prospect of a paying job was intoxicating. It didn't matter if it meant two hours of daily commute for the sum total of $300 dollars a week.

He replied briskly and apologized for the imperceptible delay in communication. Apparently, his father in Spain was very ill and that was occupying much of his time while he made preparations for the move. Then, he gave me the good news:

This is to notify you that you have been given a provisional appointment to be the English teacher for my children. You are selected based on your experience and passion to teach children.

A little background check was done on you this was to ensure that the data provided is accurate and that you have impeccable criminal-free record. (This is necessary because you are coming to be teaching in my apartment).

We will be arriving precisely by Sept.9th and the lesson begins on Sept 10th.
Here is our agreement:

1.Teaching for 10hrs/week.
2. That i will be paying you $540/week including Transportation as I prefer to pay weekly.
3. That you will tutor my children for 10hrs/ weeks for about 4weeks or more independing on catchups.Please confirm this agreement and let me know ASAP so i can arrange our commitment fee....

Frank Adalberto

Not only was he going to pay my travel expenses, he was going to pay me an extra $140 a week. I was floored. I had no idea what a commitment fee was, but I promptly agreed and ignored the fact that Mr. Adalberto Frank was now Mr. Frank Adalberto. He was foreign and wanted to pay me over two grand a month to teach his kids English. The commitment fee sounded like something I wasn't going to like, and I was prepared to turn the whole thing down if he wanted me pay some sort of nonsense fee just for the privilege of teaching his kids, but it turned out that he was the one paying the fee, which meant that I would be receiving a check in the mail for my first two weeks before I even met the guy and his kids. It sounded too good to be true, but he was the one paying, so there was no risk to me at all.

This is how I almost got suckered in. Frank, with his sick father and two young kids who needed a tutor, sounded incredibly convincing. His emails were frequent, his responses brief but direct. These weren't some spambot-generated, rote responses. I was talking to a real human being, so I didn't even think twice when he emailed me to say there'd been a mixup and the fee for the moving company was included in the amount his client paid me. Not to worry, he said, just cash the check and he'd let me know where to send the moving company's payment.

It's called an overpayment scam. According to the FBI agent I spoke to, the scheme is based overseas, with middlemen in the US to handle the checks. They offer you an advance on what you're supposed to be paid, then mistakenly send you a check for too much, usually double the correct amount. You cash the check and send it back to them via Western Union, and by the time your bank discovers that the check didn't clear, you're out of luck. The phony check gets cashed against your account, so it's your account that the bank will drain to cover the expense.

Once I realized this might be a scam, I did a search on the email address posted with the ad and was surprised to discover identical ads posted on lasvegas.craigslist.org and catholicjobs.com. Both were from amfrank007@yahoo.com and the Adalberto family, which meant that this was either a scam or three entirely different Adalberto families would be needing English tutors in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Tampa. The very nice lady I spoke to at the FBI told me this was unlikely.

English tutors are not the only people at risk from these kinds of scams. I've seen postings from Math tutors, Spanish tutors -- and all of them answered similar ads from people who weren't always as convincing as Mr. Frank/Mr. Adalberto. But all of them eventually sent checks and all of them encountered similar mishaps that resulted in the overpayment of the would-be tutors. Right now it's tutors who are being targeted, but this sort of scheme is very easy to run on anyone who is happy to receive a fat advance and who is good-natured enough to return any money they weren't due.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if they're willing to pay you before they see you work, no matter how qualified you think you are or how much you're accustomed to getting, don't cash that check if it's for more than you're supposed to be paid. Just forward the information and the check to the FBI email fraud unit.

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