Archive for November 28th, 2012

Last summer I made about $100/week selling mostly toys on Craigslist, with the average price being around $5.  I discovered that there’s a huge market for used toys in our area, so I’m planning on selling some holiday-themed items this month that we no longer need (like the Veggie Tales nativity scene that makes me want to stab my ears with a fork every time I accidentally push the stupid star that makes Laura Carrot sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”).  A friend of mine mentioned that she became interested in the idea of selling on Craigslist after reading my post about my 8-week home-decluttering project, and asked for some pointers.  So here are my tips, along with some questions to consider before you start.

Why Are You Selling?
This question is a biggie.  We decided to sell stuff on Craigslist because our house was bloated with excess stuff we no longer needed, and we wanted to find a good home for our gently-used items.  Making money was a bonus.  This attitude enabled me to delight in giving someone else a good deal, rather than stress about getting as much money as possible.  This time of year, it’s especially good to train kids to make room for new items by getting rid of things they no longer use.  If the goal is to simplify your life and bless others in your community, then Craigslist can be a lot of fun.  If your goal is to get as much money as possible from your stuff, get ready for some stress and disappointment.

What Should You Sell?
This is a great time of year to get rid of excess holiday items you no longer want or need, but be sure to put “Christmas” or “Holiday” in your title so people can find your item in the search engine.  Based on my experience, you’ll have the most luck selling toys and gift items because there is a great demand but not as big a supply of those items.  Lots of people are selling housewares, for instance, so I didn’t have much luck getting rid of those types of things.  However, I was surprised by how many people bought birthday presents for their kids from Craigslist, so I expect there will be a demand for toys as Christmas presents.  This is also a good time of year to sell any unused gifts you may have received that are still in their original packaging, since people can give those as gifts.  (I don’t bother selling clothes because it’s easier to donate them to the thrift store or sell them to the children’s consignment store.)

When Should You Post?
Most people do their shopping on the weekend, so I recommend that you post items on a Thursday or Friday, if possible, so they’re at the top of the list in the category (since Craigslist puts the most recent posts at the top).  However, if you’re going to be gone all day Saturday, it will just frustrate people who are trying to contact you.  So only post if you’re going to be home part of the day or if you have email on your phone and can at least reply to people while you’re out running errands.  In my experience, people who shop Craigslist want their items right away, and if you wait a day or two to return their email, you’ll never hear from them again.

How Much Should You Charge?
Since you’re asking someone to come to your house to pick something up, I tried to make it worth their while by grouping items to equal about $5.  We got rid of tons of junk that wouldn’t have sold for more than a quarter at a garage sale by grouping together lots of items with a similar theme.  For instance, we divided up my son’s HUGE Hot Wheels cars collection and put about 10 cars with each car-related object we sold, like race car play mats, car garages, stunt loops, tracks, etc.  Likewise, I found a Strawberry Shortcake purse, puzzle, book, and doll to group together as a set.  I did the same thing with Disney princess items, Dora the Explorer, Thomas the Train, etc.  I tried to have at least one highly desirable item in each set, and based my price on that item, with the others as freebies.  (My thought was, if you want my nice item, you’re going to have to take some junk with it.)  Stores do this all the time by throwing in free junk with your purchase.  It works!

The other thing to keep in mind when pricing is to charge what you’d pay for it at a garage sale, NOT what you think it’s worth.  It doesn’t matter how much it cost or how much you think it’s worth; what matters is what someone is willing to pay for it.  You’ll need to charge less than eBay, but you can ask a little more than a garage sale, provided your items are in good condition.  If you have no idea where to start, you can search Craigslist for similar items, then price yours a dollar or two less.  Keep in mind that if the post has been there a long time, they’re probably asking too much.  If you are in a dispute with your spouse over how much to price something, you can always ask for the higher amount, then lower it a week later if you haven’t had any bites.  Sometimes it takes awhile for the right person to come across your ad, though, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t have an offer right away.   It usually took about 3 weeks to get rid of all the toys posted in a particular week, but we eventually sold every toy we posted, and did drop the price on some.  We even threw in some stuff that wasn’t selling if a person showed up to buy several items.

What Should You Include In Your Ad?
Once you’ve chosen the appropriate category for your item (“Toys and Games by Owner” gets more traffic than the generic “Baby and Kid Stuff” category), you’re ready to type your ad.  Be as specific and detailed as possible in the name of your items (i.e. “Disney Princess Dress Up Clothes & Accessories” instead of just “Play Clothes”).  If something is new or unused, put that in the title.  You’ll need to post your asking price (because it’s really annoying when people don’t clearly post the price) and city.  For the text, my ads followed a formula:

  1. Detailed description of the item.  Tell as much about it as you can, but if you’re giving lots of details or listing several small items use bullet points, which will make it easier for the customer to look through your list.  Be sure to list the item’s dimensions and highlights, like if batteries are included or if it’s never been used.  Likewise, be sure to mention any defects.  (I sold an inflatable Batmobile bed with a hole in it for $2.  I was upfront about the defect, and simply stated in the ad that it would work if someone patched the hole.  Your junk can be someone’s treasure, but be honest if it’s junk.)
  2. Policy for cash and holding items.  I created a template in Word so I could just copy and paste the following statement into every ad.  “Cash only, please.  We will not hold an item, but we will remove this post once it is sold.”  This lets people know up front that you won’t be taking a check (and dealing with the hassle of checks that bounce), and that you are selling on a first come, first served basis.  If I had two requests for the same item, I gave the first person who replied an opportunity to pick it up first, and notified the other potential customer that if the first person didn’t show up that day, they could come and get it the following day.  Folks, there are a LOT of flaky people out there, and people will beg you to hold an item until later in the week, but then never show up.  Do yourself a favor and sell to whoever shows up first with cash.  Likewise, be fair and take down the ad when the item has sold, so people will know it’s gone.
  3. Link to other items you’re selling.  At the end of every ad, we posted a second line from the template: “We have LOTS of other items for sale from our smoke-free home, so please search ‘joyfulchoices’ to see them all.”  This little line makes all the difference if you have a lot of stuff to sell, and some people care about the smoke issue.  If you use an email handle or some other unique key word to link all your posts, then a potential buyer can view everything you’re selling.  Even though most of our items/sets were only around $5, we often sold 2 or 3 sets per customer because people will reason that they might as well get as much as they can if they’re going to be making the trip.  I also mentioned any related items to specific buyers in my email reply, by saying something like, “We’re also selling other (Disney, Cars, etc.)  items, and you can search all our listings on Craigslist by typing ‘________’ in the search engine.  Let me know if there’s anything else I can set out for you.”  More often than not, this resulted in multiple sales to the same customer.
  4. Picture.  Most people won’t buy unless they can see the item.  I have a horrible camera and terrible lighting in my house, but I did my best to show each item in a couple different views, if possible.  If you’re selling something in a box, take close up pictures of any pictures on the box of what the item looks like assembled.  Whichever picture you load into your ad first is the one that will appear next to your title on the list, so pick the one that shows everything.  You can include pictures of details and close ups for customers to view within the ad.

There’s no need to post your phone number, unless you prefer to be contacted by phone. I dealt with inquiries by email primarily, and only gave out my address to people who wanted to come and pick up an item. Craigslist is set up so that interested buyers can email you through the site, so you don’t need to give out any contact information in your ad.  Setting up an account is very easy, and the posting process is also fairly easy.

Finally, don’t get discouraged when – yes, I said “when,” not “if” – someone fails to show up to pick up an item.  People get busy or forget and don’t think to give you a courtesy email to let you know their plans have changed.  So don’t plan your life around being available to Craigslist customers.  If you’ve waited a half-hour for a no-show, send them a polite email explaining that you’d be happy to set up another time that will be more convenient, then go about your life.  If it’s an honest mistake, they’ll likely be apologetic and grateful for a second chance.  If they’re flaky and don’t really care, then you haven’t sacrificed your plans.  About half-way through my selling process, I started asking people to give me a half-hour window of when they would like to stop by, which let them know I wasn’t going to be sitting around all day waiting for them to show up.

Craigslist can be fun, especially when someone is gushing to you about how excited their son or daughter will be to receive your unneeded items.  If you remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive, you will likely have a positive experience.  Good luck!

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