Monday, December 14, 2015

Editorial: Craigslist is both a godsend and a curse

I suspect most people are familiar with Craigslist, the web bulletin board where one can get everything from a new job to a blow job. It is the digital swap meet where people can buy and trade just about anything for mostly free. I am a long-time user of Craigslist and frequently peruse the cars for sale and have used it to buy and sell a number of different things over the years. Anytime we move to a new city, Craigslist is always our first stop for apartment hunting. In many ways, some of my most treasured possessions have been discovered on Craigslist. Both of my current bicycles were acquired through hunting around on Craigslist. The Shogun is one of my best purchases ever and the nearly brand new condition Orbea Orca a close second. Both of my wife's bikes were Craiglist purchases also and we have been extremely happy with those as well. But when it comes to selling things on Craigslist, the experience is certainly not anywhere as pleasant.

I recently had occasion to unload a few items that were cluttering up my apartment. Up onto Craigslist went ads for two items:

1. 1984 Shogun 400 CrMo road bike I had originally purchased in LA to allow me to have a bike to ride when I came back to visit.

2. Brand new, still sealed in the factory box Thule Raceway Platform bike rack, that was a replacement sent by Thule over a year after the one we bought had failed during our cross country road trip.

Both items were priced fairly based on a bit of quick research and I fully anticipated people wanting to negotiate. What I did not anticipate was just how moronic people on Craigslist really are.

After brushing off the usual litany of scammers, I started to get a couple of nibbles on the Shogun. At least one buyer had made the effort to come look at it, but they ended up deciding it was not the right geometry for them, which is not uncommon with these vintage road bikes that can vary quite a lot. One Saturday morning, I get a call from a buyer who is super eager to come and purchase the bike. After a few minutes, details were provided and the buyer eagerly agreed to come look at the bike around 11AM. The agreed upon meeting time comes and goes with no word from the buyer. 20 minutes past the hour, a frantic phone call from the buyer wondering where we were. It does not take long to be able to deduce that they were clear on the opposite side of town at a place that was not even remotely close to the landmark we had provided him earlier in the morning. We once again re-explain the location and I offer to text them the address of the meeting place.

As soon as my text is sent, I get a call back, but this time, instead of the buyer, it is the buyer's father, who is apparently driving him around that morning. Sounding rather irritated, he proceeds to tell me some sob story about how he has driven two hours from Orange County and how our original instructions (which included the neighborhood, an intersection, and a business landmark) were unclear and that he needed the address, which I had just texted to the phone he was currently using to harangue me on. When I tell him that I just sent the address, he gruffly said it would be another hour before he could get there. Needless to say, Mr. Stick-up-the-ass and his son never showed. Apparently, using Google maps was too difficult for them and that was somehow my fault.

While I did eventually get the Shogun sold to a very pleasant older gentleman who wanted it as a gift for his wife, the Thule bike rack took a lot longer. Given the price, I was not that surprised since I figured the market for a $300+ trunk mounted bike rack was going to be pretty limited. Of course, the annoying thing was the number of patently ridiculous offers I received from people who must have thought they could score the deal of a lifetime. The rack still retailed in stores for around $430 and I had it listed at a little over $300. Almost like clockwork, I would get at least one offer each week from someone asking if I would take $150 for it. These people were either clueless about how negotiation works or they were simply fishing for a whopper of a deal that was never going to happen. For the record, making an insultingly low offer is not a good way to get a response from a seller. It took several weeks longer, but I finally was able to find a fellow cyclist who was great to deal with and paid a very reasonable price for the rack.

Still, both experiences were certainly eye openers. Perhaps I simply put too much faith in people when I expect them to act like rational and responsible human beings. Luckily, I was ultimately able to find wonderful new homes for my unwanted stuff, but the aggravation is going to give me pause before I list another item for sale on Craigslist.