If you've ever used the internet before, you've probably heard of Craigslist.  If you've ever met someone who has used this website in the past, you have probably had to listen to someone rant in frustration about the types of people on there, and the experience that they had buying or selling an item.

Craigslist is perhaps the easiest and simplest website in the entire world.  It's like the old fashioned  newspaper classifieds, except people can post on there without leaving their homes, and without wearing pants.  This means that there is a very low barrier to entry as far as using it goes.  And as a result... it often attracts the lowest common denominator of people.

However, there are plenty of reasonable people using Craigslist, and you can be one of them!  If you follow these tips, you should be able to navigate the strange and bizarre world of internet classifieds without pulling your hair out or screaming into a pillow.  Being in the United States, I have never used similar sites like Kijiji, but I would imagine much of this advice will transfer over to it as well.

Also, a quick note.  This will not cover staying safe on Craigslist, but that is also worth reading up on if you are new to the site.  I've never had an issue or felt unsafe during a transaction, but I've also always played it smart.  Be safe out there.

Pulling Hair Out

Use a New Email Address

The absolute first thing that you should do is use a new email address whenever you use Craigslist.  So when you go to make your account, be sure to avoid entering your primary email address.  Although there is a feature to mask your email address from those interested, why risk it?  This way you can do all of your email correspondence for inquiring and responding to questions about your posted items on this separate account.

Get a Google Voice Phone Number

When you create that new email account, do it through Gmail, and while you're at it, get a Google Voice phone number.  This will allow you to send and receive text messages with people without them having your real number.

They also have an easy "block caller" feature that I have used on numerous occasions.  One click of the button and you will NEVER have to deal with that person again.  You probably wish you had a real life button that could do the same thing!

Google Voice also has a convenient application that you can use on your mobile phone.  This way you are still able to text and communicate with the other party while on the road or meeting up to buy or sell something.  Also, you can sync your phone up to Google Voice so that if people call the "fake" Voice number you answer using your phone.

If you don't answer, they can leave a voicemail message and you will get it automatically transcribed to text for you, free!  The transcription is admittedly not very good, but that just gives you some free entertainment.  Personally I like to read the transcription and then take a guess at what the person actually said before I listen to the message.

Judge Books by Their Covers

You're going to deal with a lot of strange people on Craigslist.  The best way to ensure that you are interacting with a normal, rational human being, is to screen out the freaks quickly.

The best way to do this is to accept that anything that feels like a scam, is a scam.  Block these people immediately and no longer deal with them.  If someone wants you to ship your item somewhere, immediately block them.  If someone can't speak in complete sentences using the English language we were all taught in elementary school, immediately block them.

I don't suffer fools lightly, and I don't have issues with using Craigslist.  I believe there is a solid correlation.

Definitely Set Up a Meeting Place

Now we arrive at the biggest problem that most people have with using Craigslist- the people that flake out.  I hate dealing with flakes too, so I can understand the frustration here.  There is nothing more infuriating then driving out of your way to meet someone, only to have them text you at the last minute to say they are no longer interested.

Luckily, most of these monsters can be avoided.  Most of them were already be screened out as we have discussed above.  For the rest of the people you actually deal with, you want to effectively set up a meeting.  Here are a few ideas for a good Craigslist meeting:

  • Within the next 24 hours.  Beyond that, and it's just a pipe dream.  Most people on CL have the attention span of a squirrel.
  • In a well-lit and public area.  Be safe.
  • At a place which is convenient for you.  Make it so that you aren't going out of your way.  If you have an errand to run, like pick up your dry cleaning, meet them right there at the dry cleaners.

Furthermore, be sure to DEFINITELY set up a time, as well as confirm the price beforehand.  It is a common CL tactic to offer you less money in person.  Confirming the price beforehand will usually prevent this, but you can't root out all scumbags indefinitely.

Lastly, even after hammering out a time to meet, tell the person you will confirm with them before you leave your house.  Then actually do that.  If it takes you 10 minutes to get to the meeting place, text the person 20 minutes in advance and ask if you are still on to meet at the agreed time.  If you don't get a response, you don't leave your house.

Arrive on time to the meeting, but not early.  So many people on Craigslist are late that it's just not worth your time to get there for five minutes early and then wait an additional fifteen minutes for them.  This can be difficult to train your brain if you are like me and always arrive places early.  Stick with it though and intend to arrive exactly on time.  Bring a book with you so you have something to do.

Avoid Getting Offended

Lastly, and most importantly, don't take anything on Craigslist too seriously.  If you are really getting frustrated and fed up with the flakes and the rude buyers of the site, then take a break for a little while.  Consider selling on Ebay (though you will pay some hefty fees.)

What you have to understand about the rude people on CL is that they aren't intentionally trying to frustrate you in particular.  They are just difficult people to deal with in general, so it's foolish to let them get to you.  And if you go into Craigslist transactions with the mindset that everyone else on the site is evil, you just might find that there are some decent people in your local community on there as well!