Craigslist Is A Terrible Place To Actually Buy Anything

I am proud to announce that I recently discovered the magic of Craigslist. What I mean by this is: I recently attempted to buy something on Craigslist, which I discovered is a futile task that should only be attempted by the clinically insane.

Before I explain exactly what happened during my Craigslist experience – namely, I received a series of text messages from people whose command of the English language relies heavily on AutoCorrect – please allow me to explain precisely what Craigslist is, for the benefit of you foreign readers who will never know the joy of purchasing used goods from Internet strangers who may also possess a concealed meat cleaver.


For starters, I should explain that Craigslist is an Internet website that can be accessed by going to craigslist dot org, except you have to actually put a period where I said "dot." Why don't we call it craigslist period org? Because we cool Internet people can't be bothered to utter three long syllables, what with all the free porn we're watching.

Anyway: I've never quite understood why Craigslist has a "dot org" domain name, because I believe it is the very furthest thing in the world from a non-profit organization. Other dot org domains are places like the National Association of Cute Puppies That You Keep Telling Yourself You're Too Busy to Adopt, and the North American Alliance of Elderly Veterans Who You Take for Granted Even Though They Fought for Your Freedom, Sonny, whereas if Craigslist had to describe its organizational status, I bet they would go with "United League of People With Stolen Car Parts."

So what can you buy on Craigslist? Practically anything. And I mean anything. There really is an unending range of desirable items to peruse, such as stolen laptops, stolen ATVs, stolen appliances, stolen phones, stolen lawn tractors, stolen birthday cakes with one large piece missing, stolen pets, stolen books, stolen body parts, and stolen medical equipment including stolen canes, stolen walkers, stolen pacemakers, and stolen casts signed by an entire fourth-grade class in the suburbs. You can also occasionally use Craigslist to find non-stolen goods, such as apartments that smell like the previous tenant was actually a large wet dog who chain smoked.

Now, there's another important tenet of Craigslist that I need to mention before I explain the situation with my transaction. And it is: no matter how much money you're asking for an item on Craigslist, people will offer you half price. Seriously. You could go on Craigslist and offer to sell a large suburban office park, the kind of office park that has a central courtyard with a fountain designed to make workers think they're interacting with nature when they're eating lunch, and you could list it for $37.95. And you'd unquestionably get a text message from some guy who says that "37.95 seems a little hi but would u do 19 bucks and some stolen car parts"?


So anyway, I visited Craigslist for a used automobile, of which there are many for sale in various conditions, from "tires circa 2007" to "stolen tires circa 2007." And this is when I discovered that the only thing worse than selling an item on Craigslist is buying one. Allow me to take you through the process, car by car.

Car #1: I sent a text message to the seller who had listed the car in a desperate panic ("MUST SELL! TEXT ASAP!") on three separate occasions within the last week. She never replied. Two days later, she relisted the car again.


Car #2: I sent a text message to a seller who had listed a car with no pictures. The response, in its entirety, was: "Yes its available, Ima send you sum gud clear pics ina a.m jus leaving work." I sent the text message on a Wednesday and finally received the pictures on a Saturday. Admittedly the seller said I would get the pictures "ina a.m," and not necessarily the next "a.m", so perhaps I should've been prepared for the 72-hour delay.

Car #3: I sent a text message to a seller who had been listing the same car, each week, for about a month. No response.


Car #4: I sent a text message to a seller who claimed she had a great car, except for the minor flaw of a severe leak that constantly required adding additional coolant. This was the entire exchange:

Me: Hello. Is your PT Cruiser still for sale?
Seller: Yea
Me: If you add coolant, does it run?
Seller: Yea
Me: OK. Where are you and the PT located?
Seller: North east Philly


So this guy really did a great job selling this vehicle, and I came away from the conversation absolutely convinced that this was the car for me. Just kidding; I never spoke to the person again.

Car #5: This is the one I really wanted. It was a perfect specimen of the car I was looking to buy, in the sense that it had no reverse gear and there was a giant gash in the side (referred to in the ad as a "small dent") from where the car had apparently suffered a head-on collision with a shopping mall. The seller was asking an insane $1,500, so I – in true Craigslist fashion – texted and offered her $900. She said she would "think about it."


This gave me an idea: I called up one of my friends and asked him to text the seller with an even lower offer. My theory was that this would help jumpstart her thinking process, in the sense that she would suddenly realize how much other Craigslist customers were willing to pay, and suddenly my offer would look about as good as the time the American government purchased Louisiana from France for ten grand and a bag of reefer. So he texted her, and he offered something like $450, and she quickly replied "no thanks."

Unfortunately, this strategy didn't seem to have the effect I intended. When I texted her two days later to see if she had thought about it, she replied that no, she was still thinking, but she would get back to me. I never heard from her again.


Eventually, on the sixth try, I purchased the car of my dreams: a wood paneled PT Cruiser, bought from an illegal title jumper at an apartment complex parking lot in South Jersey. This ended my experience with Craigslist, and hopefully for good, because I don't think I can stomach another transaction where the other person's responses primarily consist of the word "Yea".

Indeed, I will only use Craiglist to sell my items going forward. For example: the next time I run across a stolen birthday cake, it's going straight to Craigslist. I'll list it for $9.50, but yes, Mr. Craigslist Lowballer, I'd sell it for four bucks. As long as you leave your meat cleaver at home.


@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.

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