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Craigslist Office

A website for classified ads

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My love/hate relationship with the world's most damned awkward website

  • Jun 7, 2011
Rating:
+3
Internet phenomenal, scourge to society or mirror to human civilization? Who knows but one thing's for sure - you haven't lived until you've tried to sell a sofa on Craigslist.

As a website, it's an amazing survivor of the 1995 era where WebPagesThatSuck outed the most outrageous offenders of terrible navigation, poor display, graphics and just general awfulness. I've heard that founder Craig Newmark likes it that way. I can guess from this single piece of information that he must be from the Bay Area, probably has some form of hipster facial hair and almost certainly has square, trendy glasses. He also might live in Oakland since it's an even shittier place to live than San Francisco, which somehow makes it more ironic.

Anyway, Craiglist is a great place for three types of unspoken yet common human activity:
  • Finding hookers
  • Ranting insanely
  • Selling sofas
It fails on every level in almost every other capacity but bizarrely makes money as the Internet's worst job platform. Having never sought hookers and knowing of better places for ranting insanely, I only have experience of the sofa selling part.

STEP 1: THE LISTING

Building a Craigslist posting is like trying to find an answer on the DMVs website - it's full of confusingly pointless questions that seem to get a little better with each passing year. My current favorite is the question after the question about where you are. It goes:

Q: Where are you?
Me: Los Angeles
Q: Which is the closest to you? Pick from...

westside-southbay-310
san fernando valley
central LA 213/323
san gabriel valley
long beach / 562
antelope valley

What the hell, Craig? Don't you know we have Google Maps and zip codes? Why are you trying to triangulate my house by it's distance from Four Corners, Mount Rushmore and Charlie Sheen's coke dealer's car? Seriously, WTF?

Anyway, when you finally guess that Universal Studios Hollywood might be slightly closer than Hugo's Tacos and you decide against going postal on your aquarium in the frustration, you get to encounter the joy of the 1990s text editor that forgets everything in an error, and ignores every browser development since the turn of the millennium. And let's not forget the impossibly hard reCAPTCHA check for no reason whatsoever. Or the ability to include hyperlinks. *Sigh*

STEP 2: BEHOLD, A BUYER

It's quite exciting to receive your first email from a Craigslist buyer but most newbies aren't aware of the fact that 99% of Craigslist comprises of:
  • Scammers
  • Bots
  • Scamming bots
The first few people to contact you send spuriously one-liners with terrible yet creepy grammar:
  • "you send now for the device sale. and for the thanks. bye."
  • "have you no further? many items in my list i send payment."
  • "liking your item. will be happy to do business. you close listing"
After the first round, here come the scammers - they generally want to send you a check for more than the asking price while you ship the item. The scam has something to do with check fraud and stupidity but apparently it must still work.

Next up we have our best candidates from the Great Unwashed - real buyers. And they can be the hardest part.

BONUS STEP! "SELLING" FREE STUFF.

There are times you just want to get rid of something and you give it to someone free in the world to help boost your karma credit balance. I recently gave away a perfectly good sofa complete with detailed pictures.

Here are some of the responses I received together with replies I wish I had the guts to send:

i'm interested in your sofa. i can't really see if there is staining or discoloring?? is there any tears or rips in the upholstery? how long have you had the sofa. my kids have allergies so it's really important for me to find out if the sofa comes from a home with smoking or pets. you can call me at XXX.XXX.XXXX. thanks, corrina

Corrina, although the pictures show a sofa in perfect condition, I neglected to mention it was primarily used for my dog when he was smoking. We haven't clipped his claws so there are some scratch marks and rips but I edited them out with Photoshop to get rid of this thing. Let me know your schedule so I can call you at your convenience and put whatever I'm doing on hold.

when can you deliver the sofa? i'm near pico

I'm honored you've allowed my sofa to stay at your house and would be delighted to have it shipped immediately. If you would like to charge me rent for your floorspace I would be delighted to pay in advance. I'm happy to driving in circles in the pico area until I get the sense of where your live.

There were several others but the common theme was the fear of the shift key.

STEP 3: THE BUYER ARRIVES!

A cautionary tale:

I once sold a barbecue in Sausalito to a Craigslist user. "Sold" is probably the wrong word. I gave her the address but she insisted on calling me every 2 minutes for an hour and using the complimentary turn-by-turn navigation services I provide. I then lifted the very-large-and-very-heavy grill up four flights of stairs into her truck at which point she informed me that she didn't have the cash and would wire me the money. I proceeded to unload the grill and send it back down four flights of stairs. The next day, the Salvation Army arrived and took it away.

A frustrating tale:

In the case of the sofa that was being given away, one enthusiastic Craigslist candidate desperately wanted the item. It was just so sofa-ey and free. She had my 70-year old father drag the thing down two flights of stairs and onto the back of her truck. She then decided it was too long and left it in the driveway. Finally, a lawn maintenance man drove by - Dad offered him the sofa and he gladly loaded it up and took it away. Without Craigslist.

A more frustrating and common tale:

In at least several hundred thousand occasions, people ask questions and make appointments and then never show up. It's like that TV show Lost. I might be exaggerating but it's happened a lot.

A great outcome:

A recent sale of a media cabinet resulted in a really normal and pleasant person who emailed me an appointment, showed up on time with the money and took it away. I should have taken a picture, I was just so happy. God bless her.

So in summary, although it's 2011 and we should be living on Mars and driving flying cars by now, this is still the best way to get rid of a sofa. I love you, Craigslist, but I hate you so much.

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Post a Comment
June 10, 2011
Simply hilarious review. Loved it! I've never really used nor cared for Craigslist, but this review makes me want to check out the madness, lol!
June 16, 2011
You must check it out! I'm seriously thinking about having a T-shirt made that reads: "I sold my furniture on Craigslist and it's still here."
June 17, 2011
LOL
June 17, 2011
Love it! I bet that T-Shirt would become a hit!
 
June 10, 2011
Awesome review ;p I bought my turntables off of CL, which was quite an amazing deal of $750, with needles, covers, tables, and pads. Amazingly enough, I showed up, it wasn't a crazy skeevy psycho and I still have them to this day. But, yes, I've listed for everything from roomies to jobs on here and your response section of the review is spot on.
June 16, 2011
Thanks! And "skeevy" is a word I must use more often.
 
June 09, 2011
Hahahahahahahaha, The only thing that I've used Craigslist for lately is their best of section. And yes, you really should have taken a pic or video of that seamless CL transaction. That's worthy of framing.
June 16, 2011
It's definitely something I need to use whenever I feel that life has been going too smoothly!
 
June 09, 2011
What a fun review!!! My son sold his boat on Craigslist; advertised it one night, got 4 calls the next day and sold it to the first caller - no problem. Your review is awesome and funny---thanks for sharing!!
June 16, 2011
I'm thinking that someone should compile a book about Craigslist experiences - it's great to hear that occasionally they go as planned!
June 17, 2011
That would be a wonderful book if YOU wrote it; a hysterical book I would definitely read LOL I have another friend who has a whole living room full of furniture (sectional couch, etc.) that she got on Craigslist; seems she got some really good deals. The madness of Craigslist is humorous though..I'd like to hear more good stories!
June 17, 2011
I agree with Brenda. You would have to write this one!
 
June 07, 2011
Much as I like this site and the possibility of selling your unwanted things, it can be wierd and even creepy. Nice one!
June 07, 2011
Thanks - it's definitely never a dull experience. It's like eBay with an edge. I'd be interested to hear if anyone ever sold something valuable on Craigslist - like a car.
 
June 07, 2011
Great review. I recently sold a desk on Craigslist. I listed it for $100 and actually had a real person make an appointment to come by and check it out. She loved everything about the desk, but thought it was priced too high. She asked if I could do $95. I willingly accepted the $95 -- I guess some people just need to feel like they got an even better deal.
June 07, 2011
Thanks! Negotiation seems to be in the DNA of Craigslist users - giving just a little makes everyone happy. It's nice when a piece of furniture goes a good new home even if I had to take a $10 hit. But it's always surprising to me that people lurking in the "free stuff" section seem to be more high maintenance than regular buyers. It's an entire subculture out there...
June 17, 2011
Probably because they figure there's something major wrong with something that is given away free; it's in the mindset I think - if you were to ask $5.00 for it, they wouldn't be such high maintenance people. Go figure!!
 
1
More Craigslist reviews
review by . February 05, 2010
Yes, I know Craigslist is more than just buying and selling "stuff".  I haven't found much use for Craigslist outside of selling stuff, though.  I haven't even purchased anything off the site.  Just today I gathered up some stuff and listed it in my own virtual garage sale.  You can read about that here:      http://jeffdalydose.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/digitalgaragesale/      So what some other uses for Craigslist?   …
Quick Tip by . October 19, 2010
Great site for donating used toys and to compare rent prices in neighborhood.
Quick Tip by . August 04, 2010
I actually use this site quite often. It has allot of different aspects to it, and I know it has received some bad press but I defiantly think it has more to offer then to offend.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
i love having craiglist. i can search for just about any thing i want or need.
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Great for entertainment, but very unreliable for finding job prospects, etc. Be careful to avoid scams!
Quick Tip by . June 19, 2010
not always a reliable source to find goods
Quick Tip by . June 08, 2010
A great service but do business at arms length,
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
So helpful and extensive networking for finding a house, apartment, furniture or job even.
review by . December 15, 2008
Ahh, Craigslist, the good, the bad and the ugly. Craigslist is really the Internet within itself. Just about anything you can get across the web, you can get at Craigslist. You can find a job, market your services, buy a house, find a doctor, connect with others, sell your stuff and so much more. Since you can do so many things, it can actually become quite addictive.     First the good. You can really find so many deals on Craigslist. Usually, it's used stuff, but most of the …
Quick Tip by . September 23, 2009
The "Best Of" section of CL is the best! Oh man, so much funny, witty, yet entertainingly inappropriate postings there.
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Wiki

Craigslist is a central network of online communities, featuring free online classified advertisements – with jobs, internships, housing, personals, erotic services, for sale/barter/wanted, services, community, gigs, resume, and pets categories – and forums on various topics.
 
The service was founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark for the San Francisco Bay Area. After incorporation as a private for-profit company in 1999, Craigslist expanded into nine more U.S. cities in 2000, four each in 2001 and 2002, and 14 in 2003. As of September 2007, Craigslist has established itself in approximately 450 cities in 50 countries.
 
Craig Newmark began the service in 1995 as an email distribution list of friends, featuring local events in the San Francisco Bay Area, before becoming a web-based service in 1996. After incorporation as a private for-profit company in 1999, Craigslist expanded into nine more U.S. cities in 2000, four in 2001 and 2002 each, and 14 in 2003.
 
In 2009, Craigslist operated with a staff of 28 people. Its main source of revenue is paid job ads in select cities – $75 per ad for the San Francisco Bay Area; $25 per ad for New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Seattle, Washington D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Orange County (California) and Portland, Oregon – and paid broker apartment listings in New York City ($10 per ad).
 
The site serves over twenty billion page views per month, putting it in 33rd place overall among ...
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