Tag Archives: craigslist

Annals of Fine Writing: Craigslist Ads Remembered

Every once in a while, we have recourse to Craigslist to unencumber ourselves of some surplus piece of furniture (“What’s that futon still doing here?”) or other once-loved possession (“When’s the last time you rode that bike?”).

For me, the best part of the Craigslist experience is writing the ad. I’m not sure the writing really matters — I think an item’s three top characteristics are price, price and price — but it’s a challenge to try to turns something recently ruled to be terminally unwanted into an attractive must-have.

I’m getting ready to write an ad for a chicken coop and run we want to sell. In the process, I read a couple of my old ads. Here’s one that was fun to write. The item moved right quick, though the buyer failed to comment on the quality of my prose:

Ikea Henrik student desk, $60

An Ikea classic that may or may not have been named after a famous Scandinavian literary figure. This desk played a prominent role in a student’s career at Berkeley High School and may even be partly responsible for his successful completion of studies at the University of Oregon.

Features:

–Classic Ikea design: a Scandinavian thought this up. ‘Nuff said.
–Classic Ikea construction: manufacture of this item caused minimal rain forest destruction
–Conforms fully to U.S. and international safety standards, including Newton’s laws of motion

And check out these extras:
–Recently dusted
–Family friendly
–Desk chair may be comfortable for hours on end

Plus: We will consider delivering this item right to your home.

(And we’ll note one flaw in this stunning piece: The computer keyboard tray lacks a stop and may slide all the way out if you’re unwary.)

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Filed under Berkeley, Family

Modern Marketing, March 2010 Edition

One of my private convictions, or delusions, is that I’d be a great marketing writer given the right outlet. The right outlet would have no rules: no house style, no retail “voice,” no lifestyle image to promote. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have merchandise except for the stuff you’re trying to get out of the house; stuff that might not be fun but that could be fun to sell. It turns out I’m talking about Craigslist. We’ve managed to sell stray household items there for years, and writing the item descriptions is always the most engaging part of the process.

Here’s the current item on offer (as posted on Craigslist):

Ikea Henrik student desk, with chair

An Ikea classic that may or may not have been named after a famous Scandinavian literary figure. This desk played a prominent role in a student’s career at Berkeley High School and may even be partly responsible for his successful completion of studies at the University of Oregon.

Features:
–Classic Ikea design: a Scandinavian thought this up. ‘Nuff said.
–Classic Ikea construction: manufacture of this item caused minimal rain forest destruction
–Conforms fully to U.S. and international safety standards, including Newton’s laws of motion

And check out these extras:
–Recently dusted
–Family friendly
–Desk chair may be comfortable for hours on end

We got three responses within an hour. Since no one commented on the brilliance of the sales pitch, I have to conclude they were moved by price ($60, with vague offer of delivery).

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Today’s Top Scam

We have some dining chairs we'd like to sell. After the usual months of procrastination, I took pictures and posted them on Craigslist, where I've always had pretty good luck unloading things quickly. I think if I really wanted to sell these in a hurry, I'd post them on a Friday or early Saturday, when I think people are in garage-sale mode. But add Factor P (for procrastination again) and it was Sunday afternoon before they were actually online. I got one email soon afterward, from "Kelly Walker," who asked whether the chairs were still available. Yes, "Kelly," they are, I responded. I didn't check my email again until this morning. I had another note from "Kelly":

Hello,

I appreciate your response to my inquiry.I am interested in buying the items and i am ok with their description and conditions and i am also satisfied with their price($150).I would have love to come and check it myself but am not chance now,because I just got married and am presently on honeymoon trip to Honolulu in Hawaii with my wife and I would love a surprise change of furniture in our home on our return because my wife like surprises. Please do withdraw the advert from the website with immediate effect,as i don't mind adding $50 for you to do that for me,so i can be rest assured that the items are held for me,I will be making the payment to you via a Certified Check in us dollars which my secretary in united state will mail across to you and as for the pick up,i will know how to handle that with my mover that has been helping me to move in new furnitures into our home. My Mover will come for the pick up once the Certified Check has been cashed and i will like to complete this transaction before Wednesday the 22nd of July.If this arrangement is ok by you kindly send me both your name and full address to post the payment immediately and i would appreciate you include your phone#,i.e….

(1)..Your full name
(2)..Your full home address or your office address
(3)..your zip code
(4)…your phone number to contact you

And please i don't want a P.O BOX address because i want the payment to get to you at your house or your office address to make the transaction fast.Thanks and get back to me with the full info as soon as possible.Thanks

"Kelly," who wrote me from kellywalker100@gmail.com, sounds like quite a guy. So thoughtful and generous. He's on his honeymoon in Hawaii, and he stops to shop Craigslist just to find some new furniture to surprise his wife! Such solicitude, too. He'll pay 50 bucks just to get me to hold the chairs for his "mover." And he wants to make sure I get his bunko check without delay. Really the only less-than-glowing thing I can say about him is his English needs a little polishing.

I was tempted to write back: "Dear Kelly: The sale terms are cash only. For scammers, the cash price is double, plus a $500 handling charge. You're responsible for your own attorney's and bail fees upon your arrest and trial for grand theft." When I did write back, though, I stopped at "cash only."

Like everyone else, I've seen multitudes of online scams. Craigslist is apparently rife with them. I'm not sure anyone has ever approached me directly and individually this way before. It's disturbing and offensive, especially when you consider that "Kelly" and his like do manage to sucker the unsuspecting.

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Filed under Berkeley, Current Affairs

Modern Marketing

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For months now, we’ve had Tom’s old bed — a pretty nice twin-size platform bed with six drawers — sitting in our living room. I thought it would be easy to sell. I posted ads on Craigslist, which for the uninitiated is a kind of online flea market where you can find anything. The service started here in San Francisco, and I actually worked with the founder briefly at the online project I joined when I left The Examiner. It was a big mailing list then, and now it’s a hugely successful community and e-commerce site that eBay has bought into. I’ve sold a bike there and bought A’s playoff tickets on zero notice, so I know it works.

That knowledge aside, Tom’s bed will just not move from our cramped premises. I posted two perfectly competent and ordinary ads in June for a "twin-size chest bed and mattress." I linked to the maker’s fine pictures of the bed. I gave a very clear description. We didn’t get a single response. And there in our living room the bed still sits. Kate and I have talked about giving it to a charity. But yesterday, I was seized with just enough initiative to take a few digital pictures of the bed and try another Craigslist posting.

When I sat down to write this time, though, I realized I had it all wrong. So without thinking about it, the "twin-size chest bed and mattress" became "It’s The Amazing Chest Bed." After I wrote that heading, everything else fell into place (check this link for the Craigslist posting for the full effect; the ad text is below). The bed is now a happening.

Has it sold, you ask? Well, not yet. I’ve had seven inquiries about it since yesterday, though. So maybe it’ll move this time.

***

It’s The Amazing Chest Bed

It’s the ultimate experience in sleep for persons of a certain size and/or age. A chest bed with six generous drawers and a headboard that offers extra storage. The mattress is a nearly new extra-long twin size (requires extra-long twin sheets; regular twin size won’t fit; more on dimensions below). If you’re tall and skinny, it’s perfect for you. If you have a family member who may someday get tall and skinny (we do, but he quickly outgrew this mattress), it’s a perfect size for you (and whoever that person is), too. But don’t take our word for it — check it out for yourself! While we’d like to offer test sleepovers in our smartly appointed Berkeley digs — we could have hot chocolate and a warm fire and listen to "Winnie-the-Pooh" — we can’t accommodate the throngs we expect to demand the right to purchase this article. So you’ll have to be content with checking out pictures of The Amazing Chest Bed, images taken at great expense by a locally renowned furniture photographer.

We’re asking $250 for The Amazing Chest Bed — a small price for a piece of furniture that could conceivably have had a featured role as a prop in the popular USA Network series "Monk," starring Tony Shalhoub. We paid $900 for the bed, headboard and mattress.

Act now, and we, the soon-to-be former owners of The Amazing Chest Bed will consider bringing it over to your place (please: Western Hemisphere addresses only) at no extra cost. For the extra-practical-minded: Dimensions are: Bed platform/drawer unit: 76 1/4 inches long x 38 inches wide x 24 inches tall. Mattress: 80 inches long x 38 inches wide x 10 inches high. Headboard: 8 1/2 inches deep x 38 inches wide x 50 inches tall. So combined length of mattress, platform and headboard is about 88 1/2 inches. Combined height of platform and mattress is about 34 inches.

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