How to be a Good Buyer from an online Group, Craigslist, Virtual Garage Sale etc.

Periodically, I get motivated to unload the accumulation of crap sitting around my house.  Then, I start selling it online and I am reminded of why I just donate everything.  The buyers, man! I mean, I know there are some shady sellers, but the buyers, man!  From the first interaction, I am able to determine with 90% accuracy the trajectory of the interaction and if it will ultimately end in a sale.  And, it’s usually because the interested buyer breaks one or many of the rules (of being a human of basic intelligence) below.I am a bit biased because I have sold enough items to have an opinion and I am a pretty good seller (

I am a bit biased because I have sold enough items to have an opinion and I am a pretty good seller (toot, toot – that’s my own horn!). When you post an item for sale there should be a baseline of information.  If you provide this information honestly and can follow through, you are a good seller. Congratulations! But, just so I am perfectly clear for those of you about to start whining that it’s not always the buyer’s fault, here is that information first:

ogranat / Pixabay

How to be a Good Seller:

  • Provide an accurate Item Name
  • State your Price, be sure to add “O.B.O.” (or best offer) or “firm,” if these are details that matter.  Also, in person deals should always be done in cash, but if you are selling things you are willing to ship include that you will accept payment via Paypal etc.
  • Pictures – always include at least one good, clear picture.  If the picture is out of focus turn on your flash and try again.  If it is still fuzzy try turning on the lights in the room, clean your lens, or tap the center of the screen to help it focus.  If there are any flaws include pictures of those as well.
  • Description and/ or Condition Notes – These can help.  In certain instances the photo and item name may be enough, but most often it is still appropriate to include at least a condition acronym, such as:
    • NIB, NWT, NWOT: new in box, new with tags, new without original tags
    • EUC, VGUC: excellent used condition, very good used condition
    • GU: gently used
  • Pick Up or Delivery Options – this would be where you say your neighborhood, a near cross street of your home, or a public place where you are willing to meet.  If it is something you are willing to ship you would mention this and if your price includes shipping (often seen as PP for postage paid).  Most people will expect that you will be shipping the cheapest method when things are listed with the postage included in the price, but you may want to mention items will be shipped media mail, first class, etc. and if you are open to shipping a different manner for an additional fee.
  • Holds:  This is not generally something that needs to be listed, but in the event, someone asks you to hold something you need to abide by your words.  If you say you will hold it for two days, then do that.  If you don’t do holds that is perfectly fine.  It doesn’t make you a bad person.  Many times the person asking for the hold will still be your buyer. Just be clear and follow through.

How to be a good Buyer:

  • Read the entire advert – yup, that’s first for a reason because if you are dealing with a good seller all the pertinent information has been provided.
  • Don’t Ask Stupid Questions – this goes back to ‘Read’ but before you send your question why don’t you go back and double check that the answer is not right there in front of your face.  I cannot tell you how many people ask where I’m located when they inquire about an item I have posted in my neighborhood facebook group.  That is when my first face-palm occurs.
  • Recognize that Sellers are not Dealers: Most of the time, if you are on these types of local pages, the people selling are just regular ‘ol people who are trying to get rid of some excess stuff. Don’t ask if they have the item in another color or a different size, etc. unless you have good reason to believe they would (like, you did your due diligence to see what else the person has up for sale).   If someone is selling a sink that they clearly state was leftover from a remodel do not inquire if they have the sink in a different size.  No.  I’m just going to go ahead and tell you  right now, “No.”  If someone is selling a liftgate off a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado they have no idea if it will fit your Toyota Tacoma.  Do some research you lazy bums! Look up the brand. Contact the manufacturer.  For reals!
  • Ask Smart Questions – I’m not saying don’t ask questions, but make them pertinent. For instance, if someone is selling a black dress a stupid question would be: “What color is the dress?” or if the size is listed or shown in a picture, “What size is it?”  A smart question would be: “Can you tell me what kind of material the dress is made from?” or “It’s hard to tell it the photos but is the collar beaded or embroidered?” or “Could you send me a closer picture of XYZ detail?”
  • Pay
    • Low Balling: If someone lists a price feel free to counter.  But, know that when you low ball them you are being insulting.  If the price listed is truly too high you can try to inform the buyer like, “Hey, I don’t know if you realize but the potato peeler you’ve listed is going for $8 shipped on Amazon, so would you accept $5 instead of the $10 you listed?”  But, an online garage sale is not a real garage sale.  You are not standing in front of someone with cash.  And, to that end, if you are going to low ball at least have the decency to say you can pick up immediately (not after you get paid on Friday) and pay in cash (which, shouldn’t be an issue because no one is taking your check).
    • Agree on the Price in Advance: Don’t show up to pick up a baby bed and then say, “Will you take $$$?” (Which in my experience is usually at least half the asking price).  Again, see “you are being insulting.”  If the item has been well represented by photo and description you should be able to agree on a price before anyone gets in the car.  If the item is not as described be calm and be nice. Honestly, explain the problem and if you are still interested in the item offer your alternate price. Don’t be afraid to walk away. It’s annoying, but sometimes it happens.
    • Bring the Money: Seriously, do not go through all this and waste people’s time and then only show up with part of the money.  If you don’t have the cash don’t shop!  This makes you a scumbag.  Many, many people have asked if we could wait a few days for a paycheck etc.  If you have thus far proven yourself to be a decent human I will usually accommodate the request and hold the item a few days.  But, if you show up to buy a power drill for $30 and you bring $27, you will be going home with $27.
  • Holds – It happens. A lot. Some people will ask for a hold and sellers vary on policy here (usually due to being burned).  Be reasonable.  If you won’t have money by the upcoming weekend don’t even start the buying process.  If it’s an item that has been listed for awhile and you are interested but don’t have the money together feel free to contact the buyer and explain that, but don’t ask for them to hold it for you for two weeks.  It’s just not right or fair to anyone.
  • Plan the Pickup in Advance – The price is an important detail, but there are others.  If you are asking about an item you found on a neighborhood group be prepared to travel to that neighborhood.  If you are asking about an item in a regional online garage sale be prepared to travel to that region.  If you are inquiring about something on Craigslist, yup, most of the time, even if the seller doesn’t specifically say where they are, there is a little map that shows where the pick up will take place.  You can ask to meet but don’t be surprised if your seller gets snarky or shuts you down when you ask them to drive 30 minutes because you live an hour away.  However, this is largely a timing issue.  If this is discussed during all the talks it’s completely fine.  It gets shady once you have agreed to a price and set a pickup time/day, then, the day of, you ask the seller to hop in the car and drive to meet you. Don’t be that guy.
  • Pick Up – Pick up your stuff. For the love of Pete, pick up your damn stuff!  You’ve gone through all the above steps all there is left is to get the thing.  Get it. Get it the day and time you said you would.  No shows are assholes.  True story.  Things happen, I get it.  So, send a message and say, “I’m sorry  I can’t make it today my baby has explosive diarrhea and we just can’t get out.”  The next part of your message could go a couple of ways.  You could try to set up another time (as soon as possible) or you can politely back out (again, let your seller know, as soon as possible). Part of it goes back to don’t shop if you don’t have the money, but you know shit happens.  Sometimes a radiator goes out, so yeah, you should probably fix that instead of buying a balance bike.  Whatever you do, however you feel, just communicate.  Generally, people are decent and mean well. I hope we all know that, but when you leave someone hanging you have messed up their day and put them out of another potential sale they skipped because you committed. Prove you are a decent human being by being one.

I’m sure there’s more but I think that covers the basics.  It’s not that hard.  I don’t have a degree in marketing but I know what I want to see when I’m shopping and I know how I want to be treated when I’m buying and selling.  Let’s all just Golden Rule this one, shall we?




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