Dealing with Craigslist and eBay

I'm in the middle of preparing for a long-distance move (Berkeley, California to Osaka, Japan). Part of that preparation is deciding what I will be taking with me. In reality, the way I've been mostly thinking about it is what I will not be taking with me. That mindset came about when I realized how much stuff I had in my apartment.

I've been really lucky to have a nicely-sized two-bedroom apartment in this part of the country. But having all that space for myself came with a long-term debt that I'm finally having to pay down rather forcefully. I've accumulated so many things: electronics that I haven't used in years (still had an old iPod classic from 2008), computer components that I've put aside after upgrading them (I had at least ten different computer hard drives lying around), clothes that haven't fit me in years since I dropped a bit of weight in the past four years. It's crazy just how much stuff a person can just hoard throughout the years, without doing anything to discard.

Now that I have to minimize what I'll be taking - mostly to keep costs as low as possible for an international move - all my hoarding has come to haunt me. I've purged my closet of all clothes that are a few sizes too big and donated them to Goodwill, and plan to do the same with a lot of household items, appliances, and furniture. But I also don't want to label everything as a sunk cost and not recover some of the cost of the things I have, especially when they're still in excellent functional condition. That means I've had to get on selling mode, which is what I wanted to write about here.

I've been mostly using Craigslist and eBay for the majority of my selling needs, and there are a lot of pros and cons for each, as well as a couple of common things that I've noticed in the last couple of months of posting lots of things for sale on a weekly basis.

I had never used Craigslist before, and I admit that I was terrified about having to deal with complete strangers. Some of the horror stories of deals gone bad from Craigslist - even though you know those cases are very few and far in between - can just play with your head. But after a few months, I've actually enjoyed selling things on Craigslist, and it's my go-to place to sell things locally. Besides having gotten rid of a lot of items from my apartment, almost every person who I've met to sell something to has been friendly and great to deal with. I've even gotten paid more money than we agreed upon because they noticed I sold them something in excellent condition and was not trying to rip them off.

The only exception in relation to meeting with nice people was one person who - despite agreeing on a price for an item through email - was really rude and was complaining about the price when we met, and even though I was selling the item at less than 50% of the cheapest price I saw anywhere online.

That brings me to the bad part about Craigslist. If you want to get the maximum amount of money for your item, Craigslist won't be the place for it. I try to price all of my items cheaper than anywhere else I can find because I want to sell them quickly, but you'll still get people trying to lowball you. I don't mind the occasional offer, but most offers I've gotten are insultingly low (like someone offering $20 for an item I posted for $100, which costs over $300 brand new).

Also, be prepared to deal with flaky people all the time. I've had tons of back-and-forth conversations with people who agree on my price and say they want to meet to buy the item, and when I reach out to them to plan on where to meet, they don't respond and just cut all communication. It gets frustrating, especially in times where I could have sold the item to someone else.

eBay is definitely more reliable in that regard since people have to pay you first before you send over the item. You avoid people backing out of deals and don't have to haggle for the most part (unless you use the "Buy It Now or Best Offer" option). eBay buyers also mostly pay fair prices, which is pretty good. It's also a good place to sell some items that are a bit more uncommon and difficult to sell locally, like a lot of the Japanese language books I had.

The main issue I have with eBay is that you have to ship things out, which is time-consuming and also costly. Although eBay has all the tools you need to buy postage and print out a shipping label, you still need to get packaging materials and probably go to the post office (I sometimes do, since the postman in my neighborhood is unreliable in picking up packages even when scheduled).

Another thing I've noticed is that people have gotten pretty spoiled with services like Amazon Prime with its free shipping and aren't willing to pay for USPS shipping prices, meaning if you really want to sell something, you'll probably have to knock down a few dollars off the price to account for what the buyer pays with shipping. Sometimes it's prohibitively expensive to even attempt to sell on eBay for any item weighing over 10 pounds, since shipping prices are kind of crazy.

I've sold a lot of different types of items on both platforms, and I noticed a few trends on both while selling, particularly what sells well and what doesn't. There are some items that definitely sell a lot quicker than others:

  • Gaming consoles: I've sold a Gamecube, PlayStation 2, and Nintendo DS so far. Although they're older systems, they sold pretty quickly and I receive a lot of responses for most of these systems. As an example, I received 7 responses in less than 15 minutes when I posted the Gamecube (mainly due to the inclusion of Super Smash Bros. Melee).
  • PC components: I had a ton of hard drives, memory sticks, optical drives, etc., and I managed to sell just about all of it in a short amount of time, and for decent prices as well. This is probably thanks to local computer repair shops typically selling older equipment at exorbitant prices.
  • Furniture: I haven't posted much furniture yet (since I need it while I'm still living here) but the things I have posted get quick responses from people looking for a good deal.

There are also some items that take months to sell, if ever:

  • Books: I honestly thought that I would be able to sell books easily, but even trying to sell some books for $1.00 didn't bring any buyers. Seems like people aren't reading that much anymore. I ended up recycling most books while donating the most recent books to my local library.
  • CDs / DVDs: I didn't expect to get far with CDs and DVDs, and I was right. In the age where any media can be streamed or downloaded instantly and cheaply, not many people want to have physical media in their possession. The only discs I managed to sell were unopened and cheap.
  • Computers: While PC components sold pretty well, computer systems, in general, do not. I have two PCs I've built in the past couple of years, as well as a monitor and a low-end laptop that I don't use anymore, and despite the low price, no one has contacted me to buy them yet. Also, I'm only willing to sell it locally since it's pricey and a pain to ship these things to make sure they survive the rigors of the postal /courier service. That limits my options pretty drastically.

These were just some notes I wanted to share about my last few weeks of selling, in case someone is thinking about doing the same. I'm sure most of us have a ton of things in our homes that would be better used in someone else's lives. Even though moving is stressful, knowing that some the products that brought my joy at one point or another are continuing to do so with someone else.

I wanted to end with something really awesome that happened recently. About an hour after meeting with someone and selling my PlayStation 2, which included about five Guitar Hero games, he texted me back the following:

Thank you, Dennis, my son is having a blast! He never played Guitar Hero! It will go to very good use!!!

Helping myself while helping others - to me, it doesn't get any better than that.

Written by

Dennis Martinez

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