February 2008

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I was at the checkout of my local grocery store when the bagger said to the checker, “He’s here again today.”

“Steve’s here?” the checker replied. “Steve Carell?”

“Yeah,” the bagger said.

At this point I interrupted. “Steve Carell is here.”

“Yeah, you know, from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. He was here last night too.”

Dude, I thought. You totally should have mentioned The Office first.

“How do you know he’s here?” the checker asked. “Did you see him?”

“No, [Tim] did. He’s over by the cheese.”

The checker told me she’d met Steve the night before when he came through to buy his groceries. I asked her if she’d gotten his signature, but she hadn’t. I told her she totally should have.

For a moment I was tempted to drive my shopping cart, full of bagged groceries and with Lego riding in the car front, to the cheese section. Then I realized that I probably would be an annoying fangirl if I did that.

So I drove home feeling at least somewhat cooler knowing that I was in the same grocery store as Steve Carell tonight.

I love Craigslist. It’s like garage sales (which I loved as I was growing up) minus the driving time plus a handy search feature.

What I don’t love are people who apparently don’t know how to use Craigslist effectively. Whether I’m buying or selling, I try to follow some basic rules out of courtesy for the other party. I just wish more people would follow my rules too.

1) If you’re selling something, respond to everyone who contacts you about it. If you’ve got a pending sale, send off a quick note to the other interested parties saying, “I have someone coming tonight, but if they don’t show up, I’ll let you know.” If you’ve sold the item, send a quick note saying, “Item sold.” Seriously, even if you got twenty emails about an item, it’s really easy to write two words to each person. Plus, if you do have someone coming and they don’t show up, you’ve kept a few others in the loop, and you’re more likely to sell your item.

2) Respond ASAP to inquiries, preferably within a few hours and definitely within a day. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to email someone about an item I want to buy and get no response for three days. I begin to wonder: Is the item sold? Is a sale pending? Is the email address bad? Do they just not check their email? Should I buy something else?

3) An item is not sold until the seller receives payment for it. This is helpful for both sellers and buyers. Don’t be a seller who holds off on other offers because the first person who contacted you said they’d come get it a week from now. If I’m the second interested buyer in line, I get annoyed because my money is ready, and the item isn’t technically sold yet. If I’m the seller, I get equally annoyed when the inevitable happens and the first person in line doesn’t show up after a week goes by, and then after that everyone else has found something else.

4) Though this may seem to contradict #2, give preference to someone with a definite plan to pick up your item today.  If you have a buyer coming at 6:00 to buy your game console, don’t sell it to someone else at 5:30. That’s just tacky. My mom was a victim of this one. She drove 25 minutes to buy something; she called just before leaving to say she was on her way. When she got to the seller’s home, she was informed that someone else had just bought the item. Tacky tacky tacky.

For anyone who says they’ll come buy something from me tomorrow or later, I inform them that I have other interested buyers and will let them know if the item is still available by that date.

5) Take down your listing as soon as the item is sold. This is actually in Craigslist’s rules, people. No, changing your listing to say the item is sold doesn’t count.

6) Ask the seller how they prefer to be paid. I never carry cash, but some people really don’t like to get checks from people they don’t know (I can’t imagine why). After a few times of showing up without cash, only to find out that the seller would accept nothing else (and then running to the bank), I now always ask before coming.

And as a bonus, I’ll include a tip for sellers. Include pictures. I almost never even inquire about an item unless a picture is in the listing.