Putting an item on Craigslist in the free section can be like throwing a large piece of bread into the air below hundreds of waiting seagulls. The fastest, most well positioned bird will get the bread. Many will be left angry, and you will get pooped on. All this after you were just trying to help someone out.
At any given moment here in Portland there are literally hundreds of people waiting for the free section page to reload so they can pounce on the next batch of free items. There is no way to tell for sure the exact amount, but through experiences and talking with those that have given items away, it’s a massive number. I’ve picked up a broken LCD TV from a guy, and by the time I got to his house 42 minutes after he had posted it, he had already received 92 emails (he counted) about the TV. He hadn’t posted his phone number, so everyone had to email him. The crazy thing is that most people know that they won’t get a free item after it’s been up for a few minutes, let alone 20-30 minutes. So he got 92 emails very quickly, for a broken LCD TV. I later sold the TV to another repair guy for $80 after I wasn’t able to fix it myself.
1. If you want to improve the odds of the item going to someone in need, consider placing the item in it’s regular category.
For an appliance that you would like to give away, place it in the appliance section. Not only that, but don’t mention it’s free in the title! Just post it like you would a normal appliance but put $1 as the price. Then mention that you are actually giving it away for free. This will give someone that might not have much money to spend a much, much better chance at landing the item. If you put an appliance in the free section, here in Portland it will be gone in 15 seconds or less from the moment it goes up on the site. The same goes for other items. Those that get the items in the free section are looking for anything of value rather than a particular item. Placing the item in it’s regular category will more likely connect you with someone simply trying to save money on an a specific item they were looking for.
2. Don’t put your phone number in your ad
If you want to experience what it’s like for your phone to get a hundred calls in a matter of minutes, give away a working electric dryer for free and post your number in the ad. Your phone will blow up and your voice mail will fill to capacity in a matter of minutes. Posting your phone number on a valuable item only brings about complete pandemonium. Maybe you’re lonely or looking to spice up your day, so give it a try! Better yet, give away a running car with a title! For the rest of you, keep your number out of the post and people will email and you can take your time choosing who to give the item to.
3. Decide who you want to receive the item
There is no set rule. If you really don’t care who gets the item, give it to the first person to respond that can pick the item up right away. If you don’t care when they pick it up, then the first person that tells you they will come get it. Have them email their phone number and give them a call. If you really want to get rid of an item right away, email everyone back and ask when they can pick the item up. Call the one that can come right away and give them your address. If you want, you can tell them you are going to contact the next person on the list in 30 minutes, or 45 minutes or at whatever point you decide. The primary thing is that you are in control and you can give the item to whomever you want, whenever you want.
4. Be transparent about the true condition of the item
Would you want to know if the picnic table you were about to pick up was infested with termites? Or the couch had been in the home of a smoker for 10 years? Or the burners on the BBQ didn’t work? Don’t justify hiding the true condition of an item because you are giving it away for free. An item that can’t function properly very often turns into a liability instead of an asset. Let others make that decision for themselves. Post pictures of the item, and if possible include shots of broken parts, big scratches and dents etc. A description will also serve well both you and the recipient of the item. It will also save you and the potential recipient time that is wasted when they back out after finding out it’s true condition.
5. Don’t place the item at the curb or put your address in the post
Don’t place the item at the curb! It’s kind of standard protocol that anything placed on the curb is fair game to be picked up by anyone driving by, and often will be. So don’t give your address to someone and have them drive 20 minutes across town only to find the item gone when they get there. Also, don’t put your address in the ad and encourage a bunch of people to race to your house. It’s unkind and shows no respect for the person’s time. It’s treating people like they are some sort of contestant in a race for your benevolence.
If you really want to avoid contact with the person coming to pick the item up, place it under cover in front of your garage door or by your front door. Remove other items from the area and keep an eye out for them when they show up. People have been known to make off with items that weren’t being given away. Better yet, tell them to call when they arrive and come out with the item and give it to them in person. You will almost always be surprised at how positive the experience of meeting another neighbor in your city will be.
Lastly, I encourage you to treat people the way you would want to be treated. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple act of kindness.
Learned any of these lessons the hard way? Did I miss anything? Add questions and stories below, I’d love to hear them!