My Most Profitable Craigslist Transaction

March 24, 2013

General, Motivation, Stories

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moneypileYou would have thought I had just jumped up and down on his mother’s grave. They left quickly, and entirely in a huff. It was the most bizarre incident I’ve experienced out of thousands of Craigslist transactions. It also turned out to be the most profitable one.

It all started when a guy and his girlfriend came over to look at a refrigerator late one evening. I had purchased the refrigerator for $150 and had listed it for $550. When they arrived, my first impression was that he was coming along to teach her how to talk someone down on their price. I’m almost sure that he used to sell cars. After about 5 minutes of tire kicking the nearly new side by side refrigerator,  he asks to be alone in the garage with his girlfriend so they could discuss the purchase. Reasonable, right? So I give them a few minutes and return. He tells me they would like to buy the refrigerator for $250. I said absolutely not. He then asked for another five minutes. So five more minutes goes by and I come back out only to find him looking through our friend’s upright freezer that was being stored in our garage. This, he says, is what he would really like to buy! There was then an awkward pause as I’m thinking about how only a douche would possess the audacity required to look through someone else’s freezer without asking. Looking back, I think he was trying to act like he wasn’t very interested in the side by side refrigerator, putting him in the position of strength. I balked, and just said that it wasn’t for sale. Are you sure you don’t want to sell it, he said. Yes I said firmly, with a strong hint of disgust. He then went on to say that they were willing to pay $300. I countered with $450. He then asked for a few more minutes. When I returned he hemmed and hawed and repeated his last offer of $300. Unbelievable.

Right then, like a lifeline from heaven, my phone rang. So I excused myself and went inside the house to answer it. It was a man calling about the same side by side refrigerator that the couple were looking at. He asked if I still had it. I told him that I did, but that someone was outside trying very hard to get me to sell it at a much lower price. He immediately told me that he had cash and that he and his parents could come right away and pick it up. Outstanding!

I quickly went back out to the garage and told the couple that someone had just called offering to pay full price and that the refrigerator was sold. Thinking I was bluffing, the he immediately grabbed his girlfriends arm and left in such a huff that you would have thought I had jumped up and down on his mother’s grave.

They then sat out in their car in front of the house for a good 10 minutes, I think hoping to call my bluff. They eventually left, and the other buyer showed up a few minutes later with his elderly parents in tow. He was a big, friendly, barrel-chested man that looked like he could bear hug the fridge into the truck by himself. His parents, whom the refrigerator was being purchased for, were a very sweet elderly couple. One look at the refrigerator and he pulled out $550 cash and handed it to me. He shook my hand and we loaded it into their old Chevy truck. A moment later they drove away. I had just made $400 profit.

To this day, I have not had a transaction even come close to being as bizarre. Nor have I had one end so pleasantly. And it just so happened to be my most profitable single transaction to date.

Sometimes I only make $75-$100 on a transaction. When I started, I often made only $20-$50 on an item. However, never underestimate making small amounts of money. Just check out this man’s incredible story!

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Just a reminder to newsletter subscribers. I recently changed the email address I send the newsletter from to ryan@recraigslist.com Some of you may need to put this address in your email address book so the emails don’t land in your spam filter. Like I recently said in the newsletter, I would really appreciate to hear from you all about your favorite types of posts on the site. I really want the site to be as helpful as possible, and I appreciate all of you that have recently emailed me your thoughts, ideas and encouraging notes!

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18 Responses to “My Most Profitable Craigslist Transaction”

  1. Steve Says:

    I absolutely despise people who come and offer 1/2 the price in person, instead of asking 1/2 price through email. These time wasters deserve a punishment of some sort, though their own time is at least some punishment.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I’ve become much more resolved to hold firm on my listed price over the past year. If they want to waste an hour of their day driving to and from my place, then I’m going to let them. It really helps to resolve before they arrive what you are going to do. Having the confidence that someone else will eventually pay full price is huge, and will give you the courage to not budge on the price. Now, if I get the hint that someone is going to drag the process out in an attempt to lower the price, I just cut to the chase and ask them if they would like to buy it. This speeds things up quite nicely!

      Reply

      • trevor Says:

        I have a line for lowballers. It’s worked every time so far.

        “Sure, you can have that price if it’s still here by the end of the day.”

        They end up paying full price if they really want the item.

        Reply

        • Ryan Says:

          Call their bluff! I agree, it works almost every time. People don’t want to waste their time, and they obviously are interested enough to drive across town to look at the item.

          Reply

  2. Jerry Says:

    IT seems like the last 6 or 8 months i can’t sell any thing. I get a email asking if still have the item I answer yes then never hear from them again. Have you run in to this? Good for you standing up for the full price.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I’ll run into slower periods now and then. It really comes down to two reasons. One is that it could be a seasonal item causing demand to be much lower. The other is that it’s priced too high compared to demand, which is going to greatly increase the number of flakes that you are going to encounter. If someone thinks they aren’t getting a very good deal they will try their hardest to find a better deal and end up flaking on you. Try deleting the ad and re-posting it at a slightly lower price and see what happens. Other than that, you might try a different item to sell at the same time. Best of luck!

      Reply

  3. Courtney Says:

    If you have a lot of items listed, would you recommend stating that they should search for your phone number to see other items you have listed? Also, is it a big no no to post in multiple cities?

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I don’t ask people to search my other items. You will find out if they are looking for more items when you talk to them on the phone, email or in person and can tell them then. Telling them before hand to search your other listings could just be a distraction and you might end up losing the sale. People will search your phone number whether you ask them to or not, so I think it’s probably best to just leave it out.

      I don’t see any need to post in multiple cities. CL usually will show you results in nearby cities if there aren’t enough results for a particular search. It’s also annoying for someone in one city to see ads from someone in a completely different area, as most people aren’t willing to travel. Also, people in other cities, will and often do search for hard to find item in markets outside their own. So I don’t recommend it. Hope that helps.

      Reply

  4. d Says:

    cool site. i earn my living on CL too – since 2007. but i resell on ebay – worldwide audience. last year i made $13,500 on one item! course it will never happen again, usually make 150-250 per item – before that biggest sale was $2000 – not bad for a days work! (fyi: musical instrument category)

    d

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Well done!

      Reply

    • Scott Says:

      Interesting! Could you be more specific about the musical instruments you deal in? I’ve tried trumpets and flutes, but it’s a struggle. I have thought guitars would be good, but I know nothing about them and the learning curve would surely be substantial. – Thanks! Scott

      Reply

      • Ryan Says:

        I haven’t done a lot with instruments, but for someone that knows exactly what the used ones are worth, there is definitely good money to be made on Craigslist. The key is to know the market as well as you can before you start buying. Hope that helps.

        Reply

  5. DaveyNC Says:

    Ryan, just discovered your blog and get a real kick out of it.

    I just love what I call the “Ultimate Negotiation Tool”. Joe Bob gets out of the truck (or worse, just calls) takes one look at what you’re selling, hitches his pants up and says, “What’s the least ye will take for it?” As if this is the fastest way to get the price down.

    I always tell them one of two things. Either the price as marked, since they have given me no compelling reason to drop my price or I ask them, “What is the most that you will pay for it?” Just the look on their face when I ask that is worth it.

    Also, have read a few of your posts but have seen no mention of this. One of your best negotiation tools is silence. State your price and whatever other pertinent details, (i.e., free pickup/delivery–whatever) and then just go quiet. Look at your buyer/seller as if expecting an answer, but say nothing. People can’t stand silence and will often agree just to break the silence.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Silence is powerful! I use it often. I almost never drop my price on anything. When they ask what the lowest amount I will take I say the list price, and I say it with the confidence that comes from knowing that someone else will pay it every time. That confidence is communicated and people give up very quickly. There are certain exceptions, those rare few that seem to have been trained from a small age to negotiate. They often come in pairs, and talk to each other in another language, probably about me and how impressed they are that I haven’t buckled and lowered the price yet :) hahaha I used to get worked over by these shrewd negotiating veterans. Now I love the challenge!

      Thanks for your sharing!

      Reply

  6. Joe Michaels Says:

    Ryan: How does one get a used car seller to be HONEST about the car’s faults? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve driven an hour or more to see a car — only to find out that the paint is peeling, the engine light stays on, windows are cracked, etc. I honestly feel like CHARGING the seller for my time and fuel!

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I’ve found the best way is to focus more on the seller than the item that you might be buying from them. It takes discernment, but asking lots of questions beforehand, the most important being how long they’ve owned the car. Less than 3 years I usually pass. Did they buy it new? Ask for pictures of every side of the car, and be very specific in your questions about things that are important to you, paint chips, smoking, tears or rips in fabric etc.

      Finally don’t buy a car from someone before you have your/or another mechanic look it. It’s not worth having the transmission go out on your a week or two after you buy it. It’s about the wisest $75 you could spend. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  7. Jim Says:

    I get a lot of spammers who say, “If you still have the item I would like to buy it.” Or something generic that could pertain to any ad they are spamming. So in my ads, I state that they need to email me their phone number and I will call them. For the spammers who don’t actually read the ads, they make themselves easily identifiable. There is so much nonsense on Craigslists because there is no accountability. “I’ll be there in a half hour to pick it up.” Then no-show or phone call. Happens all the time.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      That’s probably the most common email they send out, where they refer to the “item”. Eventually Craigslist will come up with a way to weed out out the spammers.

      Reply

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