6 tips to avoid Craigslist flakes

1.  Sell your item at a great value.
The better the deal that someone is getting on an item(especially if it’s a need, not just a want), the less likely they are going to flake out.  People know when they are getting a good deal, and when they find one, like a fish, they aren’t going to want to let it get away.  If you are pricing your item on the higher end of the spectrum, often times people are going to be much more hesitant about pulling the trigger on the purchase.  If your price is just average, do you have features or qualities about your item that is going to separate it from the other 20 items? Features may include original box, scratch free, extra accessories, very little use, extra clean, free delivery etc.
2.  Insist on talking on the phone
Communication exclusively over email tends to lead to more flake outs.  Email is less personal than talking over the phone, and it’s easier to let someone down via email than it is to have to call them back.  Once you’ve spoken with someone on the phone, you have their phone number and they are more likely to follow through.  At the very least, it will increase the odds that they will call you back to tell you their car won’t start and now they have to pay for car repairs and can’t afford your item.  You can also disable email responses and force someone interested to call you directly.  This is a great way to weed out flakes!

3.  Post good pictures
You need to have good pictures of your item.  Your pictures establish the potential buyers first image of you.  If you take a picture of a chair in your dark, cluttered garage, it’s going to scare people away.  They are going to think your entire house is a hoarders house and you somehow were able to pull this chair out from the rubble to try and sell it.  Take the chair out onto your front lawn (my favorite), where the light is good and there is a nice pleasant backdrop.  I can’t stress how important pictures are.  Price is huge, but pictures will cause people to second guess showing up.

4.  Post a clear description

Put up a clear description:  plain, simple, and to the point but don’t tell the item’s entire life story.  The more you can reassure someone about an item they are thinking of purchasing the better.  “Works great, it’s plugged in, test it out, like new, very little use, has been in a display case, we don’t smoke and pet free environment,” are all key phrases to help people know exactly what they should expect when they arrive at your house.  Any doubt will increase flakes.

5.  Sell your item in season

If you have a great price, great features, another question to ask would be, is the item in season?  Are you trying to sell an air conditioner in the winter?  If so, someone might recognize it as a good deal but they are also much more likely to change their mind and bail  when they realize it’s 30 degrees outside  they aren’t going to use the a/c for another 5 months.

6.  Have a plan in place before people call

A.  Free items
The first person responds within a minute of your posting saying they want it and asks when can they pick it up.  Ask them where they live and how long it will take them to get to your place.  Give them this amount of time plus 30 minutes of grace time to pick it up.  So if they live a half hour away, you can tell them, “nothing personal, but if you aren’t here in an hour I’m going to let the next person in line have the item.”  Don’t give them your address unless the clock is ticking and they can leave right then.  If they can’t leave right then, tell them to give you a call back when they can leave and you will let them know if you still have the item.  This solves a lot of problems.  Flakes usually have a hard time committing to specific times.  Remember that.  I’ll say it again, don’t give your address to someone until they are going to leave, no matter what.  Otherwise, they are reserving for themselves but are unable to come get it right then.


B.  For sale items
Before you take your first phone call, you need to decide how long you want to wait for your item to sell.  Would you like to sell it within an hour, half a day or day?  Take one call or email at a time and whoever can come first gets it.  If someone says they can’t come until later in the day, like I said above, have them call back when they are ready to leave.  You will let them know if you still have the item when they call.   Just know what you want the transaction to look like before you post the item, and don’t allow other people to call the shots.  It’s your item, your time, your house etc, you are calling the shots.  The best way to attract flakes is to allow them to schedule a time, even days later to come look at your item.

As much as we despise those that flake out on us, most of us have flaked out on others ourselves.  It’s going to happen, but the above tips should reduce the occurrences.  I’d love to hear some of your funniest flake out stories.  The excuses can sometimes be legendary!


  1. Hey, Ryan,

    Great points. I’ve had some other flake-resistant methods that come in handy for different situations:

    If I’m selling an item I can carry, I’ll arrange a meeting at a public place just two blocks from my place (for security) that is also easier for the buyer to find. I tell them to call me when they are getting close so I can meet them out there. They do this, and then I grab the item and walk two blocks to meet them.

    If they fail to call at all, I’ll call them, and I learn that either they’re lost or running late for some reason, but they’re on the way. Or perhaps the person who answers tells me he changes his mind. Either way, I’ve not wasted any gas driving anywhere, and just a few minutes of my time on a phone call.

    For big items in my home I can’t carry, I have them call me when they are getting close to my place, stating I need to greet them out front to guide them to a visitor’s parking spot since I live in a condo complex.

    I’ve found this wastes a lot less time and resources on my part than if I drove somewhere to meet them.

    Anyway, keep it up!

    The Serial Seller

  2. I used to agree to meet the person, at a distance from where I was. (Lived on a Military base, so had to meet them) After being “flaked” by many people, I would only agree to meet at the parking lot entrance of base, or the store that was right next to the base. That way if they flaked, I didn’t lose much time or gas. I also wanted to ask you, if your meeting someone in a public place to sell an item, how long do you advise to wait on them? I have an issue on waiting and waiting on the person, e-mailing, texting, over the cell (using a prepaid one for CL) and they never respond or show up! I have waited up to 40 mins! Have had people arrive 15 or 20 mins later then what they said they would. Got annoying so I started to let buyers know its available and I can meet within 10 mins. (At store lot that is by me) They agree and say they will be there in about 20 mins. Get there and no one is there, wait 10 mins, still nothing. Text, no response. I go to the next person and say, “I’m out at such place with the item in my car, can you meet now?” And that person responds “Yes! be there in 15!” 100% of the time I was “flaked” by someone, the next in line will respond and show up immediately to purchase item! Have you done this? How long is the “respectful” time allowed to wait for a buyer to show? I haven’t had the first buyer ever show up when second buyer is there to purchase. So they obviously were going to leave me sitting till my next Birthday!

    • One way to handle this is to not give them the address until they are ready to leave. This causes them to sense the urgency and realize that someone else could call in a few minutes and snag the item. This will increase the odds of them showing up. Another way is to have them call when they get to the meeting place and tell them you only live a few mins away. No risk.

      I don’t meet people in public for transactions anymore. If they don’t want to come to my house to purchase the item, then someone else will. Let them buy from someone else. Also, I can often sense how serious someone is about purchasing something by their tone and confidence over the phone. The more hesitant they are over the phone, the more likely they are to flake out.

  3. I give stuff away on CL free section all the time. My modus operandi, which almost always leads to an efficient drop, is to clearly state in my post

    a) where we’ll meet (usually at a starbucks near my house)
    b) what time they should be willing to meet (usually after work, like 6-7pm)
    c) EXACTLY what I’m selling and the condition it’s in
    d) that if their email suggests they did not read my post and understand the where, when and what about it, it’ll get instantly deleted and I’ll move to the next person
    e) that if you see the ad, I’m still waiting on a response; if the ad is delated, then the item is gone (so, no need to reply to a bunch of folks to tell them they lost).

    The fear might be that multiple people, esp ones that I didn’t reply and agree to give to, might show up. But, the key is I don’t tell anyone what I’m driving until I’ve emailed with them and ensured they’re for real. Once I feel someone is for real, I’ll put the PPU in my post, so others know they may not get it.

    I’ve used this method to weed out tons of flakes. I regularly give away old computers when I move…like old P4’s I find at misc places taht have no real monetary value (even though they’re still useful). When I get responses from some idiot like “hey, I’ll take that new computer off your hands if it has Windows 7 installed”, I immediately delete it. Or, if someone responds “hey, I can meet you at my place 50 miles from where you live” … delete. “hey, I can meet in 3 days” … delete. “Hey, I’d love to have that (not the item I’m giving away)” … delete.

    Soemtimes, if I want to ensure a special item goes to someone that can appreciate it, I’ll purposefully be vague in the description about it. Because most folks seem to be too lazy to google up what something is. I gave away a SUN microcomputer one time … very special OS and setup … NOT a Windows computer. I basically said “I’m giving away a (computer name). If you don’t know what it is, then you won’t know what to do with it, and there’s no reason to waste time getting it, b/c it’s not worth money and only worth somethign to a hobbyist that can use it.” I got replies from folks “what the heck is a (blah)?” … delete. Got a reply from a guy “hey, I used to work for SUN, and I’d love to have a 2nd one of these for some programming work.” Ta-da! We have a winner.

    You just have to be very blunt in your ad. Not rude, just outline everything. Be clear on when/where to meet, and if folks can’t agree to those terms, then don’t waste their time. Otherwise, you’ll get bogged down with a bunch of self-entitled flakes that want blood from turnips. They value their own time, but not yours.

    • Good tips man, thanks for sharing. I love how much thought you’ve put into it. The point about when someone responds and they don’t reference exactly what you are selling or a question closely related…delete is exactly what everyone should do. Most of the spammers send out generic responses to lots of random items and will ask “Is this still available?” or “Do you still have the item?” etc etc Delete delete

      When in doubt, delete and don’t waste your time. Get competitive and don’t let people steal your time! Thanks for dropping a line!

  4. Personally, I think 15 minutes is the amount of grace time I give someone to show up before I leave and they’ve lost their chance.

    Yes, there is traffic and maybe a reason to be a couple of minutes late if they don’t estimate correctly, but everyone has mobile phones these days, so if something really unexpected happens they should call to let me know if they’ll be any later than that and I might wait a little longer if they have as good reason.

    Giving something away really brings out the flakes and the crowds of people who want it. Many of those people will say they want something even if they only sort of kind of want it someday maybe just to have “first dibs.” I agree that you need to increase the convenience for yourself and maybe some slight inconvenience to them since they need to prove they’re serious before they waste your time.

    Never, ever, allow someone to say they’ll come and pick something up later that week without setting a specific time. These people will decide they’re too busy that week and say they’re coming next week forever.

    I find it ok to be a bit flexible and not just sell to the person who can get there first for large items like furniture where someone might need to rent a truck to take it away. But they need to seem like they really want the item and be willing to make definite plans.

    I’m always surprised what people will take for free, even stuff like a futon with cat barf stains on the mattress, for example. I guess free is a magic word.

    You need to price things correctly. You need to be very clear up front if your prices are firm, because people will try to negotiate a lower price and sometimes wait until they show up to do it or indicate they are negotiating. Some people will make insulting, ridiculously low offers. If they do this by email, just delete their mail since they are not serious. When you’ve made it clear your prices are firm and the person waits until showing up to try and lowball on price, the best thing to do is walk away immediately. This person has no respect for you and is simply trying to pressure you. Let them know you’re letting it go to the next person on the list, which puts the pressure on them to pay what you agreed on or move along. Bad buyers can be nightmare problems, so don’t be surprised if they break what you’ve sold them and then want a refund or feel self-entitled in other ways. If you get a bad feeling about a buyer (or seller), just walk away because it’s not worth the hassle over one measly chance to sell something.

    • Unfortunately you wouldn’t win in court. Especially for tickets, it’s first come first serve and if you still have them the day of the event, best of luck. You really need to sell tickets before the day of the event or this kind of thing will happen quite a bit. Sorry you had to go through that.

  5. grrrr…I just took a deposit yesterday on a $650 piece of furniture. They said they would be back after the holiday to pick up. Got an email today they found a better offer, and could please just discard the deposit. This was a colossal waste of my time…as I cleaned the item before they got here, searched for and found the can of stain for it for future touch ups, arranged my schedule to be here, etc. etc. How can I avoid this in the future…insist on full payment at the time they decide to buy? Insist they take it or leave it at the moment? Or, is this just part of the game of craiglist?

    • Or only take cash deposits and clearly state that the deposit is not refundable. I generally push for people to pick up the item or get it delivered right away to avoid situations like this. Sorry you had to go through this.

  6. I had some ridiculous woman who said she was SOOOOO excited about buying my item (a mattress and box springs at a great price). We arranged to meet and I even left work a little early to be home on time. She kept texting and saying she was leaving shortly. After FOUR hours I told her to forget the whole thing. Turns out she hadn’t even arranged for transporting the item and was waiting for her neighbor to get home. I wasted an entire evening on this nitwit. Now I give people a 1/2 hour window to show up, or go on to the next buyer.

    • Yeah, or have them come by when you are already going to be home so it doesn’t inconvenience you. Just learn from it and move on. For those that want to meet in the future, like hours or days out, say that’s fine but just have them contact you again when they are ready to come over. Give them the address when they are leaving. That way anyone else that calls/contacts you in the meantime can still come get the item.

  7. Yesterday, I saw a free ad on craigslist for a futon. I texted them and arranged a time to pick up. Once I got to the home and loaded it on my truck, the person demanded payment of $40. She said she posted it in error. There was no mention of price on the ad or in our texts. I’ve a feeling she did this on purpose.

    • I would first point out that they had posted it for free. Then let there be a gap of silence, let them talk. If they start arguing, or still demanding payment, they give them back their futon, wipe your hands clean from the situation and leave. Don’t reward them for their behavior.

      • I did point out that it was posted on the Free section, but she said she posted it in error. We ended up unloading it and left. We are upset because we drove 20 miles for nothing.

        • You did the right thing. Encountering a person like you did is pretty rare, maybe 1/100 or even higher. Don’t let it jade it you though. Most people aren’t like that. Sorry you wasted your time.

  8. The title of this article should try to distinguish between “flakes” and “flake-outs”. To me, a “flake” is a non-serious buyer that is only interested in wasting my time without any intention or ability to buy. A flake-out is a no-show. For instance, I was once selling a Porsche on CL and you’d be amazed at the number of lookers who wanted to just “take ‘er out for a spin”. Those are flakes.

  9. I get a ton of flakes, not sure why, but here’s what I do. These flakes think they are slick and sound all excited about buying something, promise to meet and then I get a text that a “family emergency” came up or their car broke down blah blah blah blah and they are sorry and can’t meet me. OK but what about tomorrow? All of a sudden they have lost total interest in the item. However, although they promised to meet me, I never really gave them my address. I always give them a non-existent street number and when they can’t find it they call or text me. The good guys eventualy find me and the flakes get a wrong address. It works!

  10. Most of the people I’ve dealt with have followed through with the sale. However, I’ve had a few flakes. The ones who are SO excited to buy an item and then don’t follow through, are the ones who really get me angry. Now that I’ve read your posts I have some better ideas on how to handle them. Thanks for some good pointers.

  11. Reviving this comment chain: I give a lot of items away for free on Craigslist. Yesterday’s flake took the cake.

    She was supposed to show up for the items within a half hour, and texted me several times confirming. Then silence for two hours. Then more texts about having left her phone at home and couldn’t remember my address. And needing to clean her house made her too tired to come. And saying she started out toward my house, but only made it as far as the winery tasting room. Today’s texts ask me if I am a Virgo, and do I want to buy some of her crafts? Haha, I think alcohol is the least of her problems. I would have blocked her number after the first flaky text, but this has become too entertaining.

  12. I clearly state “PPU ONLY” (Porch pick up) at each and every ad, I used to meetup alot, but the low baller flakes just kept coming to meet up, offering up 20.00 or 30.00 for a stereo well worth 80.00 to 120.00, because “it dont have remote” or this or that, they will fond something wrong or if you even glance the other direction THEY WILL MAKE SOMETHING WRONG, dont trust these people, as 90% are out for something for nothing. Unless the item is brand new or in like new shape, They, (the buyer) has you “over a barrell” at ANY DISTANCE , as the advent of “personal safety” also weighs and plays heavily in there favor in meeting up at a public place. I used a gas station/store near my house for meetups, and used that address at the ad as a reference only, and NOW STATE at the ad “I am two blocks south of the address shown at this ad”, and they will still ask where I am located !! CL is an online flea market (a bastardized form of ebay-who also owns cl) where something is also only worth what someone else is willing to pay. I agree that you can tell who is sincere and who is not most of the time on the phone, but hardly ever via text. This has been learned in over 20 years at cl as a dealer/flipper. You also loose business in just stated “contact via phone only” as ALOT of people will only communicate via text now ! I have more email flakes than any other form of coms.

    • Exactly. You have to value your time and cut your exposure to flakes. If they don’t show up, your garden still watered and lawn got mowed. If they don’t show up in a parking lot you are out an hour or so of your day. That’s a lot of value that you won’t be getting back.

      Also, Ebay no longer owns any portion of CL as they sold it back a few years ago when CL was watering down their shares I believe. CL runs their own show.


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