How to Stay Away from Craigslist Horse Races


Posted by Ryan Finlay on March 29th, 2012

This past weekend, someone was giving away a washer and dryer on the other side of town.  I was the first to call.  I got his address and at the end of our conversation, (I had already pulled up his address in Google maps)  I told him  I would be there in 30 minutes.  I ran outside, hooked up the trailer, jumped in the truck and raced across town.  It ended up taking 35 minutes.

When I arrived, I got out and went up to his front door and knocked.  After 15 seconds or so the man came to the door and stepped outside.  He couldn’t look me in the eye.  My heart sank.  “You just missed them.” he said

Stunned, I asked what he meant. (already knowing exactly what he meant)

“They just beat you here.” he replied.

“I just wasted over an hour of my day and all that gas.  You could have told me that you were going to give your address to someone else as well.”

“I had no guarantee that you were going to show up.”  he replied.

“I told you I was going to be here in 30 minutes.” as he glances down at his watch shaking his head.  Nothing.  He knew I had shown up almost exactly when I said I was going to.

“Alright…thanks.” I said in bewilderment as I walked back to my truck.  I had yet again fallen victim to the great Craigslist horse race.  I’ve lost this race more than I care to remember.

Two things can be taken from this situation.  First, when people treat other people like ducks at a duck pond, they need to see the inhumane way they are treating their fellow man.  The best way to do this is to show them your genuine disappointment with what just happened.  Don’t get angry. That will just help them justify their actions.  Craigslist isn’t a horse race.  People need to remember that their neighbor and fellow man is going to receive their goods. Not a horse.  Not a duck.

Second, I should have known better.  When I got back in the truck, my six and a half year old son asked me what was wrong.  I told him that the man had given the washer and dryer to someone else.  “How come?.” he asked  “Well, the man gave his address to another person that called, and that person came and got it already.”  “I know, next time you should ask him if he’s going to give his address to anyone else!”  (Long sigh..) “Yup, your right son.  I should have done that.”

Give people the benefit of the doubt and trust they are going to hold it for you.  At the same time, still ask them if they are going to give their address out to anyone else.  Tell them the truth.  You don’t want to waste your time driving over if someone else is going to beat you there.  People will usually be honest at this point.  I even think this man would have told me the truth, just from experience.  They will say that yes, they are going to give the address out.  Or, that they will hold it for X number of minutes and then they will go down the list.  Or they will say they will hold it for you until you get there.  The response often depends on how many  flakes they have experienced. (See my post on Craigslist flakes)  Do your best to stay out of the races and when you find yourself in one, do your part to help discourage them in the future.

Also, I just wanted to let you know I started another more general themed blog over at  My first two posts are already up.



  1. Hello! I’ve been following yo for a while, I enjoy your posts. Congrats on the new blog. I;d like to follow you there as well, but I don’t want to have to sign up for another account (tumbler) to do it. Don’t make it so hard for people to follow you.

    • Thanks for the note! I might start putting a link to my posts on the other blog on the sidebar. The reason I made them separate as I wanted to keep this site focused on Craigslist, buying/selling etc. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Hey there, I just stumbled into your site and not even sure what Google term I was searching (something to do with Craigslist, I’m sure). By happy accident I’m totally loving your direct writing style and tips! Plus you scored a great domain name.

    Tough lesson to learn with the items given away. I have to say, as someone who has placed plenty of items on the CL free section and wasted a lot of time waiting for no-shows, I can’t exactly fault the guy that gave them away. A few more minutes from him would have been a solid move, wish he did, sorry he wasn’t in your favor.

    I don’t have much else to say here but keep up the posting and I’ll keep reading. Good luck out there in the great Craigslist search. Maybe a reality TV show should follow you – they do with other “junk” hunters!

    • Hey Tony, thanks for dropping by! The lack of accountability does create quite a flake problem for sellers and those giving away items for free. Setting boundaries is a wise move. I reacted pretty calmly, but you tell the wrong person that they can come get something, and you give it away before they arrive, and it could get ugly. Some people just snap. I just think it’s better for everyone to be up front, have clearly defined boundaries and expectations for the transaction. Surprises should be avoided by all sides if at all possible.

      I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about the show idea. I think it could do well. It’s a fascinating world. I’ve been thinking a lot about better ways to open it up for more people to see. There are a lot of misconceptions about Craigslist! Thanks for the note!

  3. Hi Ryan,
    I just stumbled across you web site and found it so interesting, I was compelled to read all the question and responses – excellent material, you are a true champion, thanks for share your knowledge and experiences with the rest of us. The vacation part sounds too good to be true – right on.
    I also have been trying to make some money selling on C-list and E-B, but not anywhere as successful as you, but now that I discovered your web site hopefully that might change.
    If you don’t mind and you can respond to, I have a couple questions that I never seem to find an answer for, such as:
    Price negotiations;
    Selling an item, is it better to hold firm to your asking price, or use the “rule-of –thumb,” pricing the item a little high and negotiation down to your final acceptable price?
    Flip side of that is, when buying an item, what is your strategy for getting the sellers to lower their asking price? It’s that the double edge sword approach?

    No action on your item;
    Item is for sale on C-list (or anywhere) and there’s absolutely no response, at all. Do you suggest reissuing the item, lowering the asking price or maybe try selling else like Ebay, where bottom-line there is usually more potentially more prospects?

    Thank you
    ( a new subscriber)

    • Hi Terry, thanks for the comment and questions. The more you know the demand for an item, the more confident you will be when pricing your items. I tend to price an item and not go down on the price at all. Exceptions would be if I really want to get rid of the item. In general, if someone shows interest in your item at all after seeing what you listed it for, the odds of them buying it at full price are in your favor. Call their bluff. Hold firm on the price and you will sell it at full price maybe 75% of the time. Every now and then you will misjudge demand and will have to lower the price. That’s ok. Error on pricing your items a little higher, as slowly lower the price.

      The other thing is each item is going to take a different amount of time to sell. I just sold a portable camping toilet that took 2 weeks to sell, but I got $25 for it and received it for free. It would have been easy to give up and drop it off at goodwill, but now I have $25 more in my wallet. Patience pays. Everything will eventually sell. If the item is really small, you might consider dropping it on ebay, but it’s a hassle, you lose 15% in fees and have to pack/ship etc.

      Start with one item and get really knowledgeable about the supply/demand for the item. Expand to another item and then another. With focus and hard work, there is a lot of money to be made buying and selling used goods. Best of luck and keep at it!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here