When to Challenge Someone to Duel

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Peter and the washing machine were five minutes away from the customer’s house when I received a text message saying “Sorry I can’t buy it, the landlord said no.” It was almost a thirty minute drive each way to this person’s house. We weren’t letting him off that easy.

I immediately called Peter and gave him the heads up, with the directive to pretend like the message never made it to him. I messaged the guy back that Peter would be there any minute. I was hoping to communicate that flaking out was going to affect two people, not just one. Also, I was giving him a second chance. A moment later, Peter arrived.The man went on to explain that his landlord had just messaged and said that we couldn’t have the old washing machine in exchange for the delivery. Peter, thinking on his feet, said we would just waive our normal delivery fee. Relieved, the man paid and Peter was on his way. We still made good money on the transaction and had salvaged what was close to being an hour of wasted driving and gas.

In the past when I would get a message like that I would pull over and immediately turn around, determined to not waste another second, or drip of gas on the flaky buyer. At some point I really got to wondering what was really best for the person. They were getting off without experiencing any of the natural consequences that occur when you go back on your word, flake out or treat someone else’s time and resources with disdain.

I started to realize that what they needed was to see their actions in a mirror. Then I realized that I needed to be the mirror.

About a year ago, 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 being a 35 minute trip.

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 exactly when I said I would. I held the mirror up to this man the moment he saw the bewildered expression on my face. Telling him how much time and gas had been wasted allowed him to see the weight of his actions.

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A few months ago we took a gamble on a refrigerator that was posted without any pictures. I was careful to ask a lot of questions about it’s condition and if it had any issues. None whatsoever, I was told.  So Peter drove to the seller’s house to pick it up. The first thing that he noticed as he walked up to the refrigerator was the seals hanging down two to three inches below the door. They had separated completely from the door, allowing all the cold air to drop out of the freezer and be replaced by moist warm air. When this happens, the freezer will usually be overwhelmed by the never ending supply of moist air and will soon turn into a giant ball of ice. Peter asked if they were having any issues with the freezer. They said none whatsoever. Currently the refrigerator and freezer were unplugged and very clean. Undeterred, Peter, looked straight into their eyes and said the broken seals were what was causing the freezer to fill up with ice. They looked at each other like they had seen a ghost. They paused for a second, and said they had still been using it. Then they asked if he was willing to pay a little less for it. Peter told them it wasn’t even worth the time to scrap it and that he would have never come had they told him the truth about the seals. Crickets chirped and then Peter left.

These ladies needed to be shown that it’s not cool to lie, and that the lies will be exposed at some point. Will it be awkward? Absolutely. However, you will feel much better knowing you did the right thing, and hopefully the person learns from situation and changes their ways.

A few weeks ago, I had a guy call up about a washing machine and wanted to come pick it up. He got my address and said he would be by about three hours later. He sounded genuine, and not wanting to field more calls on that washer, I deleted the ad. The time came and went and he didn’t call or show up. So I called him up. Sounding startled when he heard my voice, I asked him if he was still planning on coming. He backpedaled for a second and then went on to say that his wife was out and he wouldn’t be able to come for another hour and a half or so. Again he sounded nice so I just told him to call me if he wasn’t going to come. The time came and went again. I called him back up and this time he told me that they had decided to buy a new set. I then went on to tell him that I had deleted the ad for him and waited most of the day for him to come pick it up. I told him I could have sold it already to someone else and that he had wasted my time. I told him he just needed to give me a call and let me know he wasn’t coming. That would be the courteous thing to do, I said.

It can be painfully uncomfortable showing people their faults. But it must happen. We have to stop delegating the exposing of peoples douchebaggery to others. If you and I aren’t going to do it, no one will. We need to be living mirrors that simply reflect the truth.

Together we can make Craigslist and the world a better place, one awkward situation at a time.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, the buck stops here. Tolerance of time-wasters only enables them. They must bear the cost of their time wasting. There must be a feedback loop to bad behavior, and its victims must offer the negative feedback.

  2. Another very relevant post, Ryan. I make it a policy that I only call someone about an item if I’m immediately available to go pick it up. Then I can tell them accurately how long it will take to get there. If I am selling an item I ask them how long before they can come and look at it. If they don’t know then I assume they’re just time-wasters. It is also frustrating to get calls and emails from people asking if an item is still available when the ad was only posted 15 minutes before. If I’ve sold the item I take the ad off immediately.
    The other frustrating thing is that people won’t delete their ads when the item has been sold. A couple of times I’ve called someone about a posted “for sale” item and they said “I wish people wouldn’t keep calling. I sold the bike a week ago.” So I ask, “Then why didn’t you delete your ad?” “Uh…I just haven’t gotten around to it,” was their answer.
    In the end, I believe that with CL you meet all kinds. Even if we can’t cure “stupid” maybe we can cure “rudeness.”

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