Item Won’t Sell on Craigslist? Change the Title


I just sat on six large filing cabinets for over three weeks. Nobody called, nobody emailed. I dropped the price, still nothing. I couldn’t figure out why in the world no one would want these nice metal filing cabinets. That’s when it hit me late one night that it’s 2014. People aren’t searching for filing cabinets anymore. So I changed the title and sold all six of them in less than a day.

First, my original title wasn’t bad. It simply said “6 Metal Filing Cabinets” and had a picture of one of them. I got no responses. I thought it might be the price, but when I dropped the price by over 50%, (I wanted to get rid of them) I still got no response. So I naturally just thought there was no demand for them and started thinking about just scrapping them.

Late one night last week it occurred to me that they would make great metal storage cabinets. That was it! I needed to change the title to “6 Metal Storage Cabinets”. Once I changed the ad, all 6 of them sold for $100 in less than a day.

What did I learn?

Focus on what people are searching for

Yes they are technically called filing cabinets, but they are functionally metal cabinets with drawers that slide in and out nicely. They could be used to store all sorts of things. If you have an item that serves many purposes, pick the one that people are searching for. For filing cabinets, referring to them as storage cabinets was the ticket. For 55 gallon former vegetable oil bins, referring to them as rain barrels will find takers much quicker, especially here in eco-friendly Portland.

Review your ad before you give up

I needed to change my title. Other things to check when something isn’t selling include; price, description, pictures, season of the year, proximity to a holiday and anything else that could have an impact on potential buyers. Sometimes there is just no demand for an item, but make sure you check these other items before you give up.

(Side note: I’ve thought about offering an ad review service for a small fee ($5?) where I would review your ad, answer questions you may have about it and make suggestions that I think would help get the highest price/and or the quickest sale for an item. Would this be a valuable service? Would you be willing to pay for it? Email me your thoughts or suggestions. )

Be Creative

It’s easy to go through the motions and not put much thought into how you try to sell something, but a little creativity can go a long way. Tell people why they need to buy your item. Sell it. Tell them they will sleep better at night or that it will improve their social life.. Still give the facts, but be creative when you are making your ads. A few words can make all the difference between something selling, and something sitting.

Have you had any experiences where changing the title helped sell an item much quicker?


  1. Ryan,
    Your post makes a very good point. What catches one person’s eye in the title doesn’t work for someone else. We also have a cabinet currently listed on Craigslist. I’ve sold 4 or 5 of those in the past. I have always used “storage cabinet” in the title. This time, my wife posted it as a filing cabinet probably because it was used in our office to store files. In two weeks on CL we’ve gotten one response. A couple of days ago I changed the price and, while doing so, also changed the title to “storage” from “filing.” I also took out some references to files and documents that she had included in the ad. In the past, the people who bought the cabinets were men who told me that they were going to use them in the garage…for tools, I would imagine. It’ll be interesting to see if the title change gets this current one sold fairly quickly.
    I can see your “ad review service” as being viable. The only thing I’d question is would the folks who post such awful ads right now (i.e. blurry camera phone pics, poor grammar and spelling, short or no description) be willing to or care enough to pay anything to make a better ad. It would be a very valuable service to some, that’s for sure. I’ve read some ads that were so bad it’s almost like they are daring you to buy their stuff.
    Some items, like the cabinets, can fit in different categories. We wondered if we should post it in Furniture or General or Household, etc. What we do when we’re not sure is to take enough pictures that we post in more than one category using different photos and changing the title and ad copy. You never know what category folks will be looking in. One tip we’ve used is to do a key word (such as “cabinet”) search in all CL categories. Then we look at where similar items are most frequently posted and post in the top one or two.
    What it boils down to is how badly do you want to sell your item? The better the description, the better the odds of selling the item and getting a premium price for it.
    Keep up the great posts, Ryan. Your site is very helpful to a lot of us.

    • Thanks Joel. Yeah the guy’s that bought the filing cabinets were going to use them as tool cabinets. Let me know if your cabinet sells quicker!

      Yeah I could see the ad review service being used on bigger ticket items like cars, appliances and other more expensive items. Thanks for the input!

  2. good post Ryan. I got a permit for a rammed earth house. Only they wouldn’t give it to me with “rammed earth” marked off on the plans. Changed it to “low density concrete” and VIOLA! The power of a word. BTW isn’t catching rain illegal in portland 😉

    • That’s awesome! You can catch rain here, you just can’t use it without a special yearly permit/inspection that costs like $80. (pounding my head on the table)


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