Sunday, October 5, 2008

Craigslist vs. eBay-- When to Use One or the Other

When I decided earlier this year to begin The Great Declutter, my immediate thought was to sell on eBay. I'd both sold and bought items there before without any problems, and I didn't really know anything about craigslist. I should have done my research, but I was eager to get started and jumped right into an eBay selling bonanza!

Things went well until I started to sell larger items that I wasn't willing to ship because of the cost to the buyer and the inconvenience to me for having to haul a humongous box to the post office while also ensuring the safety of three small children across a busy parking lot. It was here, with the "Local Pickup Only" option, that I ran into a wall. Again and again I would sell an item, only to be sent a message, sometimes days or even weeks after the auction had ended, stating that the buyer hadn't noticed that the item was for local pickup only and that they couldn't drive from Florida or Oregon or Maryland or Wherever to pick it up. Oops! So sorry. Oh, and can I have a refund of my money? I put "Local Pickup Only" in bold, red letters on these listings. I threatened that money would not be refunded if buyer reneged on pickup. I sent messages to people before auctions ended if it looked like they were going to win and their address was listed outside of Ohio. All to no avail.

*sigh* This may seem like no big deal, but consider this: each time this happens, I have to relist the item, incurring double the eBay fees. It may be only $0.15, but I'm trying to make money, not lose it. Besides, with someone as inherenty frugal as I am, any fee makes my heart race a little faster. Double fees make me violently ill.

Enter craigslist. At this wonderful site, there are no fees (unless you're posting a job ad, I think). The buyer must contact you for information on pickup or shipping. You know you're getting someone local. Another feature is that you get to set your price. There is no bidding, so you don't have to wonder what you're going to get at the end of a sale.

Woah. Back up! Did you say there were no fees!? Then why don't you just sell everything on craigslist and tell eBay where to go? The answer is this, my friends: $$$$. I know, it sounds horrible, but it's true! When you have an item that is collectible or where you're really unsure of how much you should list it for, eBay is usually the better bet, especially if it's something that is easily shipped. Remember, with eBay, you can sell both nationally and internationally. You're catering to a much broader customer base. Maybe your town doesn't have a huge Star Trek fanbase (yeah, I don't know how that's possible either), but there is a fanbase out there. With eBay, they'll come to you. With craigslist, your customer base is much more focused and limited. If your item is large or you have a definite price in mind, craigslist is probably your best bet. So, to summarize:

--If your item is small, easily shipped, collectible, and/or you are unsure of its value, eBay is probably the wisest choice.

--If your item is large, expensive or unwieldy to ship or transport, or is worth a definitive amount of money, try craigslist first.

It took me a few painful run-ins with the wall before I learned this lesson, but thus far things seem to be working out much better now that I'm utilizing both of the above mentioned options. The attic is clearing out a little more every day, and our emergency fund is growing once more. With the economic downturn our country is in, I'm sure someone out there will benefit from this simple formula.

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