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My Adulterous Affair With Craigslist (Don’t Tell eBay…)

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If you have read any of my previous writings about my thoughts on eBay you know that I refer to it as the Internet’s Wal-Mart and a business that has come a long way from its origin.

eBay used to be a place you could sell used items around your house for a profit. Lately, however, eBay has pandered to the “career eBay-ers” to the point where anyone like me selling maybe $1,500 a year can not only not compete, but can’t get eBay on their side.

An example would be eBay and PayPal’s protection policy where any buyer, for whatever reason, can pretty much ask for their money back. PayPal holds it (or takes it out of your bank account) and returns the money to the buyer once the buyer and seller have agreed on terms (which usually ends up being the buyer gets his money back and the sellers gets his item back more used than it was before, or worse, broken.)

This happened to me recently when I sold a used computer with no memory and no hard drive. This was clearly stated not only in the title of the auction, but three times in the body. I also mentioned that I could not test the workability of the computer as such and offered no warranty, refund, or returns.

But eBay and PayPal’s policies supersede a seller's.

The buyer tried to build the computer by getting some generic memory and a used hard drive. He couldn’t get it to work so he disputed it with PayPal and I lost that sell. In fact, I just told the buyer to keep the computer. I didn’t need to “restock” a used computer with used parts in it that didn’t work.

This brings me to Craigslist. Recently, eBay and Craigslist had a little squabble over eBay’s favorite thing — money.

The story is kind of a legal battle, which I don’t entirely follow. But I did get from the article that eBay owns 28% of privately held Craigslist because they saw potential in the “online classified market”.

Wait, wasn’t this the market eBay used to be in essentially? But with an auction-based twist? Seller X has a used item. He lists it on eBay. Buyers Y and Z determine how much they are willing to pay for Seller X’s item and the highest bidder wins. Item is shipped. Buyer and Seller sleep peacefully at night.

But the story sparked something else in me that I hadn’t realized before; I use Craigslist as much, if not more, than eBay now.

And why not? There are no fees, no in-your-face “premium” listings that take top rank over any of yours (because the seller gave eBay more money), and you can post photos of your items for free. And if you sell locally, no shipping!

Sure, eBay has a larger market because it does market to the world, basically, and I wish there was an option in Craigslist (there may be) so you could list your item in multiple cities and offer a shipping cost and method. Also, Craigslist has a really bad search feature. Many times I want to search for an item not only in my home town but cities within 100 miles of me. All of these features may exist, but they aren’t promoted well enough for me to see them. I think Craigslist could also use a major redesign.

I know a bit about Internet marketing, but for the life of me I can’t see how Craigslist makes money other than its fees for job postings (which may very well be its main target audience) but they manage somehow, and I am thankful.

Thanks to their fee-less-ness, I skipped over eBay Motors to sell my Toyota Tacoma last year. I paid zero dollars to list it, and eBay and PayPal got zero fees from the sale. And it took 29 days for it to finally sell for the exact price I wanted it to sell for. And it sold locally.

Likewise, my wife and I desperately needed a kitchen table for our house. After searching the local furniture stores (and eBay) and coming up with styles we didn’t like or prices we could not afford, I searched Craigslist and found a round table made in Italy brought over to the States by a man in the Air Force. For $120 we got a great table that we love, and four chairs (that I can see us replacing in a year or so). Shipping — zero dollars.

eBay sellers who make a career out of eBay will tell me, “If you don’t like returns and refunds, you need to stop selling used items.” Begging your pardon Mr./Ms. Power Seller, 23,953 Feedback (with only 98% positive), but eBay offers the option to sell any item used. If I sell a used item that can (and probably will at some point) break or not work “like new” anymore, I don’t feel that I should be forced to offer a warranty or refund just because the eBay market is now flooded with sellers who sell brand new items that cost more than retail price and who charge at least 25% more to ship it than the actual shipping cost.

For those of you like me who have used and loved eBay for almost ten years, and are now are getting fed up with their practices and prices, look no further than Craigslist. And do it now before eBay buys it and starts charging you to post photos and takes a cut of each sale.

Knowing that eBay and PayPal won't be getting their greedy little hands on as much of my money as they used to: Priceless.

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