1. Focus it. Try narrowing your search down based on your needs. Like most websites, there's a wealth of info and it is entirely possible to get caught up in the midst of information overload.
Think about your goals: are you looking for a specific piece? What's your price range? How far are you willing to travel to pick up your find? What's your time frame?
Craig's List can be daunting if you're not sure of what you want. The more you know, the better your results. Take some time to sit down and think before you surf. Trust me, it pays off.
2. Search it. After deciding what you're after and clicking on your correct location, choose a few key words for your search. Looking for a hip, modern bistro set? Type in 'bistro' and go from there. Change your search words if you're not finding anything. It's out there, you've just got to use your head to find it.
Not sure what you need, but you know you need it? Start with location, and narrow your price range. You'll find tons of treasures, and best of all: you don't need to wonder if you can afford it.
Craig's Tip: Search items with pictures first. You know the old adage: a pic is worth a thousand words. You're just not going to get a detailed description of the item without a visual aid. If you're interested in a specific post with no picture attached, feel free to contact the seller and ask for a photo. There's no sense driving hours to glance at something that isn't even close to your needs.
3. Ask it. Not sure about the quality of the item? Contact the seller and ask to arrange a viewing of the item. Sometimes sellers will leave the product in their driveway for interested buyers to swing by and peruse. Others will want to be present while you check out their item. Either way, you deserve to know what you're getting into, so don't be shy about asking EVERY question you're thinking of.
Craig's Tip: Safety first. When arranging a meeting, ALWAYS bring a trusted companion. This sounds trite, but no couch is worth your safety.
4. Get it. Score! You've found the HOTTEST Eames chair for $200 bucks. Quick-- call or email the seller FAST. With more than fifteen million users per month, time is of the essence. Don't worry if you're not sure of every detail; express interest anyway. You're not signing a contract by loving the item. Most sellers follow a 'first-come, first-serve policy,' so do what you can to meet with the seller at your earliest convenience.
Craig's Tip: Every now and then, a buyer will back out of a deal, no matter how much they're interested. Feel free to keep in contact with the seller, with their permission, as to the status of the item. If it's not picked up when it should be, or if payment hasn't yet arrived, the seller will most likely put the product back on the market. If you've already expressed interest as a 'back-up,' you'll save them the time of re-listing, and you've just won your item. It never hurts to stay in the loop.
5. Bring it. Home, that is. Coordinate delivery prior to a verbal agreement with the seller. Nothing's worse than backing out of a verbal contract b/c you can't figure out how to get it home.
Craig's Tip: Ask if the seller can arrange delivery for an added fee. If it's a headache for you to bring it home, it's often worth the money.
6. Report it. Sometimes, things go wrong. If you feel you've been scammed, report the seller immediately. Call the FTC toll free hotline at 877-FTC-HELP or file an online complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov.
Craig's Tip: Never give out any financial information, including eBay, Paypal, or bank account information. Deal locally and with cash to avoid the need to provide any unnecessary information between the buyer and/or seller.
7. Enjoy it. When all is said and done and you're sitting at home in your new Eames chair, think of Craig and all he's done for you. Or me. I like flowers and chocolate.
See you next Tuesday for an all-new CLR!