Karma – Posting Free Ads on Craigslist

by Sandy L on May 31, 2011

So the other day I wrote how an old lady scammed me by overcharging me for some ratty old t-shirts. I was annoyed, but I vented on the blog and moved on.  I didn’t seek revenge or egg her house. I was over it but wouldn’t you know things have a way of working themselves out. Karma is cool. Read on. Eventually I do get to the point.

The same week I was searching for boy clothes,  I decided that I needed to majorly thin out my perennials.  As luck would have it, I got an email from one of my favorite Community activist groups, The Alchemy Initiative. They were starting a community garden in the center of town. I don’t know quite how to describe them. They call themselves the intentional living laboratory and they are constantly doing something that makes this town a better place to live.  They put on art shows for community artists, hold all kinds of arts+crafts workshops, they may have even done a clothing swap or two.  The link will take you to their garden page and they even wrote about me..how sweet.    Anyway, I dug up a  car load of  plants for their urban garden and I was thrilled to finally be able to help in a small way.

Despite the carload of plants, I still had loads more to thin, so I decided to put a Free Ad on Craig’s list to get rid of the rest.

One of My Perennial Beds

How to Put a Free Ad in Craigslist

Craigslist is the absolute easiest place to place ads. It literally takes a minute to post an ad and that’s all I spent on mine.  I should have spent at least 2.  Here’s what I learned.

  1. People Love Free Stuff especially things like perennials which get expensive. If you post an ad like that, expect an overwhelming response.
  2. When you put your phone number down, mix up the format a little. I always do 112..345xxx6789.  That makes it more difficult for web crawlers to find it.
  3. Make sure you put “First Come First Serve.”  I forgot to do this.  I had people who were trying to make appointments to come at times that were convenient for them but didn’t work for me.  I had to turn most of them away.  I even had someone ask me to call them in a week to set up a convenient meeting  time for them. I’m not your secretary dude.  You have to expect some people to be socially awkward.  So be ready to set the ground rules and push back.
  4. Don’t change your plans for someone + Expect No Shows. I actually had someone beg me to come a specific evening and I was originally going to take my kids to the carnival.  I changed plans, they no showed and didn’t even call.  Luckily, I had another young couple come that day so it wasn’t a total waste.  In addition to that, pick a time where you’ll be home anyway.
  5. Set Appropriate Times to Call in your Ad – I forgot to do this one too.  I had people calling after 9.
  6. Be Specific in Your Ad – if it’s tools or electronics, put the make and model. If it’s perennials, put the varieties you have to share and that way people can come prepared with what they want to take. A vague ad will just get the people who want something just because it’s free and no other reason.
  7. Put at least one barter item in your ad – Some people feel weird taking free stuff without giving anything back, and honestly those are the people you want because they are generally the nicer people in cyberspace. Put in a few items that you’re looking for.  I put, “If you feel you want to trade for something, I’m currently looking for x, however it’s not required.”
  8. Always put a picture in your ad – In my case I put the picture of one of my beds. People’s imaginations go wild without photos and imagine the worst.
  9. Be Careful What you Put Up As Free – My husband could have been a really great criminal because he’s always saying stuff like:  If I were a criminal, I’d look on craig’s list to see who was giving away old TV’s and Computers and get the address.  Those are the homes I’d rob because I bet they had new electronics there.   This is what he said when I tried to give away our old PC.  His theory had merit and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  10. Don’t respond to vague emails – I received ones like “give me your address” Um..no.  I also had someone respond to a wanted ad with wanting to buy the item I was looking for. “Still have the car booster seat?”  My ad couldn’t be clearer that it was an item I was looking for, not selling. I was almost tricked into responding to that one.  Haste makes waste and sometimes in an effort to be efficient one of these tricky emails might prompt a response.
  11. It’s okay to setup a public meeting place – Some people don’t like strangers coming to their home.  In my case, that was not an option and I’m usually okay with people coming to my house anyway. Most of the time, it’s the buyers who are more weirded out than me. I hope that I will never regret my trust in people. The young mom who came admitted that there was no way she was going to my house without her husband.  After talking a bit, we found out that I know and work with her aunt. After she found that out, she was no longer afraid that I’d lock her up gimp style in my basement.

Apparently, there are also scammers who post free ads where the items aren’t really free because I had a couple of people email me and ask “Are they really free?”

Clothing Karma

So, the things that I put in my add that I was looking for was boy clothing size 8-10, a car booster seat and bleeding hearts.   Wouldn’t you know that despite putting in at least 5 wanted ads in craigslist for boy clothes, one of my perennial seekers had 3 boys and offered to bring me some clothing.  I told her it was not required but I’d happily take anything that she wanted to part with. She was the perfect person to give plants to.  She showed up on time, was very nice and brought 3 garbage bags of boy’s clothing to my house. I mean it was 6 loads of laundry’s worth.  In exchange, I filled up her SUV and we were both thrilled that we could help each other.  In the end we both lamented how we had just spent money buying clothes and plants and we wished we had met each other 2 weeks earlier.  We really hit it off. If she didn’t live an hour away, I bet we could’ve become good friends.

I don’t claim to understand Karma, but things always seem to have a way of working themselves out.  How do you donate strange items that don’t necessarily get taken by places like the Salvation Army?


{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Jacq May 31, 2011 at 6:31 AM

I’ve met some super nice people on my local freecycle. I think freecycle gives a better “class” of “free-style customers” than something like kijiji or Craigslist because you have to sign up on a yahoo group to post. Some of the time I say that I’m leaving it outside between the hours of X and Y and it’s first come first serve if we can’t manage to hook up by email or I’m going to be gone (my son used to always be home). But I live in a place where it’s a 10 minute drive from one end of the city to the other so it’s not usually like people are really going out of their way.


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:25 AM

Jacq – I used to belong to freecycle back in the day but got WAY too many emails, so I unsubscribed. We have a pretty active online group here. I wonder if you can update your email frequency these days? It’s been a couple of years since I used it.


Terri May 31, 2011 at 6:45 AM

Wow! You have a beautiful yard and garden!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:26 AM

Terri- Thanks. I love digging in the soil more than most anything else.


Niki May 31, 2011 at 7:46 AM

What a great idea. I have done ‘it’s free come get it’ craigslist thing, but I never thought to do a barter. It sounds like it really worked out well for both of you.


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:27 AM

Niki – I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the random barter items, but I thought, it couldn’t hurt and it worked out fine.


Nicole May 31, 2011 at 7:57 AM

When we were in a city, we used freecycle. Here even the students are picky…

We take a lot of things to the daycare ladies. Don’t know what we’ll do next year when DC starts kindy!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:28 AM

Nicole – I give stuff to daycare too. She’s been great. I hope she doesn’t just humor me because she gets rid of a lot of stuff too. I think she gets too much sometimes.


Everyday Tips May 31, 2011 at 9:04 AM

Nicole, you will give things to the teachers!

I am so glad things worked out for you First Gen. It is a great feeling to help people out, and a great feeling to get something you need.

I need to thin out my Shasta Daisies. I pulled a bunch of them last year, but they came back in spades this year. I love perennials and I am looking to never buy another annual again.


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:29 AM

Everyday Tips – Yes, I love my perennials too. My kids get great joy in going into our yard and seeing what’s new that’s in bloom. It’s like a little christmas present every week.


Cesar May 31, 2011 at 9:39 AM

Great story. Here in the Austin area we have a yahoo group called freecycle. It is great! People on the yahoo group can send e-mails to give stuff away before it goes to the landfill or even give leftover garage sale items. I have posted printers, monitors, shelf units, desks, etc. I have received great items like pond fish, pond plants, furniture dolly, etc. It feels good to give them away to people that will really use them and get something you need without buying it. There are people that scam the system and sell the items or post ads for things that they “need” like PS3, Wii , cell phones, etc. for their kids that want them!! There are always people that use the generosity of others for their own profit but the majority of the people are great!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:31 AM

Cesar – I wonder what people did before the internet. I also wonder if these services are affecting donations to places like salvation army as well and if that’s a bad thing or not. I think on many levels being self sufficient by finding your own things you need to furnish your apartment, etc, instead of relying on an organization with a lot of overhead has got to be a good thing.


MoneyCone May 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM

A great story with a happy ending and excellent tips on selling on CL! Love how you mixed both together for this lovely post!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:32 AM

MoneyCone – sometimes my stories do have a happy ending. Those are the fun ones.


Freckles May 31, 2011 at 12:07 PM

How does Babci feel about you giving away items for free? 🙂


Freckles May 31, 2011 at 7:03 PM

P.S I agree …. your lawn & garden are very beautiful! Kudos!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:35 AM

Babci likes to get things for free or close to free, but she also gives away lots and lots of stuff. She has never asked for anything in return for sharing her garden bounty or plants. She’s mostly had smaller urban gardens so she is always mixing things around and loves giving away plants vs composting them.

She has never been one who focused on earning a lot. She mostly likes to spend very little and giving away extra plants and food doesn’t cost anything but her labor and time.


retirebyforty May 31, 2011 at 1:16 PM

I never put my phone number down on Craigslist, email is more than good enough. I always have a bunch of no shows. I think probably 1/3 of Craigslist people are no show…
It’s great that you got some clothes! We’ll need some new baby clothes soon and I’ll check Craigslist.


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:37 AM

RB40 – Craigslist is great for baby to about 4T. I think the phone thing is probably smart.


Kristi May 31, 2011 at 2:06 PM

I recommend freecycle too! I have given away some crazy one-of-a-kind items there, like a specific type of blender lid!! There’s usually a bit of back-n-forth negotiation via e-mail, so it’s a social exchange, and it feels great to know that the item you’re giving away is going to someone who can put it to good use.


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:38 AM

Kristi – that is crazy. I wouldn’t have thunk someone could seek out that item and want it.


Amanda L Grossman May 31, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Lovely bed of plants! They look quite healthy.

And I love it when things work out like that:).


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:38 AM

Amanda – thanks. I love my plants.


Linda May 31, 2011 at 5:33 PM

Many others have mentioned Freecycle already, but I want to endorse the Freecycle network, too. While I have had issues with Craigslist respondents, I never had a problem with respondents through Freecycle.

And it’s amazing what people will come to your house to haul away for free. I once posted an offer for an area rug. It was a wool rug in fairly good shape, but it had been peed on a few times by one of my dogs and I didn’t want it anymore. I noted in the listing that the rug would need cleaning and why, but I still had people who wanted it!

I’ve posted free perennials before, too, and told people they had to be prepared to dig them up themselves. Again, no problems with people interested in getting some free perennials this way.

With Craigslist, though, I had a woman email me ONE YEAR after she bought a used kitchen faucet from me for a small fee. She had been a pain to work with in the first place (asking me to hold it for her, giving me a sob story about why she needed it and couldn’t get it right away, etc.) In this nasty email I received from her a year later she accused me of selling her a broken faucet and “laughing at her” as I pocketed her money. Geez, it worked when I sold it a year earlier! I’ve made no more CL postings since then.


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:41 AM

Linda – wow. I can’t believe that lady still had your personal info. Nutty. I’ll have to think about giving freecycle a try again. I almost forgot about it, til everyone started talking about it again.


Sandy H May 31, 2011 at 9:32 PM

Gotta LOVE karma!!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:43 AM

Sandy H- yes, I do believe in Karma. Life is so much better when you have a bunch of people around you wanting to return favors. Life and community becomes a much happier place. It also feels good helping others.


Crystal June 1, 2011 at 4:42 PM

I use Freecycle for stuff like you mentioned and have had similar experiences. I too hope that my trust in people is never proven too wrong. Congrats on the good karma!!!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:45 AM

Crystal – I want to believe that there are more good people than bad, but it totally depends on where you live. I’ve experienced both sides of the spectrum and being nice is way better.


Suba June 2, 2011 at 2:56 PM

I am jealous of you garden 🙂 It looks great. I love it when things work out like this. Karma always catches up!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:46 AM

Suba – I wish I could share some plants with my readers. You guys are all just too far away.


Molly On Money June 4, 2011 at 9:35 AM

Love the garden (I’m weeping a bit). My roses aren’t doing well, I think the deep freeze we had was hard on them.
I’ve do Freecycle and Craigslist but I prefer Craigslist. I always get that one woman (yes, I’ve never gone through this with a man) where I get 20 questions over the phone, more calls with more questions, a call for directions to my house, another call telling me they are lost and then she doesn’t show up.


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:49 AM

Molly – My roses and lilies are being overcrowded by other perennials. It’s sad and I moved a bunch around this spring. I usually mulch my roses in the fall with extra fall yard leaves and it works pretty well. We actually have better luck when there’s lots of snow vs just cold as the snow seems to have some insulative value. Hey, I get that lady too.


Little House June 4, 2011 at 7:31 PM

That’s wonderful how that worked out for you! Thanks for the tip on the phone number. Last summer I placed a tutoring ad on Craigslist and received some really strange emails. But the phone calls were more legitimate responses. However, I didn’t think about web crawlers finding my number. I’ll have to try that method this year!


Sandy L June 7, 2011 at 3:50 AM

Little House – the phone number thing is not fool proof. People who actually read the email can still write it down. I still managed to get on a transgender phone list this year, but I prefer when people leave numbers so I like to do the same.


Yakezie June 7, 2011 at 3:54 AM

Karma totally seems to happen all the time. good stuff.

I use craigslist for EVERYTHING!



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