A Craigslist Conundrum: What Would You Do?

craigslist 2As many of you know, we’re getting the hell up out of here in a few short weeks.  We bought a house and we’re currently in the midst of packing up all of our shit (again).  I’ve also been getting rid of stuff left and right – kid’s toys, home décor, junk.  Basically, anything I don’t want is not coming with us to the new house.  So, I bagged up a whole bunch of stuff for Goodwill and put some stuff on craigslist as well.

Dora bedI also decided to change out some of our furniture that we no longer need.  It all started when I found this adorable Dora the Explorer bed on Craigslist for $15.  Isn’t it cute?  And since it’s the plastic kind, it was easy to clean and make “like new.” However, the purchase of the toddler bed meant that it was time to get rid of my beloved Bellini baby furniture.  My youngest will be three this summer…so it’s time, right?  I also have a random extra dresser that she can use, which means that we don’t have to buy her anything else.  Score!

Best Craigslist Purchase Ever

When I was pregnant with my first child, I started scouting Craigslist for some high quality nursery furniture.  After a few weeks of looking, I found this set priced at $750.  Sounds expensive for used baby furniture, I know, but this is solid Mahogany Bellini baby furniture, which is like the furniture for the stars or something.  Anyway, I went to look at it and fell in love.  I also talked them down to $600.  We paid and brought it home.crib new 3

crib newdresser bew

The lady I bought it from used it with both of her kids.  Then I used it with both of mine. And even after all of that, it looks almost brand new.  So, when it was time to sell, I went ahead and priced it at $550.  I bought it for $600 and used it for five years, so I thought I would knock off $50 for the few knicks and scratches that we caused over the years.  No biggie.

Well, I put it on craigslist and got a flood of inquiries over the first few hours.  A few people said they wanted it, one of which said they could get it the next day.  And that was fine with me.  By then, it was 10:00 and I was heading to bed.

Then I started getting some fairly pushy emails, like this one:

If you still have the furniture available, I am ready to pick it up with cash in hand.  Will pay $700.

-Kendra

Tempting.

The next morning I got at least a dozen phone calls from disappointed individuals.  A handful said they would be willing to pay more and could pick it up immediately.  I started to wonder if I priced it too low.  I mean, I knew that it would hold its value if I took care of it but I didn’t think that it would increase in value!  Could I have gotten $750, or even $800 for it?

Proof I’m a Good Person

If anyone ever questions whether I’m a good person or not again (it happens a lot), I am going to direct them to this blog post.  I went ahead and sold the furniture to the woman I promised it to.  And when she arrived, I was so glad I did.  She was adorably pregnant with her first child, giddy with excitement as she saw the furniture her child would grow up with.  When I looked at her, I saw myself at that stage, and I knew that I did the right thing.

I’m still a little bitter about it though.

What would you do in this situation?  Would you take the highest offer?  Or, would you sell to the person you committed to and cut your losses?  Be honest!

 
About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. Wow, good for you! I like to think I’d do the same thing but man, it would be tough to pass up a few extra hundred dollars. I guess the way to look at it is that in the long run that few hundred dollars won’t make a meaningful difference and in the meantime you were able to stay true to your word and not screw someone over. So yeah, I think you did the right thing. Also, I’ve seen plenty of baby furniture priced for a lot more than that that wasn’t nearly as nice. You guys did good!

  2. I think you did great and should be pleased with the decision you made. It is so expensive having your first child and i’m sure the woman who purchased it from you is very appreciative.

  3. Holly I would sell it to the person I promised to as I believe in karma more than money. In a rental I have I promised it to someone that viewed it earlier in the day and told them to come back tomorrow as out of courtesy I had two more showings in 30 minutes. One of the last showing was a very strong candidate who offered to sing a two year lease and pay an additional 200 a month. I had no obligation to that first person (it was a young family) but I kept my word because one day if my kids were looking to rent I wouldn’t want someone to treat them that way.

  4. It’s so hard to price things correctly for craigslist/kijiji. It could have easily gone the other way and everyone think you’re crazily overpriced. I’m so glad you kept your word, because those buy and sell sites seem to bring out the extreme greediness in a lot of people, and there is nothing more aggravating (from a buyers perspective) than someone flaking on a “do e deal” because the buyer was swayed by the prospect of more money.

  5. I think you did the right thing. It’s your fault you priced it low, not the buyer’s, so they shouldn’t have to have the rug pulled out from under them.

    However, you could have those emails in your back pocket in case they tried to talk you down even more. “Sorry, I can get $700 from the next buyer…”

  6. I think given the amount of money in question here you did the right thing. A hundred or so bucks… whatever. I think when it comes to “pay to play” items–houses, cars and so on, the highest bidder wins the day–end of story.

  7. I think I would have done the same – at that level of money, karma and being honest to someone matters a lot more than a couple hundred dollars. But maybe next time check ebay or Craigslist for pricing ideas before listing something brand named? =)

  8. I can’t lie: I would have sold it for higher. I’ve had this same situation happen to me in the past for things we sold on Craig’s List. I know its only $50 or $100 bucks, but that’s a lot of money to pass up.

  9. I would have gone with the first person I agreed to sell it to. At that point you are locked in (as far as I’m concerned) though I realize buyers can back out from time-to-time, even last minute. I think you made the right decision.

    • I may had done things differently had I only talked to her through text. But we talked on the phone which would’ve made me feel like a huge liar had I backed out.

  10. Way to go Holly! I would’ve gone that route as well. Like DC said, I basically view it as being locked in once you agree to sell it – though that can come back to bite you at times on CL. I think you could’ve used those emails as leverage if she tried to negotiate down, but was well worth the lower cost to see her reaction.

    • I texted her and asked if she was still coming, and told her I was getting other offers. I wanted to make sure that she didn’t try to talk me down or anything. I’m pretty sure she knew that wasn’t going to happen.

  11. I had the same issue with a couch and loveseat that we sold about a year and a half ago when we moved. The set was something like 8 or 9 years old and I had only paid $500 for both (it was not the highest quality; this was what I had in college). I priced the set on Craigslist for $200 and had all kinds of people contacting me and offering more. But I had promised it to the first person who contacted me, who showed up as a bright 20 year-old who was thrilled with the set (we had taken really good care of it). I felt good about sending it with her, even though the extra money would have been nice.

  12. Holly, you most certainly did the right thing, your payback along with the $550, was to gratification you received from knowing that furniture was going to a good home, and to someone who really appreciates it!

  13. I would have sold it to the person I promised it to and then the next time I listed something on Craigslist I would have priced it for more than I thought it was worth. People are always going to try and talk you down so you might as well start high.

  14. Good for you, Holly. We went through the exact same thing when we sold Rick’s fishing boat, and took the same route you did. We will, however, be pricing differently next time, starting out high and going lower if we need to. :-)

  15. As much as it would bother the logical, numbers-driven side of me (which is a really big side), if I had promised it to one person for a certain price I would stick to my word. I know it would be worth it to see someone so excited and pleased about getting great stuff at an amazing price – and I would be reminded of all the times WE scored deals like that and how helpful it was to us (so think of it as good financial karma!). And then I’d learn my lesson and price things higher the next time :D

    • I still think I did well. I bought it used to begin with, after all and for only $50 more. It was nice furniture though. She can probably resell it for what she bought it for as well.

  16. I definitely would have done what you did. Just a matter of your own integrity and honoring your word. It’s a tough lesson, though. Next time I would list it OBO, which I always think of as the highest lowball offer, but in your case, would have been just the highest offer. I love Craigslist!
    BTW, I’m jealous of your purging! That’s a constant pursuit for me and it’s great to have a reason NOT to keep junk. It’s one thing if it’s sitting somewhere out of the way in your house, it’s quite another to MOVE it. Maybe I’ll pretend we’re moving to get rid of more.

    • Yeah, I just don’t want to move anything that we’re going to get rid of anyways. So far I’ve sold a bunch of toys, my dining set, and the baby furniture! I’ve also gotten a ton of things ready to donate, although I haven’t dropped them off anywhere yet.

      • If you have anything you want to have reupholstered, or an area rug that needs to go out for cleaning have them picked up just before the move and have them returned to the new place. You might as well have them moved for free!

  17. I’ve sold a ton of stuff on Craigslist and always hold out until the first person buys or declines. With that said, if they stop responding to emails, then I move on. As much as I want to get the most for an item, I feel that it’s just right to let the first person have the chance at buying it. If the reverse happened, I would want the same opportunity.

  18. Some things are more valuable than money. I’d rather have my good name in tack because I kept a promise. If she would have backed out I would have considered the higher offers. But not until then. Sounds like it went to just the right person.

  19. I have fallen into this trap via Craigslist too.

    However, I went down the same path as you. Though I could have made more, each time (twice now), the people who got the items were thrilled and I knew they would put good use to the stuff.

    Sometimes, seeing the persons happiness and knowing they will enjoy the items makes up for that difference in lost value.

    The Warrior
    NetWorthWarrior.com

  20. If I had already told someone, I would let them buy it at the agreed price and time. If they didn’t show up I would either email the people bidding higher or I would relist for $800.

  21. I would have done the same as you…..outside of being a generally good person, it’s also how business is supposed to be done. If I wanted to go with the highest bidder, I would wait a day or two for bids to come in, then contact the highest bidder and see if they’re still interested. Once I tell someone “it’s yours” I consider the thing already sold.

  22. This happened to me with a desk that I was selling through a facebook buy/sell group. I actually found the desk on the curb, so I had zero dollars in it. I priced it low ($75) -had someone interested who said they would come that night, but I kept getting higher offers. I ended up sticking with my original price somewhat hoping that the buyer would be a no show. She ended up buying it and I am happy that I stuck with her even if I lost out on a few dollars. She was s student in the same nursing program that I had graduated from.

    • Yeah, I hear ya. That’s how I felt. Sometimes the “right thing” costs money. We both could’ve easily held out for the best offer and ended up missing out on a buyer, or with a bunch of unnecessary stress.

  23. I think you did the right thing. If you think about how mad you would be if someone agreed to sell you something then pulled the rug out from under you for a higher bidder, it was an easy decision. I think I’d just be happy to sell it for what I thought was a good price. I also hate to haggle and deal with the crazies that come out for stuff like that.

    • I seriously hate haggling with craigslist buyers. I also tell people not to haggle with me in person. A huge pet peeve of mine is when they show up to buy then ask me to lower the price. Ummmm……no!

  24. I think you earned yourself some good karma there. I don’t really know much about baby furniture but I think it’s amazing you basically sold it for just a little bit less than you bought it for even after all that use! This summer I sold an Ikea desk on craigslist and hardly sold it for less than I purchased it new. I guess some furniture holds it value pretty well.

  25. I think you were good and gave it to the first person. I have been shopping on craigslist, but no one wants to haggle. Seriously, I think some people want more for their items and are unwilling to negotiate. The last couple of times if I even mention a lower price, they say no thank you, and immediately end the conversation.

  26. I think if people are willing and happy to pay the higher price, why not let them?

    • Well, because I already promised it to someone and she had already arranged to borrow her brothers truck and for two people to come and move it for her!

  27. I would have done what you did. I have sold plenty through Craigslist and when I promise it to someone, but then see I could ask more, I stick with my original plan. It wasn’t money I was expecting, so you are killing two birds with one stone. You get money and get rid of the furniture.

  28. Awesome! I’d honor my word, too. You may never run into the person again. But you would run into yourself every day. It would be a pit in your gut for a long, long time.

  29. That’s happened to me before where I sold something and wondered, because of the quick responses if I should have sold it for more. But if I’m ready to see it go, I’ll be honest and sell it at that price, but will NOT accept anything less. A lot will try to negotiate once they arrive but considering how many people I have waiting in the wings, I say next. I have, however, taken down a listing an re-listed it later for a higher price.

  30. I think it’s great you went ahead and did a good deed for the first woman. I would probably be having second thoughts, too, but it sounds like you made the right choice, seeing as she was really happy. I don’t like haggling either, but I guess one could take this as a lesson that sometimes, it’s worth it to try to price higher just to see what will happen. It’s kind of why I stay away from listing things, I get nervous about the responses!

  31. At that point, the ad itself is kind of a sunk cost. Can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, you know?

    So then it becomes a question of whether you’re willing to go back on your word to gain $150. I think you did the right thing!

  32. I would’ve done as you did and only go with the higher bidders if she would have backed out. At the end of the day it’s all about keeping your word. You also paid it forward by helping a first time mom.

  33. Awwww Holly, this story is so sweet. :) I’m a big believer in karma and as much as I would have WANTED to sell it to the higher bidder, I know I would have done exactly what you did and kept my promise. What good are we if we don’t keep our words right?

    p.s. that is some gorgeous baby furniture!

  34. I’ve never bought or sold anything on Craigslist but I would have honored my promise to sell it to the first person I’d negotiated with. An extra hundred or so wouldn’t be life or death for me and I wouldn’t want to be greedy. If I ever posted on that site, I think I’d try posting it higher and be ready to come down a little.

  35. You definitely did the right thing, though I would’ve been tempted, too :) Aside from the great point about karma, the lesson I’m taking away here is to maybe err on the side of pricing too high when it comes to posting on Craigslist.
    But you did great–you did a good deed AND, essentially, you only paid $50 to use some really fancy furniture for five years. Pretty awesome!

  36. You did the right thing! Integrity is worth a lot more than a couple hundred bucks. If you hadn’t committed to the first person, haggle away :) But it’s the heartless attitude to do anything for an extra buck at the expense of others that is ruining our society. Capitalism isn’t bad per se. It’s the greedy people who take advantage of it who give it a bad name.

  37. You are a better person than I am. I definitely would have welcomed a bidding war and taking an extra couple hundred dollars. Do you think the woman would have been upset had you emailed her explaining that you got significantly better offers?

  38. What a beautiful set. You got a great deal on it. I’d like to believe that I would honor my original sale … especially since I set the price and you know … good karma and all that. I’m sure a part of me would also be kicking myself for not starting higher or letting a few more bids come in before I accepted an offer. Live and learn! :)

  39. I think you did the right thing! I wouldn’t want to be the pregnant woman and promised something only to find out that I was wasting my time.

  40. Oh yeah totally happened to me when I put my dad’s car on craiglist. I put it up and there was a feeding frenzy. I didn’t realize dodge stealths wereso popular and some of the potential buyers knew each other. They started talking trash and I thought I’m just trying to sell the car. I sold it to the first person that showed up with the cash even though I could have made more money. My integrity is worth more than a few hundred bucks and you made that mom to be sooo happy.

    On a side note I had that happen with my dad’s Harley on ebay (yes he had a lot of toys but he also knew how to save a lot of money). I sold the Harley to the nicest guy on ebay and I think I made his whole month. He loved the bike and I knew it went to a good home even though I could of probably made more on that too. Some things you can’t put a price tag on.

  41. I think you did the good thing. It’s nice to be in a position to help someone out. I went through the same thing on craigslist, selling a table. The guy buying it was furnishing his place because his longtime long-distance girlfriend was moving in, and I was glad to be able to help him out. I think you’ll remember helping her out long after you would remember getting an extra couple hundred dollars!

  42. I have been in this exact same scenario before, and you certainly did the right thing.
    It was certainly tempting to send out a “I have multiple inquiries, highest bidder wins” email, but it just feels a bit icky.

  43. What a great set! Yes, you definitely could have made more money on it, but there is something to be said for knowing you did the right thing that is worth more than the extra money you could have made.

  44. Wow, that’s beautiful furniture! I would have done the same as you and gone with the one I promised. I think that was very kind of you to stick to your guns and made that lady’s day!

  45. I would have sold it at the lower price if I had already promised it or arranged it with a buyer. If I hadn’t arranged anything, I probably would have edited my listing with a higher price. I’ve done that before, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with upping the price if people are willing to pay for it, but that’s only if there were no exchanges with interested parties beforehand. So yes, you’re good person lol.

  46. It would hurt to pass up easy money but I would keep my word.

  47. Oh yeah, you have to honor what you said or you get horrible ju-ju. I usually price things too high for a week just in case and work my way down. I’ve been surprised a few times.

  48. I would have done the same thing and on a different scenario, have.
    Last year we held two very hot tickets to a local hockey game. We, being season holders bought the tickets at the beginning of the season, well before the team was as hot as they were. We paid $30/ticket as was the boxoffice but playoff tickets sold out within 15 mins. When we found outselves unable to attend a game, I posted them online and like you was FLOODED with calls, so much so I had to delete the ad. I had a guy offer me $200 for the pair. I posted the ad, ”first one to call and show up can have them”. A guy called, was at my door within the hour and paid me $100 for the pair. I totally could have sold them for $100 each but it’s not my style. He and his VERY pregnant wife just wanted to enjoy the game, I wasn’t looking to scam.

  49. Yeah, had that happen too. Craigslist people can be a huge PITA!

  50. Wow what a story! I often buy off of Craigslist and typically try to politely negotiate down the price. I think you did the right thing, but maybe mark up other nice items you sell to leave more wiggle room in the future?

  51. I think with a purchase like this I would have a hard time screwing someone over & I would have sold it to the first person, even if it meant losing out on some cash. If it was something a little less important, like concert tickets, I might find it in me to be a little more heartless…

  52. Wow who knew baby furniture would appreciate in value!? I’m glad you kept your word and sold it to the nice lady you promised it to. Now, I don’t buy stuff from craigslist but we were house hunting. The seller agreed to the price, but then a few days later backed out because someone was willing to pay more. We actually matched the price even though we didn’t want to have to go that high. But still lost out as the other person offer $2000 more. I guess money is money…but we had a deal and it was the seller who came to us with that price. Pretty disappointed.

  53. I would have done the same thing as you, and I think you did the right thing! You may have priced it a bit low but it’s possible that the buyer couldn’t afford anything more (what with a new baby coming), so it must have been really nice for her to end up with such great furniture.

  54. You did the right thing.

    What matters most is what will let you sleep at night. A clear conscience and a good night’s sleep is worth far more than a few hundred dollars.

    +1 for eBay. Whenever I am listing something on Craigslist, especially if it’s pricey, I check the prices on eBay first. One trick most people don’t know about is that if you go into “advanced search” on eBay you can search completed listings. This will show you what other items actually sold for as opposed to the asking price, not to mention search a larger base of items, so you’re more likely to find a match.

    After that, since it’s Craigslist and everyone wants to talk you down in price, price it 20% over the best eBay price and if it doesn’t sell, relist it for lower.

  55. I totally would have gone to the highest bidder, but then my wife would have set me straight. We balance each other out like that.

  56. I had this exact thing happen with an ebay sales. I sold an antique that was unknowingly worth a small fortune. I put it up for a short sale (5 days) and did a traditional bid. I ended up selling it for $150. About 12 hours after the sale closed, I was bombarded with emails about how people would pay $600+ for it! I had NO idea.

    Luckily for me, my grandma had bought two of this antiques so I really, truly lucked out!

  57. You did the right thing. That’s what I would’ve done and that’s what you would’ve wanted happen if you were the buyer that was promised this furniture.

  58. Speaking from experience, I’d sell it to the first person that inquired about it for the price you were asking. There is nothing more annoying that lining up a deal, then later finding out that the seller has given it to someone else!! Much respect to you for being honorable and following your word!!!

  59. Good for you for selling to the first person who you promised the furniture. I’ve been both the buyer and seller on CL, and nothing is more frustrating then being promised something and then getting an email back that someone else was willing to pay more. That buyer will probably cherish that furniture for her little ones the same way you did and that’s what makes the whole thing worthwhile (whether you could have gotten more money or not). Pat yourself on the back and chalk it up to good karma!

  60. Last week, I sold an big old desk that I loved thru Kijiji. I was torn about parting with it, but I honestly had no use for it anymore, and the thing is massive. Moving it one more time into our new place just didn’t seem worth the hassle.

    I had a very pushy young man reply first to the ad, and really didn’t want to sell it to him. Thankfully, he didn’t show up to pick it up as we had scheduled (which was annoying), and I ended up moving onto the next person that contacted me. She was a sweet older lady who had just moved into a new house where she had an office for the first time. She loved the desk, paid in cash, moved the thing on her won (with her husband) and was so grateful to have it.

    So, I think it’s better that someone that truly wants/needs the furniture is better than making a few extra bucks. :)

  61. I always price my stuff higher than I think I can get on craigslist so I don’t run into this problem. I can always lower the price but you can’t increase it without feeling bad.

  62. I buy, sell, and trade on Craigslist all the time. I travel for work so I even check out cities of where I’m going to just to see. I’m a big fan of the barter section. I’ve gotten great deals over the years, and knock on wood, have only been burned once (for $20).

    When I list something for sale, I start the price higher than I expect to get for. I love haggling and expect it from anyone who finds me on the great online yard sale that is Craigslist. I know my bottom line price, normally because I know what I can sell it for on eBay. On most things, I’ll try Craigslist first because it’s cheaper, quicker, and easier. If it doesn’t sell and it’s something shippable, I’ll post it on eBay.

    When I receive emails like you did about something that will sell quickly, I never respond the first day. Let the dust settle and don’t commit yourself to the first person that comes along. And please don’t take this as me being a jerk, because I’m happy for you that you were able to make that young mother’s day. I’ve done my share of charity through Craigslist as well. I always tell people that I have several people interested, but I’ll take the best offer from the person that can meet me the soonest. Remember, they didn’t stop looking for furniture when they found yours. They probably emailed 5 other people, so I want to make this happen as quickly as possible so I don’t lose this momentum. Since they’ve already offered you a certain amount, let them raise themselves. Now, you have the power. They’ve raised without a counter off, which I will never do when attempting to purchase. Sales 101.

    I think what you did was noble and I would have done the same. Just try not to put yourself in that situation again. Good luck!

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