Making the Trade: Safely eBartering

Craigslist

Far be it from me to judge anyone for their personal demons, but craigslist is an addiction I find myself having a difficult time staying away from. If I have a few minutes to kill, I default to browsing the free section. I don't need anything, but it's just kind of soothing seeing what everyone else is trying to offload. Nevertheless this means I also find myself on one side of a trade that is bound to occur. Whether it's to buy someone's old record collection, or to get rid of an old bed frame I don't need any longer, Craigslist has put me to work.

I mention this, because as a website that is free to use and accessible by most folks, certainly any patron at our branches, this means that ANYONE could be making a posting. While you may think you are meeting someone to get a new (to you) can opener, what you may actually be doing is stumbling into a trap. I wouldn't be the first person to suggest this, but criminals and dangerous folks are definitely looking to take advantage of the millions of daily users on craigslist. Much like the Nigerian princes that are trying to send us millions of dollars for investing, you will run into con artists, who will attempt to part you with your belongings or money.

It's for this reason that I have compiled a list of things to be wary of, and some general advice for anyone attempting to make a trade on craigslist.

Key Point 1: Never under any circumstance should you ever meet someone on Craigslist alone! (or any other online gathering for that matter).

This means that yes, you might miss out on a good deal because your friends were too busy, or that yes, your dad is going to have to come and watch you negotiate for some Magic Cards you need for your next big tournament. Someone has to know where you are and what you are doing, and most importantly that you're safe. Your personal hobbies might need to be aired out, but better that you can still participate and enjoy in them, than have someone take your hobby away. This leads into the next major point of common sense.....

Key Point 2: Always agree to meeting in a public place with as much foot traffic as you can get

A major step towards safety is making sure that others can see you and if need be answer your call for help. Just by being someplace public you are putting yourself someplace where an attacker can't hide, and where if you are attacked, you have witnesses or security footage to help your recovery. These are many different places this could be, but some of my personal favorites include coffee shops, public parks, famous landmarks, or my personal favorite, my local LIBRARY! By agreeing to meet at your local library branch, not only are you someplace public, but you are someplace where there will be people looking out for your safety, making sure that you will get the help you need. If you are in my library branch, odds are I've greeted you and noticed you, so if something should go wrong I will be there to help, not to mention that my library is a designated safe space.

Key Point 3: Remember that you are under no obligation to make a trade or purchase

I'm sure many of you reading will know what I'm talking about when I say that bartering, and haggling feels odd. We have lived in a community and era where trading and haggling aren't common anymore. Even at my local farmer's market there is a standard price, and what you see is what you get. So when it comes to meeting folks and assessing a possible exchange, you might find that you don't want to pay the asking price. This also means that when someone is buying what you're selling, they may want to pay less than you're asking. This is to be expected, especially with any major purchase like a vehicle or appliance. Keep in mind that just because you made the journey or they came to meet you, that you aren't obligated to do anything, and you are always free to walk away. This might feel make you feel like you've wasted your time as well as the other party's time, but this isn't a broken promise, this is someone you'll probably never see again, so don't sweat it. This is why you're meeting them at the Library or Starbucks, not at your house.

Bonus: Read These

It's not a very in-depth list, but as someone who scours Craigslist regularly, I feel it's always important to pass on knowledge to those new to the website that may need some safety tips. I have provided some suggested reading to go along, so that you to may become a better online bargain hunter:

Idiot's Guide to Ebay Cover Craigslist 4 Everyone CoverSelling Online 2.0 Cover

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