Smart (and Safe) Shopping: Craigslist

As a college student I’m always looking for ways to save money, no matter what it is that I need. Craiglist is a go-to site to check out discounts on used products, be they textbooks, a side table to put in your dorm, or a television. Unfortunately, Craigslist has kind of a bad rap, and it's not without good reason; we’ve all heard of the Craigslist Killer, right? Fear not, though. As long as you act smartly, Craigslist can be an excellent shopping tool!

When my housemates and I decided to look into getting a television for our living room, I quickly turned to Craigslist after seeing how much even the cheapest brands were at Walmart. I was a little nervous, being both young and female, but I figured if we were smart about it it would be the best deal. Right? Right. At the end of the ordeal, we walked away with a 32" flatscreen with an internal DVD drive for $100. There were some sketchy instances before we got to that point, though.

When browsing through the listings, be wary of every ad. Did they neglect to post what city they’re in? Are details inconsistent? Does anything at all about it make you uneasy? Skip over it. When you do decide to inquire about a product, be careful of the sellers’ responses. Sometimes the sales are scams, and the seller will claim that the item has been sold already but that you can get another one just like it by signing up for sites like beezid. Don’t do that! You have to pay to join in many cases and you need to pay for bids. If they try to jerk you around, change any details like price or what exactly it is they’re selling, back out.

After you’ve made your negotiations and agreements, you need to agree upon a place to pick up your new product. If you’re buying something like a table or a book, request to meet in a highly public place during the day. If they are not willing to do so, peace out of that.

With stuff like TVs it’s harder because, at least in my case, you want to make sure it works before paying up. First of all, if they’re not willing to show you that what you’re purchasing is in working order, do not go any further. It’s not worth wasting your time. If they accept that condition, make sure you let them know you’ll be bringing other people with you. Again, if that’s not acceptable then don’t go further. If it is, make sure you actually bring people with you.

Even when it seems like the whole deal is going to be okay, you still want to be cautious. Let people know where you’re going. Send a friend the address and check in with them when you’re back in your car. When you’re back home with your brand new-to-you things, hold on to the e-mail or text exchanges, just in case. It’s not likely that anything will happen, but should it come back that whatever you purchased was stolen you want to be able to prove that you bought it off of somebody else and who that someone was.

If you approach Craigslist transactions with care, you shouldn’t have any difficulties and you’re certain to save money on whatever it is you’re looking for! And if you’re lucky, you might get 20+ DVDs thrown in with your TV like we did!