Shopping for bargains has become a lot easier with websites like Craigslist, Kijiji and Red Flag Deals. If you know what you want to buy then buying from individual sellers can get you great savings. But like everything else, shopping online comes with its pros and cons.
A few months ago I bought a down-filled jacket from a seller on Craigslist. I was able to score for $560 a jacket that retails for $725 plus tax. My experience was great, but here’s what I did to make sure it ran smoothly.
Ask for pictures
If you’re buying clothes, or certain other kinds of items, you always want to see how it looks before you make a deal. Most sellers know this already and will include a photo, but sometimes the picture isn’t enough. Try searching for the item in stores before turning to the Internet. This way, you know how it looks, what size you need and its typical retail value.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Most sellers are open to other offers as long as they’re reasonable. Just because it’s being sold online, doesn’t always mean it’s cheaper. Always research the item ahead of time.
Decide if it’s actually worth your time
Let’s face it, we’re all busy people and sometimes the savings don’t match up to the effort. For my $250 in savings I think it was worth the time and the drive, but for $40, I’d have to rethink it.
Set up the meeting in a public location
I can’t stress this enough. Good deals are great, but not at the expense of your safety. There are unfortunate stories of someone putting up a Craigslist ad and then being robbed for whatever they were selling. As the buyer you’re usually at the mercy of the seller as to where you’ll meet, but if you’re uncomfortable with their location, don’t be afraid to suggest another and make it a public one. Interestingly enough, Ryan Finlay, a 30-year-old from Portland, OR, who makes a living from buying and selling products from Craigslist, suggests the opposite because the person could snatch and grab your money or item in a public location.
Always check the quality
Usually, the seller will mention whether the item is new or used, but take some time to look over your purchase before handing over the cash. If it’s not in the condition described in the ad, see if you can negotiate a different price—or just walk away.