The Problem(s) with Craigslist

I have mixed increasingly negative feelings about craigslist. Like all websites, its utility has faced a diminishing law of returns – its usefulness declines the more people use exploit it.

I used to think that what would help was if there were some kind of buyer/seller pricing app or plug-in, a tool that would mine craigslist listings for any item and recommend a fair selling price based on the pricing data and how long the listing lived on the site. A Kelley Blue Book-style tool for craigslist, if you will, like the ebay seller tools. But then I realized that all that would tell you is what the seller asked for. Not what the item actually sold for, if it even ever sold.

Craigslist suffers from the same problems as Yelp: the lack of any oversight means that there are no standards to ensure any consistency or quality. On Yelp, there’s no rhyme or reason to what 1, 3, or 5 stars means. What constitutes 4 star service to me might be 3 star to someone else. And what I think is 1 star food might get rated as 5 star by some reviewer suffering from ageusia.

The other problem they both have in common? There’s no floodgate to control the number of identities or postings one can make. Are these sites assuming we’re dumb enough to believe the number of users is representative of the real number of unique users? Twitter, anyone? Just because there’s “Bill,” “Wee Billy Winky” and “Will-e,” all of whom go gaga for the food doesn’t mean that some fanboy hasn’t logged in under 3 different identities. And that’s not even counting all the self-promo ‘reviews’ planted by corporate hacks, owners, bots, and paid reviewers. Likewise, some craigslist yahoo might think their ugly-ass orange chair is worth $500 when I wouldn’t pay $5 for it. Or, just because someone lists their chair for $500 and it sells doesn’t mean it sold for $500. Hopefully the buyer negotiated to trade it for their mean cat.

And all of that is setting aside all the many, many other problems. You have the flaky buyers/sellers. You know, the sellers who, when you text to let them know you’re at the apartment complex gate, text you back to say “oh, sorry. Just sold it to someone else” even though they knew you were on your way 10 minutes ago. And the buyers? Don’t get me started. Texting at all hours, berating you in ALL CAPS EMAILS for not having responded to their other grammar-poor email from 10 minutes ago, never showing up for the agreed-upon exchange. You have the sellers that abuse the listings, listing their item multiple times every single day, making sifting through the listings about as effective as flushing the display toilets at Home Depot. And let’s not forget the whole recent spate of craigslist-based crimes that make the buyer/seller exchange just downright scary. Even if you could eliminate the criminal element, the site is just useless these days.

Related: where am I going to offload my old loveseat now?