How Craiglist could generate more revenue and simultaneously not introduce me to people who waste my time

Here’s my beef with Craigslist. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s not worth $100 for my old sofa to spend time prepping items, taking pictures, transferring pictures to my computer, creating a new post, adding my photos to the post, filling out a ridiculously impossible-to-read-half-the-time captcha, waiting for the email, and clicking the link to go to a page that still hasn’t published my post, and then clicking “Publish.”

LET ALONE that it’s worth my time to email with these colossally inconsiderate people who ask me questions I’ve already answered in the post — all of which I answer again because I’m trying to make a sale and attempting to NOT be annoyed — and only then do I give my home address and cell phone number (which I would in normal circumstances never give to a stranger), set a time, rearrange plans or postpone plans to accommodate the potential buyer, deal with the frustration of a no-show, then wonder if that person is going to be able to steal my identity or break-in someday without me making any connection.

I can’t possibly be alone in my frustration with Craiglist’s (seemingly) increasing attraction of people who get away with being rude. I know when Craig Newmark spoke this year at TEDxPotomac, he encouraged the audience (and those watching online) to “be nice.”

Why aren’t his users listening?

So here’s a way that I propose Craiglist slightly injure two birds with one stone for any item over some minimum limit, say $50 or $100 maybe:

  1. After the general back-and-forth happens between a prospective buyer and the seller, then the two parties arrive at some agreement about a meeting.
  2. The seller — on the original confirmation of publish page (accessible through the confirmation email link) — clicks a button labeled “Establish meeting.”
  3. The seller is taken to a page where she inputs her first name, the agreed-upon date, time, address or parking details, and the prospective buyer’s email address. She clicks a button labeled “Request confirmation.”
  4. The prospective buyer then receives an email. Within it, he can either:
    1. Click a button that says “Confirm Craigslist meeting request with [seller’s first name and email address],” which then:
      1. Takes him to a screen to submit a valid credit card number with accompanying content such as: “To finalize this meeting time, please enter a valid credit card number. If you show up as you’ve confirmed with the seller, we won’t charge you anything. But if you decide not to show up for the meeting, we’ll debit $5.00 from your account. [Explain process in more detail because clearly people will panic when Craigslist tells them they’re now going to be held accountable (to Craigslist’s benefit) if they waste other people’s time inconsiderately.]”
    2. Click a button that says “Deny Craiglist meeting request with [seller’s first name and email address]”
  5. The seller receives a confirmation email listing the buyer’s action.
    1. If the prospective buyer rejects the meeting, that’s the end of that exchange.
    2. If the prospective buyer accepts the meeting, then, we all wait with baited breath.
  6. On meeting date and time, Craigslist fires off a follow-up email to the seller. The email requests that the seller either answer “Yes” or “No” that the prospective buyer showed up (even if no sale was made).
    1. If “Yes,” the seller indicates as such, clicks a button labeled “Submit,” and swims in her new roomful of gold coins.
    2. If “No,” then the seller has to enter various required details about the no-show. She clicks a button labeled “Submit” after entering that data.
  7. An email is sent to the buyer. It tells the buyer if the seller said he showed or not.
    1. If “Yes,” the buyer pats himself on the back. Way to be responsible! Craiglist doesn’t debit a penny from his card.
    2. If “No,” then the buyer has 24-48 hours to respond to Craiglist. They can call the seller a liar, they can make up stories about killer bees or flat tires, and they can provide references to deny the seller’s claim.
      1. If the buyer doesn’t respond within the time limit allowed, $5 is debited from his account.
      2. If the buyer responds with a lame story, Craigslist can choose to debit $5 from his account.
      3. If the buyer responds with a completely believable or interesting story (which could be featured in Best Of, for example), Craigslist can choose to NOT debit $5 from his account.

Ok, so I just generated revenue to Craigslist in an area that currently doesn’t generate revenue. And I’ve encouraged people to stop and think about how considerate they want to be of my time and general community values — or how (financially) supportive of Craigslist they want to be.


Hey, I didn’t say it would be easy to implement. I just said it would generate revenue and make people more responsible for their bailing decisions.

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