Friday, August 1, 2008

Tips for Dealing with Strangers on Craigslist

Be Cautious when Getting Rid of that Eyesore in Your Yard

Tips for dealing with strangers on craigslist
by Michelle Wendt
Read This article on my Associated Content Page!
Tips for Dealing with Strangers on Craigslist
Be Cautious when Getting Rid of that Eyesore in Your Yard

Today was my first real experience using craigslist. I posted an ad for a FREE swing set, two hours later the old eyesore is gone and I have more space in my yard. This whole experience was not without it's dangers and pitfalls. With a little planning, you can get rid of your old stuff and still feel safe. Within five minutes of me posting my seven-year-old swing set, rusty pictures and all, I had eleven replies and people were begging me to pick them, strange people I didn't know. Before ever placing an ad that could bring strangers to your door, take a moment to consider if you know of someone you are already acquainted with that may be able to use your old junk. Offer them the rights of first refusal.
If you are unable to give your junk away to friends, there are a few things to consider when allowing someone you don't know to come to your house. I was a bit cautious in giving out my address, after all, who wants strangers coming to their yard? I wrote the ad specifying that I would not provide tools or access to my house to use the bathroom or for any other reason. I figured this would keep any potential freaks away. When they pulled up I looked out of the window and wrote down their license plate number. Absolutely do this whenever you are letting strangers on your property. I locked the house door behind me when I went outside to greet the couple and pointed them to the rear yard. I had my cell phone in my hand. My three mini-schnauzers were barking madly from the inside windows, but I still I kept my distance at all times. Always keep something between you and strangers, preferably something you could throw at them if necessary.
The man brought his own tools and generator, since I would not be providing electricity. Do not provide access to your house, ever. I have no outside power line and I was not going to run a line out of my house, it would mean the house would be unsecured. Yes, I am a type A personality.
I was relieved that he was prepared with an electric saw and I was all set to go back into the house when his toddler made a beeline for the swing set and started swinging. When I write beeline, I mean it, I had to ask the couple to remove the child from the set as bees had made a hive in it a few years ago and it might not be safe. I can tell you, my first thought when she sat on the swing was, "What if she gets hurt on my property?" What could I have done? I should have made sure that the child did not come on my property. I could have dragged the swing set to the front yard. In this litigious society, we cannot be too careful about who is on our property and we cannot ever let our homeowners policies lapse. When writing your own ad you can always specify that children are not permitted on your property.
How do you pick from all the replies? I wondered that myself, they all wanted my set, at least 3 repliers wanted the set immediately. I even got a few sob stories, "I am interested in the swing set and can take it apart. My kids having been bugging me for one for some time now and being in the midst of a divorce I have not had the financial ability to provide one." I continued opening the emails and thought about how to decide.
The one I hated to turn away was from a grandmother; "I really could use this for my granddaughter, who spends a lot of time with me. It would be a great diversion from having to go into the pool with her all the time."
To be fair I chose the person who got back to me the quickest. Hindsight tells me that I should have picked the one who agreed to all my type-A requests, which I did.
After packing the pieces up in their truck, the scrapping couple left, taking my eyesore and a whole lotta bees with them. I have saved myself a trip to the town dump, an uncomfortable conversation with my husband about dismantling the set, and painful bee stings, but it was an unsettling experience just the same. I actually got an email from the couple that picked up the swing set after I thanked them, "If you ever decide to sell your patio set we would be interested," Clara wrote. Okay, now I don't know if I should feel uncomfortable or not. Is this the start of an ongoing relationship, will they be back scavenging everything made of metal in my yard? Probably not, but it freaked me out. Take your ad down immediately after the item is gone from your yard and do not reply to any further inquiries.
As far as my experience with Craigslist goes, I think it is a valuable resource for everyone, but I will always be cautious with people I am not familiar with. When I sell my living room furniture in the coming weeks to make room for the new set, I will bring the furniture out of doors so we don't have any strangers in my house. The safety of my family is worth me dragging it outside.