Thursday, September 11, 2008

Buy Big Stuff Now

For all you big spenders out there, here's a store that specializes in big stuff - mostly big versions of things that aren't really so big, which is what makes it cool. Big coolness.

Great Big Stuff


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How to Find Great Deals on Craigslist

I've found a lot of great deals on Craigslist, mostly on musical instruments but also furniture and other cool stuff. I often get things for way less than you'd expect. Partially it's because I'm a notorious chiseller. But I also have some specific tips on how to find the best deals. This is best for musical instruments but it works well for any kind of item:

1. Visit often and only look at the newest posts

This is my ultimate Craigslist technique. If there's a really good deal on Craigslist, odds are it's going to get snapped up quickly. So check the listings as frequently as you can, and only look at the most recent listings. You want to be the first one who responds. Usually people will hold the item for you to be fair, even if other people call after you and say they can come right over. Once I saw a vintage tube guitar amp for $50 and I knew it was a great deal. I was the first caller and I said I'd come right over and get it. When I got there, the guy told me that 10 people had called right after me. I gave him $60 because I didn't have change. A year later I saw the same amp on Craigslist for $350. Another tip to make this easier is to always click on the first listing, that way when you come back you can see which listings are new since you last visited.

2. Try searching for misspellings

If you're looking for congas, try "congos" or "congo". If you're looking for cymbals, try "symbols" or "cymbols". You'll find things that other people won't.

3. Get creative with your search terms

I was looking for modern furniture, and I realized that there were certain words that were likely to find things that appealed to me. One of the words was "Danish". Not all the results were actually Danish furniture, but they tended to be to my taste. For music gear, I often search for "vintage", "60s", "tube", "reel", etc. - I like vintage 60s tube amps and reel to reels. When I was looking for a Gibson Melody Maker, I searched for both "melody maker" and "melodymaker" - different results each time.

4. Use the min/max amount fields

If you're just looking for bargains, try leaving the search field blank and putting in a max price of $50, and see what comes up. If you're looking for high-quality things, take the opposite approach. You can even search in all items for sale and see what comes up, you never know what you'll find.

5. Check the "free" and "barter" categories

You'd be amazed at what people are giving away on Craigslist, or what you can get by trading. And you can always offer money instead of barter. These categories are 'off the beaten path.'

6. Search in nearby regions

Depending on where you live, you might be able to search in multiple communities and get good deals with a little extra travel. I live in LA, and when I was buying a drum set I got a great deal on one in San Diego. I had to spend a few hours in the car, but this was before $4/gallon gas, and the deal was so good it more than made up for the extra time and gas money.

7. Ask people if they have anything else for sale

When I bought the aforementioned drum set, the seller was a professional drummer with a house full of drums. I needed more than what was included in the drum set, so I asked if he had any old cymbals or stands he could sell me. I ended up getting a great deal on some vintage Zildjians and I didn't have to go back to Craigslist for more.

8. Haggle

Some people don't like to haggle. I'm not one of them. I think it's a time-honored tradition that helps both parties walk away feeling like they got the better deal. Wait until you're at the seller's house with cash in pocket, and ask for a break on the price. Be reasonable and know what the item is worth, people don't appreciate lowballers or time-wasters... but most people would rather not have to show an item multiple times, and they are often very motivated to sell. Ask for extras, like cables, accessories, power supplies, and spare parts. The seller might throw in something that would be quite expensive if you had to get it from a store.

9. Look at items and know your sh*t

When I'm looking for a specific item, I try to become a total expert on that item - that way I can recognize a good or a bad deal when I see it. Look at all the listings for a given item, even if they're out of your price range or region. Learn about the details so you can inspect the item carefully and know whether it's in good shape or not. Look at listings on ebay for the item in mint condition, they tend to have lots of nice pictures you can use to know what a prime specimen looks like.

10. Be cool

The great thing about Craigslist is that people treat it like a local community, even though it's an international marketplace. As a result, people often just want to "find a good home" for their stuff, and have little interest in profit. This is not always the case, but I've met some really nice people and gotten some great deals, and there's always this conspiratorial vibe like we're both in on some big secret. It's so good, let's not mess it up.

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