Now that I’ve let my CL lurking turn into a full-fledged obsession, I feel like I’m qualified to offer some advice to posters. Here are the “7 deadly sins of CL postings,” the things that really get under my skin, in no particular order:

  1. Misrepresenting your price. Don’t list your price as $1 just so people will click through. That’s straight up obnoxious. And if your title says “pair” or “set” or anything similar, don’t list the price for a single item. It’s frustrating for buyers to see “Set of 4 dining chairs — $150” on the listings page, only to click through and find that they’re $150 a piece.
  2. Listing multiple items at once. I get that you probably don’t have tons of time to list the 15 things you’re hoping to sell, but when you list multiple items in one posting (that aren’t a set, of course), you’re making it much harder on buyers. Not only is your title not going to be an accurate description of what you’re selling, but buyers will have no idea which items are still available. Sure, some of them might take the time to email you to see if the chair you listed among a dozen other items is still there, but many won’t. Another reason this practice stinks: You can’t provide accurate pricing information on your listing page. If you list your lowest price item, you’re committing sin numero uno. If you list a higher priced item, you might lead people to pass right by your posting. And if you try to list a range of prices, say “$50-$150,” it’ll come out looking like “$50150.” Eek!
  3. Fake tagging. I’m a big fan of honest tagging. People refer to items in many different ways, so it’s useful to include multiple terms in your post. Maybe you refer to it as a “couch,” but others might call it a “sofa” or even a “loveseat.” Include all three. Spelling can also be an issue, so, for example, if you’re posting something from 1950, you might include all of these tags: “midcentury,” “mid century,” “mid-century” and “MCM” since they’ll each reveal different results. On the other hand, it is completely obnoxious to include a bunch of tags that aren’t true. For example, if you’re selling a non-brandname table, don’t include “Pottery Barn,” “Crate and Barrel,” “Restoration Hardware,” “West Elm,” “CB2,” “Room and Board,” “Wisteria,” “Z Gallery,” etc., etc., etc. in your post. It’s dishonest! If your table looks just like a PB table, include that in the description: “Similar to current Pottery Barn table at triple the price!” But don’t add all the other tags.
  4. Listing an unreasonable price. Maybe your furniture was top-of-the-line when you bought it, but if it’s now dated, it’s not going to sell for high price, even if it’s in good condition or made of solid wood. Sorry. No one wants your solid oak dining set. No one wants oak anything right now. Similarly, a brand name isn’t worth that much if it’s more that 10 years old. If you bought an Ethan Allen chair for $1000 in 1999, it’s not going to sell for $600 in 2012. If it’s important for you to get things out of your house, offer them at reasonable prices.
  5. Being unnecessarily agressive. I’m not sure if this would stop people from buying something they wanted, but it certainly turns me off. Why do you need to include “No spammers!!!” or “DON’T EMAIL ME TO ASK IF IT’S AVAILABLE! IF IT’S UP, IT’S AVAILABLE.” or “Serious inquiries only!” in your post? Seriously, do these work? Do spammers respect your request? Didn’t anyone ever tell you that using all caps is akin to yelling, and thus is considered rude? The people searching CL are basically your customers, so don’t yell at them or belittle their questions. Note: I’ve sold a few things on CL before, and sure I got a couple non-serious responses, but it’s not like they filled up my inbox. What’s the big deal, people?
  6. Not re-listing your unsold items. This mostly hurts you, but it’s a pain for buyers too. CL postings expire after 7 days in the DC area (if you’re from a non-major city, you have 45 days). If your item hasn’t sold in that time, you need to re-list it. Actually, I appreciate it when people re-list items every other day or so. That way buyers don’t have to search through pages and pages to find your item. On the other hand, I’ll say it’s equally sinful to re-list your item every few hours. There’s no need to re-list your item multiple times in one day, and yet lots of people do it.
  7. Not providing enough information. This has been said a million times, so I won’t harp on it, but come on, if you have any hope of  selling your item for a decent price, you have to include a decent picture. It shouldn’t be blurry, pixilated, obscured, tiny or upside down. The people who successfully sell items on CL almost always have good pictures. Just as important is to include important information in your description. Include condition details and dimensions. Most people will want to know about both of those before they trek out to your place to see the piece. You’ll save yourself from having to answer a lot of emails with the same questions. Some people don’t even provide the most basic information, which is worse. If you say that you have a “set” of chairs, make sure you include how many are in that set. If you are selling headboards, make sure you say what size bed they fit. It amazes me what information some people leave off!