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Chapter 7. Online Classifieds: Are They ... > Cons of Online Classifieds Selling

Cons of Online Classifieds Selling

Of course, there are also several good reasons not to sell via online classifieds. It’s not all milk and honey—and, in fact, online classifieds selling is considerably more difficult than what you’re used to with the eBay marketplace. Here are the things that aren’t so good about online classifieds selling:

  • It’s not national. Maybe you don’t want to limit your sales to where you live. Maybe you can reach more customers (and make more sales) by selling anywhere in the country, or in the world. If you don’t want to limit your sales to your local area, then online classifieds are not for you.

  • You have to provide your own payment services. This is a big one. eBay lets you collect payment by credit card via its PayPal online payment service. Online classifieds sites (with the notable exception of Google Base) offer no such payment services. Most online classifieds sellers accept payment via cash—and sometimes via cashier’s check, money order, or (if careful about it) personal check. Most online classifieds sellers are too small to sign up for commercial credit card services and thus can’t accept payment via credit card. This can limit your customer base to those who have cash on hand.

  • There are no listing management tools available. If you’re used to all the tools and support that eBay offers its sellers, you’re not going to like online classifieds selling. These sites, craigslist included, offer few (if any) tools to sellers. You get a form to fill in when you list your item, but that’s it. Managing your listings is totally up to you.

  • There’s no protection from shady buyers. eBay is very protective of both its buyers and sellers. If you have a buyer who tries to take you for a purchase, you have recourse from the eBay site. Not so from online classifieds sites. If a buyer decides not to pay, or writes you a rubber check, you’re on your own.

  • You have to deal with a lot of flakes and frauds. I hate to generalize, but chances are you’re going to run into a lot more flakes and frauds on an online classifieds site than you did on eBay. craigslist in particular is home to interested buyers who don’t show up as scheduled and to human and automated scamsters who try to defraud you out of money and merchandise. In my personal experience, somewhere between 10% and 25% of potential buyers back out without so much as a phone call or email; that’s a lot of wasted effort for most sellers.

  • It’s a local pickup business. Okay, it’s nice not having to pack up and ship everything you sell, but it can be a pain to arrange to be home for potential buyers to look at your merchandise in person or pick up items they want to buy. And do you really want a lot of strangers traipsing around your home or office? That’s one of the “joys” of local selling—effectively establishing a retail presence.


    Beware especially of potential buyers who email you saying they’ll send a cashier’s check for the purchase and have a “local agent” pick it up for them. This is almost always a fraud that leaves you out the merchandise with a phony cashier’s check in your hand—and perhaps out some cash, if you were asked to refund the difference for a cashier’s check that was written in excess of the purchase price.

  • It’s not geared to businesses. This may be the biggest drawback to selling via online classifieds. Most of these sites are targeted at individuals selling onesies and twosies from their basements and garages; they’re not targeted at ongoing businesses. In fact, craigslist explicitly warns against businesses selling on its site—although it can’t really bar them from doing so. Know that your professional presence on craigslist and other sites might not be welcomed by all in the community, and act accordingly.


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