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A hustler’s guide to selling used gear online

A Hustler's Guide to Selling Used Gear Online

Don’t let my middle-class upbringing and not-quite-homeless appearance fool you – I am a straight-up hustler. I flip TV’s, speakers, cellphones, laptops, MP3 players, guitars – practially anything with a power cord, really – just to make a few untaxable bucks outside of work and pay for all the overpriced cocktails and concert tickets I want. I’ve been doing it for years now, and not to brag, but I’m pretty damn good at it. I’m here today to share some of my wisdom with you, and give you some pointers on how and why you should sell your used electronics, like, tomorrow. 

We’ll start with why you should sell your stuff.

1. You have too much of it. I’ve been to enough yard sales and helped enough people switch apartments that I know this for a fact. Most of us living in this consumption-crazed digital age have more electronic crap than we know what to do with. Go ahead and laugh at those people on Hoarders, but we all do it. I’m willing to bet your garage has at least one old computer monitor in it. I can’t tell you how many people i know that still have their AV recievers from 15 years ago, just because they’re too lazy to get rid of them, and in the back of their minds they think “I might need this in the future.” No, you won’t. That new one you bought will do just fine. 

2. Your stuff is only losing value. Unless you hold onto them until they’re old enough to become collectors items, your old electronics will only depreciate over time. The rapid progression of technology is a double edged sword – there’s always something new and exciting, but every new generation of hardware typically makes your stuff worth less than it was yesterday. If you resell stuff sooner, you recoup more of the original cost and can put that money toward newer, nicer stuff. 

3. You’ve probably been meaning to sell your old junk anyway, so just do it already and stop wasting time. 

Used Electronics

Where to sell your stuff

Don’t toil with any of those skeezy used electronics buyback services like Gazelle or Glyde. These are the pawn shops of the Internet: they might be quick and easy, but they rip you off like the tag on a king-size mattress. Use Craigslist and eBay to get the most back for your stuff. Selling things in these marketplaces definitely takes a bit more time and effort, but you’re rewarded for that work with higher returns.

When deciding which site to use, be conscious of your target market. Craigslist is local and eBay is global. Something that might not sell on CL could get you huge returns on eBay, and certain things that would take weeks to sell on eBay might sell in a couple hours on Craigslist. It’s hard to explain, but an example I like to use is the Hello Kitty toaster I once got at a yard sale. I didn’t get a single response when I posted it on Craigslist, but it only took four hours before a bidding war for it erupted on eBay. Specific, niche items tend to do better on eBay because you have access to a wider market, whereas common items like iPods do better on Craigslist simply because they tend to get buried on eBay. It’s impossible to make a simple, overarching rule for when to sell something on one site versus the other, but just trust your judgement and you’ll be fine. When in doubt, just post on both. 

To be quite honest, I only use eBay for about 10 percent of the stuff I sell – the rest is all on Craigslist. Since it’s a localized market, I don’t have to mess around with shipping, and almost all transactions are in cash, which just makes life easier. 

How to sell your stuff

Do some research. Take a look at how much other people are selling similar items for and formulate your asking price accordingly. Don’t expect to get 90 percent of the retail price you paid for it. Even if it’s lightly used, people generally aren’t willing to pay more than 70 percent of the MSRP for anything that’s been previously owned. If you ask too much, nobody is going to make a bid or send you a response, so use your brain and figure out a reasonable price. 

Write a good ad. We’ve already covered how to write a great craigslist ad, but for those of you who prefer to read the Cliff Notes, here’s the gist of it:

  • Give it a brief but descriptive title, and DON’T BE THAT MORON WHO USES CAPS LOCK FOR THE WHOLE AD.
  • Take a damn picture. Better yet, take two. Nobody will buy what you’re selling if they can’t see it first. Ok, maybe somebody will, but your chances of getting a response are astronomically lower if you don’t have a picture. If you have a smartphone, you have absolutely no excuse to post a pictureless ad.
  • Use bullet points to list features and specs, use bold letters to highlight keywords, and be honest about any damage. You don’t have to list every single scuff and scratch, but keep in mind that the person who buys the thing you’re selling is always going to look at it before they hand over the cash, so lying doesn’t help you at all.
  • If you’re not good with words, you’re probably not good with numbers either, and people will take advantage of that – I know I do.

Learn to haggle. Us Westerners have a reputation for being lousy at haggling, AKA bargaining and making deals. Personally, I dont think we deserve it. Sure, there are hundreds of inept tourists that get ripped off in the street markets of the Middle East every day, but I’ve haggled with enough shady people on Craigslist to know that the US is full of savvy dealmakers. People buying stuff online are more than willing to haggle with you, and it’s highly likely that you’ll get lowballed if you try to sell something online. So, for those of you who might not be so acquainted with aggressive bargaining, here are a few suggestions on how to deal with it. Broadly speaking, there are two ways you can go about selling something:

  1. Post whatever you’re selling at a higher price than you actually want for it, and then let people haggle you down a few bucks. It makes them feel like they have good bargaining skills and they’re getting a good deal. Just be careful not to post your item for too much initially, since it might turn people off.
  2. Post it for exactly what you want, and tell people explicitly that you won’t respond to lowballers. This will undoubtedly be offputting to some craigslist shoppers, and you won’t get as many responses, but if somebody does respond, you’ll know they’re willing to pay the price you’re asking. 
lets make a deal

General-purpose hustling tips 

Use your phone. Email is great if you have a day job where you’re in front of a computer all day, but in all other cases, text messaging and phone calls are more immediate and practical. When I make posts, I include my phone number and email address, and invite people to contact me however they prefer. I can’t speak for every hustler out there, but I’d say about 70 percent of the responses I get are texts. In my experience, the majority of people who buy my electronics on Craigslist appear strapped for cash, so it’s likely they don’t have computers, but do have smartphones. Having your phone handy is key to a healthy hustle. 

Texts are a hustler’s best friend, but don’t ever post your number in an ad like so: 555-555-5555. That’s a spambot’s wet dream. Instead, spell out a few (or all) of the numbers, like this: 555-five 5 five-5555. That’ll help keep your number off boner pill mailing lists. If you’d prefer not to post your real number at all, you can always use Google Voice to make an alias number and keep your real digits safe from spammers. 

Not selling? Repost your ad. You’ll have to copy the content and delete it first, but once you repost it’ll show up earlier in Craigslist’s chronological results. Another option is to make listings for other areas, but this isn’t always effective, since Craigslist already indexes ads from nearby locations. It might be worth a shot depending on the area you live in, though.

If you can’t post today, post on Thursday. Weekends are prime hustling season, so if you can’t post your ad right away or you’re thinking of reposting soon, shoot for late on a Thursday afternoon. Trust me on this one. 

Fat screens = no greens. I know you dropped like two grand on it when you bought it back in 2001, but you won’t get more than 10 bucks for that giant 55-inch rear projection TV you have in the basement. Don’t even bother trying to sell it. Nobody wants that hideous monstrosity in their living room, and they damn sure don’t want to rent a U-Haul just to move it across town. You’re better off getting a baseball bat and remaking the printer scene from Office Space. The same rule applies to computer monitors. Nobody wants a chubby monitor hogging all their desk space, and flatscreen LCD panels are so effing cheap that anybody can afford them now. Fat smartphones like the original iPhone and Motorola Droid aren’t easy to sell either, and probably aren’t worth your time. There is one exception though: those deep-dish first-gen iPod minis still sell pretty well. 

Burnt gas is lost cash. Don’t drive your stuff out to the other person unless you absolutely have to, and if you do, make sure they pay extra for the delivery. This ain’t Domino’s and gas ain’t cheap. Either make them come to you, or get paid to go to them. 

The End. Happy hustling.

Top image courtesy of Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock