Friday, June 14, 2013

in praise of craigslist and nice people

What website is there that has produced so much consumer surplus as craigslist? (Except amazon maybe.)

I've found four apartments on craigslist, bought three motorcycles, and sold two motorcycles on craigslist. I've bought and sold more concert, festival, and burning man tickets on craigslist than I can possibly count. I furnished three apartments entirely from free or almost-free furniture on craigslist, and then got rid of all that furniture on craigslist again when moving across the country twice. I've bought 13 bicycles and sold 13 bicycles on craigslist, and countless miscellaneous items.

I met one of my best friends via craigslist, and dated people I met on craigslist. I've found three roommates through craigslist. I set up two of my friends with people I found on craigslist (and they're both now engaged or married to that person, so don't let anyone tell you craigslist is only full of creeps :)

But until two days ago, I'd never realized how fantastic it is as a general-purpose focal point for all community-bulletin-board-type material, beyond facilitating trade. I was motorcycling around north Berkeley, and since it was hot out and I wasn't going on the highway, I stuffed my nice motorcycle jacket* in the saddlebag. But one buckle is broken, and it slipped out from under the other one. As soon as I got back to school I noticed and retraced my steps, but it was already gone.

I immediately went to craigslist to post an ad in the lost and found section, thinking, what the heck, there's no way this'll work but it's worth a shot. I then printed out 50 lost-reward flyers to put up along the route, and went to the gym to meet my friend and borrow her rollerblades so I could put them up in a reasonable amount of time. As I was leaving the gym about 90 minutes later, dreading having to go back and put them all up, I noticed a voicemail. Someone had called to tell me that she randomly saw my "lost" ad right next to someone's "found" ad with the same description, and she called just to let me know. Can you believe how nice some people are!?

I then went back to craigslist and saw that I had posted my ad within two minutes of the other ad, about 20 minutes after I lost it in the first place. I emailed the poster, retrieved my jacket, and he adamantly refused to let me pay him the $50 reward. These people give me faith in humanity. Within an hour of losing something quite valuable, a stranger had attempted to return it to me and another stranger had tried to facilitate.

I love craigslist. And nice people.

(And now I will of course use this incident to point out how well public services can be provided by private entities. Can you imagine what a horror show a government-run craigslist would be?)

*By the way, at least for smallish women, these are one of those rare things that are totally worth paying the exorbitant full price for. Over 8 years it's been worth its $280 price several times over...


Anonymous said...

I do love CL as well. I worry about it as a generalizable example of the private provision of services. Part of CL's beauty is that it is so simple and barely commercialized - and yet, those feature run against the spirit of capitalism (so to speak) or rational profit maximization. So, yes, public services can be provided by private entities.. but it helps when those entities aren't driven by the profit motive exclusively (even if they are for-profit organizations).

Vera L. te Velde said...

that's true. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm more optimistic about the existence of those entities than analogous effective government entities :)