What we can learn from a craigslist ad

My husband and I are big fans of Craigslist, both for selling and buying. We really like the concept of keeping usable items out of the waste stream and letting others enjoy them. Why buy new when there are so many great items in perfect condition on craigslist? Plus, you save so much money buying used items over brand new items.

The people who use craigslist are a diverse group. I suppose in a lot of ways craigslist is a snapshot of the world. And, what I’ve discovered is you can learn a lot about a person just by their craigslist ad.

Let’s look at some craigslist sellers.

Seller A includes a detailed description of the item with several photos. Each photo shows a different angle of the item. This seller usually includes the dimensions of the item. And often, the seller writes something like, “Thanks for looking”.

Here’s an example:

Beautiful Vintage 1940’s Dark Mahogany Veneer Round Two Tiered Display End Table With Curved Legs And Gold Capped Feet
27″ Tall X 24″ Diameter
Shelves Have Lip Around Edge
Very Nice Condition

$55 OBO

Please Email With Questions

Thank you,

This seller included four photos of the table taken from different angles.

Let’s examine another kind of seller. We’ll call this person “Seller B”. This individual posts a brief description with no or a very bad photo(s) of the item. The photos might be of the item, but the item might be cluttered with other things on it, or the item is next to several other objects and everything is a big mess. Here’s an example of one such photo:

Also, there are often no dimensions listed for the item and there might even be misspellings in the ad.

Here’s an example:

The ad title was “For sale”. No price was listed and there were no photos.

“Have dresser’s end talbes coffee table couch’s many nick nacks and kitchen stuff like new best offer take’s it.”

There is one more type of seller. This seller spends half of the description telling you to go away if you ask if the item is still available, if you’re a spammer, if you don’t leave a phone number, if you aren’t serious, if you’re this, that and the other and the words “idiot” and “stupid” are often used throughout the ad.

Now, let’s assume people are craigslist ads. If you were looking to hire, promote, or do business with these people, who would you pick? I would guess most of you would say Seller A.

When we put care into how we look, how we communicate, and are helpful and friendly, we typically are more successful in the world, whether that’s professionally or socially.

Conversely, someone who puts no energy into how they look, how they dress and how they come across to others, typically does not do as well in the business world or socially.

Obviously, these are generalizations, but if you think of the people you know who are successful, they usually put effort into having a polished and positive personal brand.

So next time you’re faced with an important interview, are hoping for that promotion or are trying to land a big client, think of the craigslist sellers and choose to be an A seller.





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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. cyndiodady on December 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Arden, 
    Great analogy!  Reminds me of the saying “the way you do anything is the way you do everything”.  
    The good news in embracing this philosophy is – if you change the way you relate to anything, that can shift everything for you…

  2. ArdenClise on December 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Cyndi, I love that expression. Isn’t it true, that “the way you do anything is the way you do everything.” And, yes, change is possible.
    Thank you for commenting.

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