Craigslist Day Trip
Posted by Leigh
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Paul and I were considering buying a push lawn sweeper in lieu of having to rake all our massive cottonwood’s leaves this fall. I went on the look out on Craigslist to see if I could find one, and last week I got a hit on one for $60 (this model normally goes for about $150). Good deal, right? So I emailed the guy selling it, asking him where in the Twin Cities he’s located. He replied back the he’s in Waterville, and that if I’m still interested to just let him know. My first thought was, “Hmm, isn’t Waterville somewhere in the north metro?” Turns out, not so much:
I was thinking Watertown; Waterville is a town about an hour and fifteen minutes away from the Twin Cities, just southwest of Faribault. Okay! Now, normally this might have surprised me, but I’ve been using Craigslist for about a year. I’ve come to recognize a set of rules, the first of which being Craigslist Rule #1: Expect some sort of unusual circumstance. There’s almost always more to a listing than meets the eye. I once inquired about a set of stair rail banisters from a listing in St. Paul, only to find out that the guy lived in Anoka but worked in the city (what a commute!). I ended up buying the bundle of banisters in the 3M parking lot. In the case of the lawn sweeper, the seller was just trying to move the product by listing it in our area. Considering that the Twin Cities Craigslist gets more views than any other Minnesota Craigslist page, I suppose I can’t blame him (although it was a bit deceptive).
After finding out about this unusual circumstance, was I still interested? For 60% off retail price and no taxes, with about $20 in gas round-trip, it still was a great deal. So yes!, I replied, I am still interested. I asked if Friday would be okay… and got no response. This happens quite a bit, and for my blood pressure’s sake I’ve learned to recognize Craigslist Rule #2: People can be flaky. At this point, I kind of had my heart set on going down there, so I emailed him again on Friday morning. Luckily, he promptly replied and I found out he would be out of town that afternoon. After a couple back-and-forths, we managed to find a day that worked for both of us.
That next Tuesday, Paul shifted his schedule at work so we could leave around 2:30 pm for Waterville. It ended up being a gorgeous day and we made great time going down there, arriving in town even a bit early. Waterville only has about 1800 residents, but that didn’t stop us from getting lost! We found the street but couldn’t find the house number, so we drove around the block. When we got to the seller’s street again, he was standing outside and waved at us. “You must be Leigh!” he yelled from across the street as we got out of the car. “It’s a small town, you can tell when someone’s lost,” he said as we walked up the sidewalk. Which brings me to my next rule, Craigslist Rule #3: The people you meet when buying/selling are generally pretty great.
We were able to get the lawn sweeper without a hitch, and it ended up being well worth the trip. I’ve written a couple of times before about the interactions I’ve had through Craigslist transactions, and I almost always come away with a smile on my face. Perhaps my experiences are unique (goodness knows there’s the potential for a seller or buyer to be a jerk), but I’d like to think it’s because I’m pretty good at screening the email responses. If someone seems dodgy, even if it’s just a gut feeling, I don’t go through with the sale. Craigslist Rule #4: No item is worth putting yourself in bad situation.
In this case, my Craigslist skills (perhaps even skillz?) got us an amazingly useful tool for taking care of the lawn this autumn. Of course I have to show it off a bit:
For those of you unfamiliar, the black shield on the front houses two stiff-bristled brushes attached to the axle. When the wheels spin, the brushes grab anything on the ground within reach (namely, leaves and grass clippings) and throw them backwards into the red collection bag. The bag actually comes completely out from the metal frame, but I’ve found that it’s easier just to dump the whole thing out onto a tarp. With our big yard — and big, leafy trees — this will be a life saver for the duration of the fall. This trip was definitely the longest I’ve driven to get something on Craigslist, but I absolutely think it was worth it.
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Epilogue: While our primary goal was to buy the lawn sweeper, we opted to use the trip as an opportunity to make a few other stops along the way. Click the links in the gallery below to see photos from our side adventures.