After getting a way-too-sketchy job through craigslist a few years back, I decided not to trust the site again. I mean, come on! A community site done completely in Times New Roman? Wayyyy sketchy.
But a week or two ago, while I was freaking out over the exchange rates and finding a job, I figured I’d give it another shot. Of course, I now know better than to give out all of my personal information (like my full name!) in the first e-mail, and I figured out how to tailor my formulaic replies of interest to each particular post.
So, when I was trying to look for a cheaper place to stay in Manhattan, I took to heart the advice from this Get Rich Slowly post about craigslisting and did three things:
1. Formulated a clear idea of what I wanted before I searched for it. I wanted a sublease of a nice (read: not seedy) apartment for three specific nights within a specific price range.
2. Pounced on each post that had what I wanted when I started looking. This is where RSS feeds came in handy. (A visual guide to making craigslist RSS feeds is in this lifehacker post called Apartment Hunting 101.)
And I’m sure those template replies that you can configure in most mail clients would’ve come in handy if I’d remembered them, but cutting and pasting a set reply, then tailoring it to the specific poster also worked fine.
3. Established my legitimacy when I e-mailed the poster. Having learned my lesson from the sketchy craigslist job, I didn’t include my full name, address, or phone number in the first few e-mails. However, I decided to use my @stanford.edu e-mail address so they’d know I really was a California student. I included other details accordingly. As a general rule, the more detailed their post was, the more background info I included about myself and the circumstances of my interest in their ‘goodies’.
Here’s the rundown of the events surrounding my sublease:
I quickly replied to an ad for an apartment in the right location, at the right price, and almost during the right time span (the subletter graciously banished herself elsewhere so I could get an earlier night). The post seemed friendly, clear and concise (and didn’t have cringe-inducing typos and grammatical errors).
The subletter replied a few days later. I actually got the bid a bit faster than I’d expected– she wanted me to mail her the payment and damage deposit checks ASAP!
This made me panic a little; it sounded sketchy. But after some Googling of said subletter’s name and e-mail address, I found out she was a travel writer (which she confirmed in her next e-mail. It explained why she needed everything so quickly– she was going out of the country!).
But just in case:
- I wrote up a sublease agreement that she would electronically sign and send before I mailed her the checks. (I originally wanted her to notarize it and snail mail it before I sent anything. Yeah, that was my old Jersey City paranoia talking.) I would include with the checks a signed paper copy of the same agreement.
- I asked for pictures of the place since she didn’t include any in the ad, and
- I asked about a few other details about what my boyfriend and I could use in the apartment, like utensils and sheets and food (and about the cat she mentioned in her ad!).
Her reply to my e-mail was timely, with everything I asked for, and the details she included went far beyond my expectations. (In short: She’s Awesome.) That’s why two checks and a signed contract are currently in a Priority Mail envelope on their way to Manhattan.
I am excited. This is FANTASTIC. I just need to cancel my hotel reservation once everything clears.