This week I’m selling a refrigerator on my local Raleigh-Durham Craigslist. It’s a chance for me to practice my marketing and copywriting, in a marketplace that doesn’t know me, trust me (a used appliance salesman!), or like me. Plus it’s highly competitive – I’m writing this at 10:30am and there are already 5 new posts up today for the search term "fridge":
Here’s my listing title, from yesterday:
Jul-10 Amana Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator – Quiet, Good Condition – $250 (Durham) pic <<household items
The first thing I did was research the competition so I could price my fridge competitively. As you can see from the photo below, it’s smack in the middle of my damn living room. If I can’t get rid of it in a day or two, I’m going to start using it as a bookcase. So I’m looking for a quick sale at a reasonable price. I thought I could get $300 maybe, so in the interest of a quick sale I dropped $50 to make it a no-brainer.
Second, I added two important benefits to the title: quiet, and good condition. When buying a used appliance, folks often want to know if it works and if it sounds like a construction site. Compare my addition to the exclamation point festival from a couple of the competing posts. Which is more likely to compel a click?
Third, I included a couple of photographs and indicated it with the "pic" in the listing headilne. Why would anyone borrow a pickup truck and drive half an hour to check out a fridge they can’t even see? As much as possible, don’t just describe your product or service online – demonstrate it.
For the fourth strategy, you have to read the entire post. I wanted to create the expectation of a positive experience for the buyer. Even though they’re getting a used refrigerator, they’re also getting into a potentially nasty situation: I could be unpleasant, unreasonable, a liar, a tough negotiator, or a psychopath. I wanted my readers to feel like they know, like, and trust me before they even come by to take a look. Here’s what I wrote:
This Amana bottom-freezer 18.6 Cu. Ft. refrigerator has been a loyal and stalwart member of our household since we moved into the house 2 years ago. It is a couple of years older than that- we’re not completely sure.
Here’s what we do know: it works great, in that it keeps food cold and ice colder. It’s quiet (quieter than the 24.8 Cu. Ft. behemoth that we chiseled out half of our kitchen cabinetry to accommodate, not that you want to listen to me whine in a Craiglist post), and reliable.
Dimensions: 67" tall (from floor to hinge), 29.5" wide and 30" deep.
Freezer has a pull-out wire basket.
Details of capacity and storage arrangements can be seen in the accompanying photographs, which were taken with a Canon SureShot A400 with F4.5 and 1/60 shutter speed, using natural light with fill-in flash (just in case you work for National Geographic and were wondering).
It’s – the fridge, not the camera – got a very good energy star rating (I believe 434 KwH/year). In fact, if you hook it up to 400 hamster wheels running at 4 mph just 20% of the time, you could use this baby off the grid. (That’s almost certainly a lie, but I enjoyed writing it.)
It has never been in the presence of cigarette smoke, and as we are "mostly-vegans" who have never been convicted of violent crimes, it hasn’t housed any worrisome body parts lately.
The best part of the appliance, which you can remove with a sponge and soapy water if you are so moved, is the Chinese character for "snow" written in Sharpie on the top left of the fridge door, just below the hinge. I believe, as do many Americans, that writing words of guidance and encouragement on my appliances helps remind them of their sacred duty.
The fridge vents in two places: the front grill below the freezer, and via a fan located at the back bottom right.
So, the big craigslist question: if this appliance is all that, why are we selling it?
First, because we were tired of opening the fridge door into the garbage can. The way our kitchen is laid out, there’s an island and post ridiculously close to the refrigerator. When we saw a French Door floor model on sale at Sears, we calculated that our days of having to contort ourselves to get to the left vegetable crisper could be over for good. If your fridge space allow for more than 32 inches of clearance in front, this will not be an issue for you.
Second, we are a family of four with very different ideas about what constitutes appropriate human food, and just plain wanted a bigger fridge to accommodate our diversity of diet preferences.
If you want it, you have to come get it, and figure out how to move it. (The fridge currently lives in North Durham, off Guess Rd.) If you think this may be the fridge for you, act now. As an added bonus, we’ll throw in a brand-new Amana egg-holder from our new fridge if you get this thing out of our living room within the week!
Did it work? As of yet, I’ve had one visitor (likes it, but has to check out his new digs to see if the fridge will fit), and two more people coming by today or tomorrow. But the most telling thing is the nature of the responses I’ve gotten:
I’m a teacher and love good literature, so your posting was a delight. I was actually surfing craigslist for a range for my son when I happened on your frig and was drawn in by the prose. He’s in Winston-Salem for the day chasing down some salvage material for the house he is refurbishing. Would it be possible for him to see the frig tonight if he’s half as interested in procuring it as I am in his having it? I’m here in north Durham as well and can vouch for transporting and financing of said appliance if you and he can strike a deal.
I so enjoyed reading your ad. If I needed a fridge I’d buy just for that.
(Which could make me wonder what she was doing searching for "fridge" on craiglist if she didn’t actually need a fridge, but I have too many other things I’m currently worrying about to fit that in at the moment.)
I love your post AND I would like to get your fridge out of your way.
Give me a call. I have an appliance dolly and would like to come see it asap.
I am interested in your fridge. Do you still have it? If so let me know. I will have to check my dimensions
at home to make sure it fits, but I’m sure it will. If possible, I would like to take a look at it this week.
The first three responses focused more on the relationship than the item. As long as I don’t act like a total jackass when they come over, and as long as the refrigerator actually does what I say it does, I will be able to resume roller blading in my living room by close of business tomorrow.
Remember: No matter what you’re selling, you’re selling yourself first. Play nice and have fun. Why not?
UPDATE: Four people came and viewed the fridge, and we sold it to the first person to give us a check, a lovely semi-retired couple who weren’t at all put off by the Chinese character on the door. Full price, and everyone was happy.