This is my MacBook sale progress report. For those of you who have not followed my tweets on the subject, I listed my MacBook for sale on Craigslist. After Bruce Schneier’s eye-opening and yet somehow humorous report on selling his laptop on eBay, I figured I would shoot for a face to face sale. I chose Craigslist in Phoenix and specified a cash-only sale. The results have been less than impressive. The first time I listed the laptop:

  • Scammers: 6
  • Phishers: 2
  • Tire Kickers: 1
  • Real Buyers: 0

The second time I listed the laptop:

  • Scammers: 5
  • Phishers: 4
  • Pranksters: 1
  • Tire Kickers: 1
  • Real Buyers: 0

I consider them scammers, as the people who responded in all but one case wanted shipment to Africa. It was remarkably consistent. The remaining ‘buyer’ claimed to be in San Jose, but felt compelled to share some sob story about a relative with failing health in Africa. I figured that was a precursor to asking me to ship overseas. When I said I would be happy to deliver to their doorstep for cash, they never responded. The prankster wanted me to meet him in a very public place and assured me he would bring cash, but was just trying to get me to drive 30 miles away. I asked a half dozen times for a phone call to confirm, which stopped communications cold. I figure this is kind of like crank calling for the 21st century.

A few years ago I saw a presentation by eBay’s CISO, Dave Cullinane. He stated that on any given day, 10% of eBay users would take advantage of another eBay user if the opportunity presented itself, and about 2% were actively engaged in finding ways to defraud other eBay members. Given the vast number of global users eBay has, I think that is a pretty good sample size, and probably an accurate representation of human behavior. I would bet that when it comes to high dollar items that can be quickly exchanged for cash, the percentage of incidents rises dramatically. In my results, 55% of responses were active scams. I would love to know what percentages eBay sees with laptop sales. Is it the malicious 2% screwing around with over 50% of the laptop sales? I am making an assumption that it’s a small group of people engaged in this behavior, given the consistency of the pitches, and that my numbers on Craigslist are not that dissimilar from eBay’s.

A small group of people can totally screw up an entire market, as the people I speak with are now donating stuff for the tax writeoff rather than deal with the detritus. Granted, it is easier for an individual to screen for fraudsters with Craigslist, but eBay seems to do a pretty good job. Regardless, at some point the hassle simply outweighs the couple hundred bucks you’d get from the sale. Safe shopping and happy holidays!