Eight months pregnant, I scooted behind the wheel of my compact SUV and drove north to the hinterlands of Gladstone. My mission: Bring home two beautiful mid-century modern dressers I'd won on Craigslist for $75.
I was alone, unafraid and unhindered by logic. I dismissed the mental flash that the seller could be the type who would cut a baby from a woman's womb. I wasn't thinking with my brain anymore. Most of my blood flow had diverted to my abdomen, whose occupant chirped that he needed the perfect nursery despite our small budget. Go forth, Mom, and retrieve those solid-wood bureaus with dovetail joints. Dad will refinish them. I will love them forever.
Maybe the baby only kicked. Didn't matter -- I was nesting.
I had set up the appointment without consulting my dearly beloved, Will, who happened to be busy. I wouldn't be able to lift the dressers. They might not fit into my car. Will hated DIY anything and would cringe at my batting eyes pleading for him to stain and polyurethane the wood so our unborn wouldn't get the chemicals.
Doubters be damned, I shot off an email exclaiming that I NEEDTHESEDRESSERSNOWPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE. I offered to come get them whenever the seller wanted. I had been trolling the free classifieds site for weeks looking for a dresser I could use as a changing table, and this ad had a beaut, with a companion to boot.
I'd missed out on too many perfect pieces of furniture, including a similar dresser earlier that week. I knew I couldn't afford to skirt The Rules of Craigslist again. Pay heed, dear students:
1. Be patient. Do not settle. Craigslist is well-fed and will deliver what you want.
2. Be persistent. Check the site multiple times a day, especially if you're using busy categories like furniture or baby+kids.
3. Be prepared to pounce. The too-good-to-be-true items -- the stunning-yet-cheap Holy Grail pieces -- go within hours or even minutes. Sellers know their power and often make these first-come, first-served. Even if you were first to respond, the next person in line might be willing to pick up an hour from now. Drop everything and go after it, if the piece is worth it to you.
The situation with the dressers worked out. The woman had teenagers who could load them. Only one fit, of course, and they had to do some creative shoving. I batted my eyes again and convinced Will to call a friend with a truck to pick up the larger dresser the next day.
Let it be known that Will does not condone my Craigslist habit, nor the garage sales that preceded it or my general buy-now-arrange-transport-later mantra. Will loves to share the history of my B.C. antique rocker (before Craigslist). I'd been garage-sale hopping in my Honda Civic when I spotted it in north Independence. Thirty-five dollars and an unsuccessful loading attempt later, I told the sellers I'd be back for it later that day.
This was the first time Will grudgingly called a friend with a truck. But his grumblings didn't discourage the habit. There followed the time we rented a UHaul truck because we had no way to move the hand-carved dresser I bought from a recent divorcee looking to unload most of her furniture. There was the glider I bought for the nursery, which fit into the SUV no problem but required us to rearrange our plans to pick it up. The '50s-style kitchen table and chairs I scored for $15 and, with the legs removed, miraculously fit into the Civic. That was our best buy: We used it every day for six years. I just resold it for a $5 profit.
With all the urgency of a successful Craigslist buy comes naivety, at least in my case. I thought of the dressers story last week when I met a stranger in the Hy-Vee parking lot. I was there to broker several sales out of that same SUV. A woman pulled up alone in her minivan and waddled over, classic late-pregnancy. She wanted my $5 spice rack for its glass jars -- materials for a project of hers.
She was savvier than I had been, meeting in a public place. But that's not enough anymore, a KC robbery detective told KCTV5 last April. Buyers lured in by great deals for cars or iPhones or whathaveyou have been robbed or killed. Sometimes the sellers become the targets, as happened with the Indianapolis man and two witnesses who were shot over an iPhone. (http://trenchreynolds.me/2013/01/25/december-craigslist-murder-in-indy-over-an-iphone/)
The robbery detective's advice? Have the exchange at a police station.
I still have items for sale, but after researching for this post, I might take them down and head to the thrift store and eBay. I have a family. They deserve better than risking everything for a wicker Pottery Barn chair I recently chased, alone, to an Olathe garage for 90 percent off retail.
We're moving to central Kansas, where Craigslist exists but at a much slower pace. There, the preferred methods of used furniture trade are more old-fashioned: auction, garage sale and even Facebook.
How will I furnish the new house, you ask? I'm evolving. Online flash sale sites like Joss & Main and One Kings Lane look like decent options. And my dad has a generous supply of old barn wood I can "reclaim," but I suppose I should learn woodworking before I commit to any Restoration Hardware ripoff projects.
Who else out there is a Craigslist junkie? I mean that figuratively, of course. Oh, and P.S.: It is possible to sell a used litter box on Craigslist. True story.