Ryan, if you're reading this, congratulations! This appears to be a major personal accomplishment and milestone for you. Best of luck as you grow into your next level of success.
(Welcome to self branding. :) )
Shoot me a message if you ever need help with something.
My overall reaction to the article, though, was that he's doing a fair amount of work for a pretty so-so return, and it looks hard to scale it upwards. (That $1,000 for the week doesn't come with any fringe benefits, like insurance.)
It's pretty cool, wish I've known this app when I was looking for a free carpet.
Interestingly enough, just last month, I bought on CL and sold a pair of girl's snowboard boots for $15 more in a matter of 4 days. Mostly because I really didn't want it.I was just practicing on my selling skills. I'm more inspired after reading this.
It makes a world of difference.
I sell a lot of items on craigslist, and I have no problem with the idea that someone bought it from me to resell it because I underpriced it. Hell, if someone threw what I gave them in the garbage, they can do that too. I no longer want the item, I got what $ I asked for it, and I'm out of the equation.
The only thing I'd have a problem with is if someone contacted me with a sad story about being broke, student, unemployed, sick child, or something, and asking for a discount. And I find out later they lied. That's where the ethical line is for me.
I'm not condoning tax avoidance but remember most of the people on HN either earn six figures a year, will do in a few years and/or building startups that might be worth $millions.
This guy is making $15-30/hr, doing part-manual labor and has 4 kids and a wife to feed.
I guess it's a moral judgement but I feel less concerned if he was to not run all of his cash payments through his books compared to bankers and millionaires who put large amounts of money offshore to avoid tax.
I agree that it is not morally OK to not report income.
I put in my own numbers for a complicated personal return (business income, capital gains, itemized deductions, etc) and the forecaster agreed with my actual taxes done by a CPA, so it's not making any guesses.
Put in married, $45k in business income, 4 kids. The total federal tax bill comes out to $3700 or 8%. Most of the tax bill was offset by the large EIC for having kids. In reality he'd have many deductions to lower that even further, from business use of a home, to any health insurance he buys, to part of his car expenses and mileage...
Pull out your 2011 form 1040: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1040.pdf
* 56: Self-employment tax. Attach Schedule SE.
* 61: Add lines 55 through 60. This is your total tax.
* 62-72: Credits and payments, including the Earned Income Credit.
* 76: AMOUNT YOU OWE: Subtract line 72 (total credits) from line 61 (total tax).
That's where his $6.3k SE bill gets nearly wiped out by $5.5k in earned income credit.
Credits, unlike deductions, are subtracted dollar for dollar from total tax owed. If he files jointly with a spouse, it can actually reduce their tax bill to $0 on that income. There's no category of taxes that can't be reduced by EIC, including SE (payroll) tax.
Someone who appears trustworthy + guaranteed quick turnaround would be worth the difference in return for me - I've disposed of old appliances by paying a removal company to take them away on more than one occasion because I didn't want to deal with the hassle of something like CL even if it meant I might make some money back.
I think in the long run there's a lot of opportunity for repeat business there from people who don't need to make the most cash out of the sale as opposed to either make it quickly or just want to get rid of the item without fuss.
Does he actually tell people that he's just going to resell whatever he picks up? I'm sure there might be some people that are uncomfortable with that.
He's providing a service to them. He takes the stuff away, and doesn't charge them to do so. He might even give them some money. (Compare that to hiring a dumpster / skip.)
I don't think he takes landfill material since he is able to sell it on craigslist for money only a day or two later.
I also spend a lot of time on craigslist, and this extension has saved me hours and made browsing much more efficient:
Chrome only though :(
Similarly, I know someone who makes well over $100,000 a year buying, fixing, and reselling things on Craigslist and eBay. They found a very specific (and obvious) niche that is highly profitable to be in, I imagine if this guy specialized more he will see greater returns as well.
I think the NYC market has so many constraints and peculiarities (plus money!), its rife with these kind of opportunities.
Trouble is, the app can't serve the user without having his or her email address on hand. I suppose I could rework the process so the user can give an email address after seeing how the interface works.
For those curious, the emails it sends are simple lists of links, sorted by keyword.
Then invite them with: Have these results emailed to you every day, enter your email here:
Also, I tried to sign up using the login form - that's not cool. If there is no match put up a page say, no such account, would you like to create it?
I'd be interested to see how well this would work out.
Furthermore, it's clear that it's not just "pickup" and possibly "delivery"... the author is making a clear buy/sell/bargain decision on the spot... what happens when the pickup results in a fraudulent item?
Clearly this means that whoever is driving around needs to be trained, and once trained, can be your competitor (I see few barriers between a trained pickup-person and the author scanning craigslist)
Kudos to the entrepreneurial spirit here, but I highly doubt it's scaleable.
Eventually, you scale to having multiple drivers in multiple cities who spend their work time on the road, with the "back office" alerting them to new potentially valuable postings. Maybe even tracking their general location, and alerting them to lower-value postings that happen to be near their current location?
Given the entrepreneurial nature of the buy/sell/bargain decisions that need to be made on the spot, maybe it should be structured something like a franchise? You sign drivers up, they get a territory, and get sent alerts for their their territory. Several people mentioned paying the drivers hourly wages; instead, you could charge them (per month or per alert?) for the alert service, or you could do some sort of percentage profit sharing (though you'd have to trust the drivers to accurately report all transactions).
It is possible to pull it off, it's just going to take a lot of work finding the right detail oriented/trustworthy person in another city that's in the right situation to pull it off. Hopefully in a year I'm writing about how I was able to scale it to multiple cities.
Thanks for the note!
of course, it can't analyze the data as efficiently, but it would definitely be faster to have an automatic filter that saves time in looking through obviously overpriced or useless postings
I work in a high skilled tech job that requires lots of thinking and analysis, and sometimes I over think and over analyze everything I'm doing, which is why I think I admire a job that requires pure hustle. Not saying that's my cup of tea to do full time, just something that I could apply to my everyday job to make me more productive and focus more on doing than analyzing!
I've learned more this past year of grinding it out than from all my years of school. (and some college) Thanks for the comment!
Made selling on CL about 1000x easier :)
A couple great points having grown up in the antique business the skill he's developed is the ability to know the local market (buy and sell-side) for a variety of local items.
Roseburg - a suggestion that may help you're right about a clean listing good pictures etc... However one interesting twist I've experimented successfully with is using Copywriting techniques to drive attention to your ads. Mainly I did it for practice but its seems to work well having helped sell the items far more quickly than previous CL sales I've done. I'm happy to share/email a few examples of ads I've written with you if they would help.
Not sure the best way to connect off the comments here (since I've just registered to leave this comment)
Or are those markets too competitive? Having sold cars on Craigslist before, I know that there are people who are offering low values, fast sales, shortly after posting in hopes of finding a desperate seller, so maybe these people make profit much less likely for a trader.
I mainly stuck with electronics, and even then it was mostly TVs. I found that I could very easily purchase TVs for $100-$200 less than what I could sell them for.
It was fun, and I've seriously considered doing it on weekends again, however now that I live in a large city (Atlanta) I feel like there is a lot more research that has to go into an item... Mostly because people from an hour a way from the city center will claim they are within the city and so on. In college I was in a city of 150k people, and could get to the outer "suburbs" in at most 30 minutes.
My current TV was one of the first 1080P 50" Plasmas... It still works perfectly and looks great. I bought it from a couple for $750. (Bought with the profits from selling buying and selling TVs)
I called it Eds-list
He is also adding "liquidity" to the "market" by immediately buying new listings, and holding them for a few days until the right buyer comes along. Without someone like him the seller would have to wait several days to find the right buyer.
If liquidity and risk transfer is such a value, wouldn't you want this service-for-sale to be clearly visible to all?
This is my theory: If a person doing this were clearly distinguishable on Craigslist from regular individual sellers (and buyers) a great number would be swayed away from doing business with him. I think most people on Craigslist see it as the lubricant between buyers and sellers, intended precisely to replace middlemen like him. I think his ability to sell that liquidity and risk-transfer for profit would depend on his ability to blend in.
You might reasonably argue that I'm wrong. But if you do, then not only would you not object if (in a hypothetical universe) we were to clearly and involuntarily distinguish dealers and Craigslist profit-makers like him from the regular buyers and sellers, but you would see it as beneficial to him.
[edited to clarify wording slighty]
But most of all: Amazon and eBay are themselves middlemen. They take a cut. Every time you buy or sell, a cut goes to support the platform you used to find and buy or sell. Active dealers with more transactions give more support to those sites. If you like using them you're probably okay with those dealers.
Craigslist doesn't take a cut (outside of certain job postings in certain big cities). It's a community platform for individuals. Dealers profit only themselves, contribute nothing to support the site, and offer little if any dubious "value" with their interference. This is not exotic knowledge for users of Craigslist.
3 years ago I was broke and bought stuff on craig's list, (specifically camera equipment) and sold it on eBay and held some and sold it on craig's list later. I negotiated hard on the phone and only bought stuff far below market value.
I only sold stuff for far above market value and I ended up with an extra $300 a month or so which was a huge difference in my lifestyle.
I noticed something with the sellers I dealt with. Most were wealthy, or made very good incomes and just wanted to get rid of the item. They didn't want to deal with a bunch of buyers, they wanted someone who would give them cash fast in a straight forward transaction. That is the "service" I did for them.
Buyers wanted the item, but wanted someone who would tell them it worked, and back it up, provide good photos and description etc.
Fast forward 3 years and I make enough money that when I buy and sell stuff on craig's list I am primarily interested in a fast, easy transaction where I'm saving money over the new price, but not concerned about getting an extra $20 out of it.
I basically changed places and I am happy that middlemen are able to provide me with fast, easy transactions.
One tip too. To get the absolute best deals put up WANTED ads on specific items. I bought stuff for ridiculously low prices that way. 60% off the mean. And you don't have to be the first to respond to the ad. A lot of people search for the item they are about to sell before they post it and when they see your WANTED ad, you provide the service they want and they are happy to get less than the item is worth.
This guy's service could be described as dealing with random craigslist sellers for you, who can be quite a hassle if you get unlucky.
And unlike modern stock trading, not all Craigslist listings are created equally. He seems to be doing the dirty work that sellers don't want to bother with. Besides, everyone knows that if you want get paid a reasonable value, you put something on eBay, but that's too much hassle for these sellers.
Without him in the picture, buyers could have purchased their items for less and saved money.
Without him in the picture, buyers might not have found the items and wouldn't have the benefit they think buying the items at all will give them. He's doing a major public service.
And yet, they didn't. The items he's selling are still cheaper than they would have been brand new, and he's in effect connecting people with items they want, for cheaper enough for them to afford them, for a relatively small fee.
You ought to rally against real estate agents, brokers, etc. harder than against this guy.
Well, that and managing to ferret out poorly displayed/marketed items and re-post them with better advertising. That is a valuable service, but I'm not sure how much of his activity can be meaningfully characterized as doing so.
Do buyers and sellers go to this man the way people go to real estate agents for their services? What would Craigslist buyers and sellers think of what he does if they knew about it? Respectfully, I think they would strongly prefer he weren't interfering.
Having tried to buy things on Craigslist, nice, clear photos are amazing - it saves me the trouble of shlepping somewhere, looking at the clearly mis-represented item, sighing, and shlepping back home.
As far as the sellers, what exactly are they losing? They stated the price they wanted to sell for, and they got it. You could argue that they could have gotten more with a better camera, some cleaning, and a better ad, but at that point you can argue that nobody should hire ad agencies.
If he's in the business of helping people buy and sell things on Craigslist then he should go to prospective buyers and sellers on that basis. And if he did, he would not make the kind of profit he's making.
How is this worse than someone who needs the item getting it for free?
Blah blah "price discovery is a service in a free market blah blah" does not apply to Craigslist.
There are a few ways a job like this could be ethical and productive, respecting the hippie community culture of Craigslist but improving efficiency in exchange for a share of the profit, instead of merely siphoning gains out of the system:
* Buy items that fail to sell (perhaps because they are geographically remote), and resell them from a more accessible location. http://craigstruck.com is a variation on this model.
* Buy junk, fix it up, resell it. ("Upcycle"/ "speculative repair work"
* Take good stuff that doesn't sell, and re-market it better.
 "spec" is a funny auto-antonym: "Speculative" or "to specifictaion"
I want to say you're wrong, but I'm not even sure how you reached this conclusion.
> It's definitely abusive of the Craigslist community.
It's a big controversy in communities like freecycle that attempt to maintain a certain charitable ethos and actively say that flippers aren't welcome, sometimes with exceptions for people who repair things (it's usually considered okay to take something broken free with the intent to repair and sell it, because that isn't pure flipping). Probably less controversial on Craigslist, which is a bit of a free-for-all.
As long as someone takes care of moving out of my place, I'm happy. If it goes to someone like this guy who flips to make a living and support his family, that's cool with me.
If he wasn't flipping the stuff, he'd be looking for donations. That's why he started doing this in the first place.
1) He retakes clear photos of the merch at a variety of angles - something that many craigslist postings lack
2) He himself has a threshold of quality, and inspects the product before picking it up from the original seller - I would much rather trust a guy who buys 10 cordless drills a week on craigslist to know the drill is bad, than relying on my limited knowledge of cordless drills and their common defects.
I'm willing to pay a few extra bucks for his vetting.
To the seller: I'm going to make probably $100 on this washer in a couple days by Windexing it and taking some good photos. That's your fee for my pickup and selling "service."
To the buyer: I bought this washer a couple days ago for $100 less. That's your fee for my delivery and vetting "service."
I'd like to know how much is e.g. Apple paying Foxconn for each iPhone, doesn't mean I think they're wrong for not telling me.
(Purely hypothetical example, I don't buy stuff from Apple)
People who do not have time to check craigslist's free section around the clock are able to buy items at less than retail price.
Question: What about buying on Craigslist and selling on eBay or other listings? I use both at times and noticed that each tailors certain genres better. Do you do that or have an opinion on that?
> less debt
> family to hawaii
Something does not compute here.
Hawaii: We used to live here, and have spent the past few years saving for this trip. We came to see friends that we haven't seen in 4 years. They are meeting two of our children for the first time. Airfare: $400/ticket round trip purchased months ago at the lowest price of the year. Van: Our friends are letting us use their van for free for all 16 days. We are staying at three friends houses while we are here, also free. Our expenses while here are food and gas. Everything else we are doing here is free, surfing, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, going to the lava etc. The entire trip is costing us less than $2,500 for our family of 6 to fly to Hawaii and spend 16 days with our friends. I've saved money money on just about everything. I'm not sure it's possible for this trip to have cost any less than it has. We valued this trip over paying off a chunk of our debt for many reasons. Having money and being debt free is important to us, but recognizing that being debt free is a few more years out, we saved and paid cash for the trip. The rest, sunshine, body boarding and time with friends is worth a lot more to us than the money.
"Paying back on things you've already purchased with someone elses money is not everyone's highest priority"
Now we take this statement and multiply it by 34 million, and we have the reason why America's total US consumer debt is 2.43 trillion.
I dont mean to nitpick, but I get really annoyed when people do extravagant things when they can't afford it.
I mean, do you really think that as soon as you buy a house (which pretty much anyone not absurdly rich — and many who are — will take on debt to do), you must immediately neglect your family and pursue money at all costs? That hardly seems like a tenable position. People who have grave problems with debt have those problems not because debt is inherently a grave problem, but because they took on debt they couldn't handle.
Everyone does. Good luck getting people to settle on your definitions of "extravagant" and "afford."
I think a vacation to hawaii from portland for a family of four while still in debt is clearly extravagant, and unaffordable. But's thats just my opinion, and I dont expect you, or anyone else, to share it.
Debt shouldn't be seen as ok to have but I think that is sadly how most Americans view it now.
Do these pass your muster? A lot of people still view these forms of debt as acceptable.
It's one thing if the money is borrowed from a friend or family member (as a charity or with extremely below market interest rates). But the 2.43 trillion dollars of debt that you cite is almost entirely with institutions which make a profit off of debt. [not bashing creditors]
My dad pointed out "Your family's wellbeing includes their morale."
Either way, only Ryan (and possibly his accountant [probably his wife]) can make that call.
But he says he sold some stuff in Hawaii, so it's very possible the trip didn't cost him much or anything at all.
He might see ideas and get new perspectives on things while on vacation in a new land that he otherwise would not get while at home in work only mentality.
Sorry to be a Debbie downer, but it irks ne to see people who have their long term priorities all out of whack(and they usually have way more kids than they can support)
" I started the year with almost nothing and ended with a used van, a new utility trailer, less debt, fully paid bills and money left to take the family to Hawaii. "
At some point you need to make the decision to actually enjoy life too.
> Sorry to be a Debbie downer, but it irks ne to see people who have their long term priorities all out of whack(and they usually have way more kids than they can support)
Everyone hits tough times sometimes, but this is someone who clearly can support his kids, enough so that he's been able to afford investing in a van, a trailer, pay down his debts, and take the family to Hawaii. In that context this comment just makes you seem like an ass.