When it comes to shopping for used office furniture, you have plenty of options for snagging great deals, from hitting up office liquidators to eBay to checking out the local thrift shop.
Craigslist, one of the most popular places for buying just about anything (and we mean anything: someone tried to sell 1,325 replica pope hats once) also has plenty of office furniture up for grabs.
Before racing to search for dirt-cheap cubicles and filing cabinets, be careful. While the bargains might be plentiful, so are the opportunities to be scammed. To help you shop wisely, we rounded up the top Dos and Don’ts for buying furniture on Craigslist:
Know what you want: Keep a list of specific items you need, whether it’s conference room chairs or whiteboards, and determine the price you’re willing to pay for those items, said Andrea Dekker of . Wearch within those parameters until you find a good fit.
Look out for scams: Unless you’ve lived in a remote cave for the past 30 years, then you’re well aware that the internet is a playground for scam artists, especially sites like Craigslist. According to , some red flags to be on the lookout for include:
- Lots of spelling and grammatical errors
- Generic product shot instead of an actual photo of the item
- Ads posted in more than one city
- Deals that are too good to be true
Research the seller: While it’s probably a little creepy to start web-stalking the cute barista at the coffee shop, we definitely recommend checking up on sellers you’re considering buying office furniture from. Look them up on Google, Facebook and the Whitepages to confirm that they’re a real person. Get the person’s phone number and call them as well to gain some more comfort.
Ask questions: Get to know the seller and the item you’re buying better by asking lots of detailed questions via e-mail or phone. If you’re buying a used desk, ask where the seller had purchased the desk, what the dimensions are, material it’s made of, what, if any, damage it has, and why the person is selling it. According to LifeHacker, these questions will both give you the information you need to know about what you’re buying and also help you verify that the seller is familiar with it. If the seller is dodging your questions, then don’t buy from them.
Meet in a public place: For your safety, avoid meeting sellers in a private location like their home. Try to arrange to pick up the item in a public place like a busy gas station or coffee shop. Lifehacker recommends finding a location that has an ATM available so you don’t have to come to the meeting with cash in hand. Also, bring a friend or colleague along with you.
Negotiate: If you’ve done your research and know the value of a given item and you feel there still might be some wiggle room on pricing, don’t be afraid to haggle a little, Dekker said. Have a plan in mind when you talk to the seller. If you can’t get the item at the price you want, know whether you’re going to walk away, make a counter offer or buy the item for the original price.
Be blinded by an amazing deal: If you find an ad for a “like new” $50 Aeron Chair by Herman Miller, chances are someone’s hoping you don’t know high-end office chair from a wobbly stool. Make sure you’re knowledgeable enough about what you’re shopping for that you don’t get ripped off by a low-quality knock-off, and if you’re not an expert, enlist someone who is to check out the merchandise.
Overpay: Even if you find an item for less than you would pay retail, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best deal or that the savings is worth the hassle of buying on Craigslist. Before buying, use a site like Priceonomics which can give you an overview on prices for most items new and used to make sure you’re actually getting a bargain. Case in point, we just did a search on an Aeron Chair and found the market price on Craigslist ($408), eBay ($387), Amazon new ($869) and Amazon used ($600).
Buy sight unseen: To avoid being scammed and/or purchasing a piece of furniture that’s broken, stained, smelly or otherwise undesireable, don’t complete the transaction via mail or money order. Make the exchange in person so you can see the piece that you’re buying and make sure that it’s useable and what you want (if it’s a piece of furniture, it’s better to see it fully assembled so you can test that all the drawers work, doors open, etc.). If you don’t like what you see, don’t feel obligated to buy it.
Wait around: If you spot an ad for the item you want, at the price you want and from a reputable-looking seller, then don’t twiddle your thumbs. Just like Oz, deals come and go quickly, so be ready to respond to the ad and get in your car to pick up the item(s) at a moment’s notice.
If you’d rather not deal with the hassles of Craigslist, then just visit Arnolds, which has a huge selection of great-quality office furniture.