Buying secondhand merchandise? Trying to sell your used items? What dangers lurk on websites that offer secondhand merchandise for sale? What do I need to know when I want to sell my stuff?

Ebay, Craigslist, your local buy and sell papers, etc., etc.   Sooner or later you may have to use one of these websites or papers to buy or sell something.  Before you purchase that item or list your item for sale there are things you may want to know…

Try to deal in cash only

When selling items ask for cash only and check it over.  Unfortunately, there have been incidents of counterfeit money being passed, along with fake bank drafts, bad cheques, etc. If you are purchasing items it is best to assume the seller wants cash.  If it is a large amount of money then make arrangements for the seller to meet you directly at your bank so they can see the bank draft being made up first hand.

Avoid long distance transactions when selling merchandise locally

Some people will claim they live out of state/province, have small children and will wire you cash before they arrive in your home town.  This is just a new twist on the getting your personal banking information scheme for fraud or identity theft purposes.

Truth in advertising

When listing an item for sale be honest on the item’s condition and age of the item.  Although, some buyers may not be fussy about the cat scratch on the sofa or the light scratches on the dining room table other buyers might be.  On the other end when looking to purchase merchandise always ask if there are scratches, niches, etc. before you drive out to see it, as different people have different ideas as to what is immaculate or what excellent condition means.  Even an item described as in good condition maybe in better condition than the item described as in excellent condition.

Protect yourself with Insurance and/or a signature upon delivery

When selling or purchasing items through an auction site it is best for the buyer and/or the seller to have the item shipped with insurance or at least a signature upon delivery. This avoids any conflict whether the item was actually delivered or lost by the post office themselves. Insurance is recommended for items that are valuable, collectable and for items that are fragile or have small parts. Sometimes the buyer may not want to pay extra for the insurance, in that case make sure the buyer understands that the seller is not responsible if the item arrives damaged or the package gets lost in the mail.

Too good to be true

If someone is selling a 6 month old fridge, a 9 month old sofa, etc., ask if they have the receipt and warranty.  The merchandise could be stolen.


Be aware of the manufacturers warranty period for the item you are buying.  Is the warranty transferrable? Does the owner have the original receipt/warranty?  Sellers should dig up the original receipt/warranty or get a copy from the store/manufacturer if need be.

Beware of fakes/knock offs and antique replicas

Although most sites try to catch this due to counterfeit laws, items can and will slip through the cracks. Knowledge/research is power or your best defense. 


Just like a garage sale some people will expect you sell something for next to nothing.  If you have a firm price then say $200.00 (firm) in your ad.  If you are purchasing an item and wish to barter, try not to be annoying in the process.  If a seller turns down your price don’t contact them every few days or every week to see if they changed their mind, just tell the seller to contact you if they change their mind about the price. 


Some people will offer to trade their merchandise for yours.  This is fine if you need the merchandise they are offering to trade, but other times it is a sign they may be strapped for cash.

Strapped for cash

A person selling their used merchandise is not your personal bank or credit card company.  If you don’t have the funds to purchase an item then arrange to borrow money from your family or friends instead. Sellers should not offer layaway plans and/or personalized payment plans.  One just has to watch court tv to see how many nice/understanding sellers get taken advantage of. 

No shows

Sometimes people forget or change their minds about coming to see the items you have for sale.  Make sure you have their name and telephone number on hand.  Plus, when arranging a time for a seller to see an item make sure you set a certain time or time period, so you are not waiting around all afternoon or evening for someone to show up.

Tire kickers

You may have a lot of lookers before you have any takers for a number of reasons.  Maybe the item is not in as good as condition as you advertised it or maybe you are expecting too high of a price compared to what buyers are willing to pay.  Be patient, how many times do you look at items in retail stores and not buy them either? 

Serious buyers only

Perhaps you are very busy, short on time, patience, etc.  Consider other alternatives like consignment stores, auctions, having a relative sell the merchandise on your behalf, etc.


The majority of transactions go off without a hitch on these sites, but it never hurts to be prepared for potential problems or pitfalls before hand.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. coconews
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 12:18:08

    Feel free to add your own experiences (good or bad) when buying or selling secondhand stuff.

    If I have missed anything else in the thread that you think people should be aware of too, then please add it to the comments.

  2. M-
    Jul 04, 2008 @ 22:35:16

    I’ve had lots of good successes selling old items through Craigslist. I generally list the item for a low price (though fair to me) to get rid of it quickly.

    However, one thing that’s caused me some difficulty is managing multiple respondents– do I hold the item until the first person who contacted me can get over to view it, or do I sell to the first person who can come look at it?

  3. coconews
    Jul 05, 2008 @ 11:13:22

    I also had this situation when I was giving away 8 cans of automotive spray paint.

    The first guy didn’t show and I left a couple messages for him. I told him that if he didn’t call back by the next day I had someone else that wanted the spray paint.

    I never heard back from the first person and the second person came by right away to pick the spray paint up.

    Is it best to set a time limit for holding the item for person #1 or is it best just to state in your ad first come, first served?

    Maybe by stating first come, first served it gives an incentive for people to actually show up?

  4. jillbeth
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 13:14:34

    Great tips in this article. As a secondhand merchant, I try to always be honest in my descriptions; happy customers may do business with you again, unhappy ones won’t for sure!

  5. AG
    Jul 15, 2008 @ 11:12:50

    Also, some people try to sell used items for twice as much as the retail stores charge.

  6. joyce
    Sep 09, 2008 @ 04:02:02

    i want second hand goods to credit

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