Archive for March, 2008

How to sell on craigslist (or how to spring clean and get paid for it)

Monday, March 31st, 2008

On craigslist, I have:

  • Sold three beds
  • Sold a futon
  • Found places to rent
  • Found rooms to rent
  • Found a job lead that led to an interview
  • Bought tickets that were highly sought after and paid over face value
  • Bought tickets that were highly sought after and paid under face value
  • Posted a free stuff ad
  • Recruited participants for user tests
  • Gotten yelled at over the phone for not holding an item for someone who didn’t come on time
  • Posted an item that did not sell
  • Purchased my rug
  • Bought my ottoman table
  • Sold my roommate’s stuff (the roommate moved out and left a lot of valuable junk behind)
  • Along the way, it has taught me many lessons about business that I never knew as a naturally honest person.

    1. In the ad, describe the item, but don’t mention anything about its negative qualities. Suggest that people take a look since there are some things that can’t be seen digitally.

    2. Provide prompt responses to any received email. Unlike many craigslist users, I always respond to every email even the people I must reject. This would be the only reason for me to get a smartphone.

    3. Phone calls are better than email as it gets the person’s attention faster. I always send an email as a followup to a phone call to make sure the deal is sealed.

    4. Always be prepared to be undersold. Whenever selling an item, determine the amount you want to take for it. Then raise that value by some multiple of $25. There will always be someone who asks whether they can have it for your initial value. Humans like quarters.

    5. Try to get two buyers to look at the same time to create some competitive price-matching. Scheduling that is an issue, but I often have told other buyers that I got a better offer. Always say OBO!

    6. Always get the phone number of the buyer or seller before meeting. That way, you can guarantee the least amount of flakeage. The more people talk to you, the more likely they will show up. Psychologically, it creates a lot more guilt and thus more motivation even if the person is 100% certain of buying.

    7. If selling a small item especially a high-value item, meet in a high traffic public area where you have clear sight lines to all exits. I haven’t figured out the best area to meet in the city beyond BART stations yet…

    8. Maintain a first come, first served policy. I got yelled at once because I was giving a table away for free. An interested party inquired about it and seemed unsure about whether the table was appropriate. She to hold it and I said maybe, but I have to be move out of the house tomorrow. At the end of the day, I put it out on the curb and put a sign with the word free on it. It was gone before morning and the interested party was furious. Good thing I don’t live at the house anymore.

    9. Select a week that you’re free to sell an item so that you can be flexible. I grudgingly got up Saturday morning just to sell something at 8 am and was successful at selling it.

    10. If you can’t sell it in the suburbs, sell it in the city.

    11. If it’s a large item that you are having trouble selling it in the suburbs, sell it in the city and offer delivery. Also say that if the buyer picks it up, a discount is provided. Maintain that this voids any further discount.

    12. If you’re buying something that you can’t afford, be ready to walk out. Or say that all the money have is what you have. About two years ago, I bought exactly the amount of money I wanted to pay for the item and carefully laid out the twenties on a table, announcing the total amount. I undersold that seller by $100.

    13. Give something away for free. When selling an item in Pittsburgh, the buyer refused to pay me the amount I offered even though I was offering the item at a huge discount (this was before I figured out the $25 trick). When I mentioned that I was trying to get rid of all the items in the kitchen and offered to give it to her for free, she took my entire spice cabinet and other things. She ended up paying in full for the entire item.

    Things I learned in SXSW and Austin

    Saturday, March 29th, 2008
  • Country music doesn’t always sound weird and annoying like Nels Andrews at Gueros Taco Bar a SXSF (south by soup fest benefit for caritas of austin)
  • SXSW in Austin is like Las Vegas
  • But what happens in Austin gets flickred the hell out of it
  • Watch out for the bats flying from the Congress bridge. They are often as surprised as you are.
  • In the United States, 70% of the internet users are over 30. In China, it’s the opposite.
  • The Internet in China started out as a social media application whereas in the United States it was for business
  • Zuckerberg admits that the speed going into Facebook features was too fast.
  • Out of the top companies, only one company has a CEO with the appropriate degree to do the job right.
  • That’s Steve Jobs.
  • Games can increase the quality of life.
  • As designers, we work in the happiness business—to make people happy.
  • The buses in Austin are only 50 cents!
  • SXSWers don’t take the bus
  • The 1 goes up and down South Congress and should come more often
  • Outside the downtown, Austin looks like a huge suburb.
  • There is always a free breakfast somewhere. It’s a question about how to find it.
  • Always register your name for the room so that you don’t get stranded outside when your friend goes missing, because hotels really do care about security.
  • However if you almost have a face that looks like you’re about to cry, they might make an exception.
  • An exception if you can describe a setup in the room.
  • Or perhaps only in Texas?
  • Go to the panels with the least people leaving. It’s the best way to figure out the quality of a session.
  • SXSW does not provide any refreshments during the conference beyond coffee and hot water
  • You might find some free salsa (no chips) somewhere near the coffee
  • Put stickers all over your badge. Also look for pins.
  • Make sure you have an awesome picture for your badge.
  • Most SXSW sessions are too general to teach you something new, but they can be incredibly insightful.
  • It takes about 3 weeks to realize that SXSW was really an incredible time and you want to go again!
  • America says no to germs

    Friday, March 28th, 2008

    An old roommate told me once that we should put the toilet seat cover down because she read that when a toilet is flushed, bacteria shoots up nearly 9 feet and goes back down exposing the entire bathroom to those dirty dirty organisms.

    I believed her and we kept the cover down. But then I was told that by keeping the cover down, germs can incubate due to lack of air circulation.

    And I thought I read somewhere that the toilet water was cleaner than other water.

    I often come across articles where I learn that I should not put my lemon in restaurants into water. Or that I should never open the bathroom with my hands because the majority of people don’t wash their hands.

    Nowadays, whenever we walk into a store, I come across a canister of antibacterial wipes or liquid-free wash.

    Are we becoming a nation that is fearful of germs? Why are we so obsessed with being clean? Are we becoming irrational?

    Sometimes, I am reluctant to open doors, kicking it open with my feet.

    How about the ATM machine? What if someone dirty touched it with fingers?

    And public transit? There are so many people I know who don’t board public transit because they think it’s smelly and dirty…and who knows what else.

    Or my obsession of never letting any of my public clothes touch my bed unless they have been through the wash. Someone asked me why I was reluctant to sit on my bed and I responded that I sat wearing the same jeans while riding the BART…and who knows what I picked up?!

    Even worse, I feel awkward sitting in a seat that still has warmth in it. Perhaps it’s that I want to feel that the seat is cold to the touch…and thus clean. That the previous person left germs behind.

    But what does the rest of the world do? Do they really clean themselves that much?

    So a recent article said:
    The worst place to set fruit before washing it: the kitchen sink
    Of all the household germ depots, the kitchen sink sees the most bacterial traffic — even more than the toilet, says Kelly Reynolds, PhD, a professor and environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona. If the perfect berry drops while you’re washing it, pop it in the trash — not your mouth.

    Chris responded in his merry way:
    See, I picture it this way. Organisms can only travel so fast. If I
    drop my berry in the sink, the germs have to realize the goodness that
    has arrived, and change their course of direction to get on its berry
    goodness. If I am quick enough, I can just pull the berry away before
    any germs can realize it’s even there. Then I eat berry and
    go yay!

    Toad and Wanderings in Austin

    Thursday, March 27th, 2008

    Toad's last night at the Hyatt

    Toad and cupcakes

    Toad and Carrot Cake French Toast

    What’s the point of taking pictures of a self-travel if it’s going to be the same for everyone.

    few people knew who Toad was, but most people, “I love your little mushroom”. Including the toothless man on the bus. Including the people (most likely a band) with tons of tattoos who gave me a genuine smile as I ate my french toast alone on that bright morning down South Congress Avenue.

    Toad liked his bowl of fruit.

    Social media sites are the new antisocial

    Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

    In my more awkward days, I went to social events and whipped out a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends and Influence People right in the middle of a prime social opportunity. To see what Dale Carnegie would do in his old-fashioned days.

    “Why are you doing that when you could be socializing?” a friend criticized once and I never whipped it out again.

    After starting to use twitter (a micro-blogging site that allows people to write small messages via phone, web and a number of applications), I am suddenly in the same situation where I am missing a prime social opportunity. Now that I am less awkward, more worldly (almost), it struck me how antisocial this all was.

    Recently, I started following a friend that twittered constantly. It was interesting at first. But a twitter that unnerved me was when she basically asked, Why do I have so many people following me, but only a few respond?

    In the end, I un-followed her. I just couldn’t do lock myself in a facade of shameless self-promotion. What’s more how could I…when sometimes I preferred that face-to-face interaction. What happened to those personal phone calls? Personal emails? Personal ims? What happened to I want to visit you. Not just everyone near you, but you.

    But here is twitter. Something one might do right at an event. I saw people at SXSW twittering even as they stood in front of me. Or they would twitter with someone across the room. Although SXSW is one of the few conferences that encourages the use of a phone during a talk, it drove me crazy that this whole…social medium…an asynchronous communication medium…takes places in a situation with possible synchronous communication. It’s one thing to im someone across the room, but it’s another to twitter with someone across the room.

    Social media sites are at their core…antisocial. Like reading, it’s an activity that we participate on our own. Our computer or the phone. We each type our individual message, check the message inbox, update our profile. We look at photos that pertain to us, tagged with our name. It’s all shared, but is it? We update things and then we wait for a response. When we get a response, we write back…and wait again. We laugh at people’s messages on walls…but then that’s it. We are almost broadcasting to an empty room, hoping someone…someone was hidden in the shadows to respond.

    When I designed an UI for televisions, we often ran into the challenge of designing an account for families. A TV is inherently a social activity. And the question was how to design for multiple people using the television. How do you recommend? How do you know? What if we wanted a combined interest for a couple? And in the end, it was just easier to assume an individual was using the TV.

    I say…stop twittering the person across the room and talk to me.

    Because I now leave my dog-eared copy of How to Make Friends and Influence Copy in my bookshelf.

    Are you sure your parents will let you watch that?

    Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

    We were watching the freeway chase as Chris explained how it was constructed in Alameda and filmed in certain parts of Oakland. A girl wandered in, asking us who were the bad and good guys. We patiently described how the people with the sunglasses were the good guys. Not the ones dressed in the suits. Not the twins. And we carefully explained that people cannot tumble in slow motion like in the movie.

    I was slightly startled when a friend of ours asked the 10 year old girl whether she could be watching the Matrix. Whether the parents approved. Suddenly, I felt like I was caught red-handed for not being aware.

    Would I really censor anything from my kids? My own parents never quite learned the concept of censorship. My dad loved movies…and my sister and I often were invited up to watch…all kinds of movies.

    In all these things that require parental consent, it’s almost if we are keeping kids uninformed, uneducated. I almost want to say to the kids, this is a story. A fantasy. Fictional. Purely for entertainment. Art. We don’t make life imitate art. Wouldn’t that be enough? Why do we need to protect them? Why keep them ignorant?

    To this day though, the only thing I have ever re-enacted in real life was Groundhog Day and Alanis Morisette’s music video Ironic.

    Toad and me

    Monday, March 24th, 2008

    While in Austin, Toad and I had some good fun. Awwww..Toad, you’re so cute!

    You’re in computers, you should help me.

    Thursday, March 20th, 2008

    Please say HI to your daughter for me. She’s such a great help and I’m still using her instruction for printing labels from my list up to the date. Thank you for raising such a good child.
    – Written in Comic Sans by my parents’ life insurance agent

    Several years ago when I was in debt and relying on the parents for income, I agreed to help their life insurance agent with computer work. Well ok, I didn’t happily agree. I was lazing about that year not quite sure what I would be doing after college—work or grad school. I went with my mom to an appointment she had with the life insurance agent—a giddy Asian woman with charismatic personality named Lisa.

    After some tedious meeting, my mom said aloud, “My daughter is looking for a job!”

    I wanted to hide, but I found myself offering my IT services. For the next few years, I would come into her office and help her with complex tasks on the computer. Most of the time, it was taking her master list of contacts and making mailing labels—she didn’t know how to import the contacts list to the mailing labels application. She believed in sending christmas cards to every client and I often myself putting labels on each envelope, gluing stamps and sealing. Then sometimes it would be me filing her work.

    I really hated it, but it passed the time. For whatever reason, I never really taught her how to do it and came back a few more times. Until I couldn’t stand it anymore and made a document for making mailing labels with screenshots and explicit instructions.

    My dad had dropped that letter in a bag he gave me. When I first saw it, I was happy that she was still chugging along. Hopefully I’ll never have to return to do mundane office work.

    Back then, she often said that I was faster than any temp worker she hired. Why is that? Because I know my alphabet when I file?

    I met you online!

    Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

    Two weeks ago, I completed a mission. To meet in person all my online friends. I don’t think there’s anybody left on my list to meet!

    Ten years ago, it was widely unaccepted to meet someone you met online. How can you be friends with someone you never met? would be the most common question. Nowadays, well…of course you can. Though the web two point oh world, we exchange more on the Internet with people regardless of their proximity.

    Viv and I have known each other for more than 10 years. It started out on a yahoo club (now known as yahoo groups), then icq, then email, then blogs, then facebook and various social networking sites.

    To this day, we still don’t call each other by our real names. To her, I am Tink. To me, she is luckyduckluk. Those awesome Canadians!

    Luckyduckluk and me!

    The helicopters were scavenging for the hunt

    Monday, March 17th, 2008

    As I came out of the 24th/Mission BART station, the noise of whipping air grew louder and loud. *thwap thwap*

    Everyone around me looked up toward the sky at 6:30 pm where there was still light. Two helicopters above us flew steady unmoving, pointed in the direction of something.

    As I walked toward Valencia, people kept looking upward. A curious glance of what was going on. When I got to Valencia, I saw that the street was blocked off with flares. A stern, yet bored policeman stood in the middle making sure no cars went by. There was a lot of traffic. A NBC11 van was parked. Empty. A saw the Spanish channel van coming by.

    Then I looked to my left and saw cranes. Many people stopped and talked to each other. “What’s going on?” someone would ask. And only whispers.

    I resisted the urge to follow everyone that wandered toward the large cranes and flashing lights. Because after all, if it was a monster, I don’t want to be suddenly caught in its jaws as in Cloverfield. I walked toward my place, only a few blocks as streams of rubberneckers wandered past me. And then above, I saw the helicopters turn away from the steady dance of the hour. It was done, whatever it was.

    Inside my apartment, the sound of the helicopters was still loud. But just 10 minutes later, I could barely hear them as I only heard the taps of my keys finding out that it was only a disaster that happened two blocks from my apartment.

    I reminded myself that I would backup data. And wondered aimlessly if my neighbors would be irresponsible.