Need a roommate? Check out Craigslist

By James VandeBerg

There are plenty of places to sell things online. From Amazon to eBay, it is easy to avoid placing an ad in a newspaper to get rid of an item. However, Craigslist puts the human interaction back into online shopping.

“What I like about Craigslist is that you get a peek into someone’s life,” said Ben Clegg, graduate student.

The Web site allows users to put up ads for free in a variety of categories. The site is divided into geographic areas, allowing users to find items close to home.

Instead of providing the largely anonymous service associated with online shopping, sellers and buyers on Craigslist are generally private parties, and transactions are finalized face-to-face.

The variety of items and services available on the Web site is staggering. A quick perusal reveals items, such as free venison, a free musical pump organ and plenty of firewood.

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Heather Brand, junior in LAS, found her future roommate on Craigslist.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it would be a good idea at first,” she said. “Originally I was just asking friends if they knew people who needed places to live, but nobody did, and they all suggested I look online.”

Brand posted on Facebook marketplace first, but tried Craigslist after receiving no replies.

After two weeks and receiving two other replies, Brand found the perfect match.

“I basically went on my instincts … and it’s funny because we ended up being really compatible by pure luck,” she said.

The same personal nature of Craigslist also makes it a go-to place for those looking to unload mementos, making it a good place for great deals, Clegg said.

He has received a piano for free off the Web site as well as an extensive collection of National Geographic magazines.

Pianos are given away fairly often on Craigslist, generally with the condition that they are free as long as the taker finds a way to move it. This can be easier said than done, Clegg said.

“They’re extremely heavy … and almost always need a lot of repair and tuning,” he said.

Clegg also got a set of dining room furniture, including chairs, a table and hutch, for $400.

The set was a family heirloom, but had to go quickly to make room for new furniture.

“A lot of the time, you find good deals when people really have to leave or move somewhere,” Clegg said.

For Clegg, this insight into people’s lives and motives for selling is the biggest difference between Craigslist and other Web sites, such as eBay.

Still, care must be taken when making any purchase, and Craigslist is no exception. Although there are many warnings about scams and advice on good buying habits spread throughout the site, bad things do sometimes happen.

“A scam often seen on Craigslist involves apartment rentals,” said Tom Betz, director of Student Legal Services.

“People coming here from out of the country are trying to sublet or find a roommate … and people ask for deposits on places that don’t exist,” he said.

A few of these cases have already been reported this semester, but Betz is quick to point out that such scams are nothing new.

“This kind of thing predates Craigslist. It’s just a new medium for an old kind of fraud,” he said.

Some feel that other Web sites offer better protection for buyers in the event of fraud.

“I would default to eBay instead of Craigslist. They have better quality controls, I think,” said Phil Reese, a teacher in the Homer school district.

Still, most Craigslist buyers have had a generally positive experience.

“Everything has been generally as advertised,” Clegg said. “They warn you about fraud when you respond to ads too, so you’re aware of any risks beforehand.”