Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 7:27 pm | Fair 68º


She Said, Z Said: The Science of Craigslist, At a Discount

Whether you're biding your time or bidding on it, recognizing the right price is worth figuring out

Z: I am always startled to learn that the value of anything is exactly the price that another person is willing to pay for it.

She: Plus shipping and handling. Although, why it costs $9.95 to handle anything is beyond me.

Z: Don’t touch my stuff so much, and save me a few bucks. Am I right?

She: Why so interested in the price of things today?

Z: Because Craigslist — even though it’s filled with flakey buyers and sellers — is a magical playground of economic theory.

She: I think you have much more fun there than you should. Are you really selling stuff, or have you been hanging out in the oddly creepy personals section?

Z: Those are fun for about five minutes, but I don’t really have extra time for the shower you need to take after reading them. No, I’m talking about the mystery of how you decide to price things on Craigslist.

She: Can’t you just put everything on there for free? Really all I want is a clean garage.

Z: I know, which is why I do all the Craigslisting in the family. It takes the same amount of time and energy to give away something for free as it does to put a price on it. Why not make a few dollars?

She: Is the garage clean?

Z: Soon enough.

She: That’s why.

Z: I got rid of the old TV this week.

She: That’s a start.

Z: It’s not a flat panel, it’s smallish, and it wasn’t that expensive to begin with. I assumed it was scrap, so I started off by asking for $20.

She: Why not just scrap it?

Z: Because it seems like it’s better for the environment to find someone who still has a use for it. I lowered it to $10, and then $5, and that’s when I started to get calls.

She: So the value of a small, old TV is $5.

Z: That’s what I thought, until the guy who actually bought it insisted he pay $10.

She: Huh?

Z: He needed the exact cable inputs that this TV had in the back, and said they were hard to find. He was also buying it for some company or department, and didn’t want to rip me off since it wasn’t even his money.

She: That’s crazy talk.

Z: So apparently the value of an old TV varies, depending on who needs it. We didn’t need it, so you wanted to scrap it. He needed it, so he wanted to pay what was fair.

She: Thank you, Milton Friedman.

Z: Who?

She: While you were doing plays in college, I took Econ 101.

Z: Hard to believe.

She: For you and me both.

Z: My favorite Craigslist pricing was when I was trying to sell an old sofa. I started at $50, but nobody wants a $50 sofa. It must be awful. As soon as I raised the price to $100, it sold pretty quickly.

She: Because a $50 sofa is probably full of moth holes, and possibly even moths, while a $100 sofa is actually a great deal.

Z: Kind of like all of those “great deals” you get on eBay.

She: Exactly. One pair of $150 shoes is a lot of money. But three pairs of $150 shoes for $60 each is a fabulous deal.

Z: If only we were living in a world of eBay economics instead of Craigslist cash flow.

She: Maybe I can find a book about how to do that on

Z: Yes, dear.

— Share your economic theories and bidding techniques with She and Z by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow She and Z on Twitter: @lesliedinaberg. Click here for previous She Said, Z Said columns.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >