Pardon the off-topic rant - but I'm just blown away by how much power craigslist holds over classified advertising and how truly screwed up its system is.
You see, for the past few weeks, I've been trying to sell a car. So I did what everyone else out there who's trying to sell a car does: I placed an ad on craigslist. I'm pretty serious about moving this car quickly, so I also paid for an ad on cars.com.
Early on, the results were good - from craigslist. I got some phone calls, I had some people come out and take a drive. I even got one buyer who was on the fence and ended up going a different route. I got ZERO calls from the cars.com ad. Not one. And I even paid for that ad. I would have paid craigslist for a listing - but those are free. And so, I just posted another one on craigslist.
Fast forward to this week. I'm still sitting on this car, I've lowered the price and played up a couple of other features but now, for some unexplainable reason, my craigslist ad won't appear in the listings. It's there. I got an e-mail confirmation with a link to the live ad. But it doesn't show up in any of the listings or search results. What gives?
Well, any other company or Web service would have a way to reach out to the staff for some help. But craigslist does not have that. You can send in an email for some help, but you get an auto-reply telling you to check the help forums. There is no 800 number to call. There is no support team. There's no real-time chat feature to talk to a customer service.
Nope, there's just a forum of other users who offer their own two cents based on their own experiences. They can't say for sure what's causing the problem. They're just guessing. One of the respondents to my query said my ad is being "ghosted" - hidden from the listings - because I used non-alphanumeric characters in the headline. (I had used a comma, just like I had in the previous ads that were posted.) And based on the questions I saw on the help forum, I'm not the only one having this problem.
So, I took the guy's advice and fixed and resubmitted it. Hours later, the ad is still missing from the listings.
if this were the experience with any other Web service, I would have been long gone already. But what alternatives do I have?
- The newspaper? Yeah, like anyone goes there for classifieds anymore.
- Cars.com? Tried that. Paid my $40 and got not one call. Not one.
- Another online classified site? Maybe. There are several but none has the audience that craigslist offers.
- eBay Motors? I'll be working on that ad later today.
I realize that selling this car is my problem and I've got to find a way to do that. But here's what really kills me: Who in the heck made craigslist the king of all classified ads? According to comscore, craigslist saw a 33 percent year-over-year jump in traffic in August, bringing it up to nearly 80 percent market share.
How did that happen? Craigslist has no customer service to help customers. It has no rules or criteria about ads. It allows other users to flag and remove your ad (one of my ads was flagged moments after an ad for another car like mine - but more expensive - appeared on the site. I couldn't help but wonder if that seller wanted to eliminate the competition.)
When I think about all of the blunders that occurred at newspapers across the country, I can't help but think of how they let an advertising cash cow - classifieds - slip from their fingers and fall into the hands of a company that may be free but does the absolute minimum for its visitors and "customers."
The worst part is that until someone shows up to unseat them - and the numbers show that they have a long way to go - we may be stuck with craigslist as our de facto in classified advertising