|Christmas morning on our Craigslist futon|
1) The good stuff goes fast. Really fast. You can contact the person 20 minutes after the ad goes up and not get it. Now, don't let this get you down. If the ad is still posted and you want the item, go ahead and contact the person even if it has been listed awhile. Sometimes the first (and second and third...) person has flaked out and that's when you step in. Or, strangely, no one else was chomping at the bit for the antique hand-crank washing machine that was going to require four burly men to load. So what I'm saying is, if you are interested in something by all means contact the seller immediately.
2) Check the listings often. Because stuff goes so quickly it pays to check the listings often. Also, checking often familiarizes you with what is being offered regularly in your area. There is an abundance of free hot tubs offered on the Austin Craigslist. In other parts of the country you see a lot of above-ground pools. During garage sale season there are lots of garage sale leftovers listed.
3) Offer very prompt pickup. Most people who offer things for free just want the stuff out of their space as quickly as possible. In your very first email you need to offer to pick up the item as soon as you possibly can. Don't say "I can pick it up this weekend". People who say that are not sure they really want the stuff. Say "I can pick it up tonight after 5pm". Which leads me to tip #4:
4) Be specific in your response. When you respond to a free ad go ahead and tell the seller/donor exactly when you are available. Offer flexibility, too. "I can pick up the item tonight after 5pm, tomorrow morning before noon, or at another time if that works best for you."
One of my favorite scores was a huge box of swing-top homebrew bottles. Tonight I am the backup person for a load of 4,900 (yes, you read that right) tiny aluminum lip balm and hand salve tins. Brand new! That would be such a score and then everyone I know would be getting homemade lip balm for Christmas this year. I'm also waiting to hear back from someone giving away three rabbits, their hutch, and all their accessories. I've been wanting to add some meat rabbits to the homestead but I had planned to wait until fall. As I told Mr. Chanclas, though, you don't turn down 3 rabbits + hutch+ the goods for FREE. You just don't. So I'm anxiously awaiting the word on that one.
Scavenge on, my friends!