Thursday, October 31, 2013

craigslist loves babies

And I don't, really.  Well...for those not visiting from the IF's complicated.  (Why don't you get lost in a mind vortex of topics that have nothing to do with shopping or antiques for, say, a year?  Please read my blogroll while you're at it.  Thanks for stopping by!) 

This is a fact I probably should have featured a little earlier in the month: craigslist is sort of a natural haven for stay-at-home moms.  Have a fairly flexible schedule for furniture pick-up and drop-off, and trying to pinch a few pennies being on just the one income?  Yes, well, there you go.  So trolling the 'list can offer just as much of a baby-related ambush as the dreaded 'book.* 

For example.  I have run eleventy million searches on the word "gate," and because I don't know whether people list them under "household," or "materials," or "antiques," or what, I hit "all for sale/wanted" as my major filter.  Which means I get lots of results.  Like so:

(I have no idea why that image is shaded in gray, by the way.  Blogger is mysterious.) 

Anyway, there you can see my first nine results.  Zero are for what I would call actual gates.  Five are for baby stuff.  I did not see this eventuality coming at all when I innocently typed in my "gate" search.  But it happened every day.  Eventually I wised up (sometimes this takes me a while).  I had options: scroll past all the baby results.  Definitely possible, if possibly annoying.  Another option: narrow my search.  I tried "iron, gate" a number of times, but I began to fear I was missing out on excellent gate options that their owners simply didn't know were iron.  (I believe I've already established that "wrought" would have gotten me nowhere as a search term.)  And what about lovely wooden gates?  So, some days I would run a narrow search; every few days I would run a broad search, grumpily passing by baby gates and trucks with gates in search of a real gate.  You all know how that search turned out:

I built my own.  No complaints. 

I did figure out that I could eliminate the truck-with-gates category from my results by using a $5 minimum (to get rid of those truck sellers who think they can lure you in with their $1 trucks.  Good riddance!) and a maximum somewhere south of $1000 (since motor vehicles tend to cost a bit more than yard materials).  But I never conquered the baby paraphernalia problem.  (Of course there are lots of categories other than baby stuff that could be a frequent hazard with particular searches.  And, hey, there are people who use craigslist to search for things other than gates.  True story.) 

Then I started writing about craigslist for 31 days and realized it might be helpful to someone somewhere if I knew something other than what I naturally learned through disordered obsession.  (Though I think it's important to note here that disordered obsession is probably the single most effective method of learning enormous volumes of information about a very narrow topic.  Methodical study doesn't even come close.) 

So this would be the search term that you want (combined with the dollar restrictions to eliminate the trucks):

baby -gate

Magic, right?  (It's very similar to the negative restrictor I learned ever so long ago for ebay.)  And with that (oh, I'm not using the dollar restrictor, but you should), you get...

Top nine results; only two are for baby stuff.  Hey, that's a 50% improvement! 

On the other hand, given that the whole thing is digital, anything less than 100% improvement is completely ludicrous.  So, here is where we must return to the first lesson of craigslist: never underestimate the human element.  I mean, really...

Are you going to craft a search term to eliminate that?  Of course not.  (Also: "House"?  What??) 

So, that might save you just a smidge of time and headache on your regular craigslist searches.  Which I assume you're undertaking.  And if you're not, there's no time like the present.  October is almost over...

*That is obviously false.  It would be impossible. 

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