Auction Springs Up on Craigslist

Entrepreneur uses Google Docs to track bids.

by staff writer
- Apr 01, 2009

Keith Teare recently posted an auction to sell his Power Mac G5 computer, but he didn't head to eBay to offer up his desktop. Instead he opted for Craigslist.

Teare, an entrepreneur, has used the site several times before to sell items, but found it to be inefficient. Since Craigslist depends on e-mail for buyers and sellers to communicate, he would often get several low offers since people didn't know what the current high "bid" was.

"I spent a lot of time replying to e-mails and telling them, 'I'm sorry, someone has already offered more,'" he says.

Being a "very logical person," an auction seemed natural, Teare says. But since Craigslist doesn't offer an auction format, Teare linked his listing on Craigslist to a form he created using Google Docs, where users could enter their name, bid and e-mail address. Bidders could then see the highest offer on a read-only Google Docs spreadsheet.

And Teare contacted the winner via e-mail after the auction ended.

"Craigslist is a cool place to buy and sell stuff," notes Michael Arrington, an editor at technology blog TechCrunch, and a friend of Teare's. "It has a massive audience and you don't have to pay the listing fees that eBay charges."

Craigslist visitors are usually looking to buy something, Arrington notes. As a result, "thousands of auctioneers who realize this fact about Craigslist frequently advertise (their) auctions there," he reports.

Teare wasn't looking for high bids when he started the auction; he just wanted a way to offer his computer without getting bogged down with e-mail.

"I listed it on Friday and I didn't have to do anything until Sunday at noon when the bids were done," he says.

But Teare is not the first to come up with the idea to create auctions on Craigslist. Sites such as and have taken advantage of Craigslist's popularity to help people create and list auctions on the site without having to pay listing fees or registering.

Craigslist currently has local classifieds and forums for 570 cities in 50 countries around the world. More than 40 million people in the United States alone use the site every month, Craigslist reports. Working with local buyers might appeal to a lot of eBayers, Teare says, because they wouldn't have to worry about working with less-than-serious bidders who may live hundreds of miles away.

Teare doesn't plan to start an online auction site for Craigslist, but he wasn't bashful about sharing his idea with Craigslist founder Craig Newmark when the two ran into each other at a party.

"I told him what I'd done and he thought it was very cool," Teare said. "He said I should blog about it."

eBay could not be reached by press time for comment.

"If Craigslist did support auctions, there would be a lot of trust because you're dealing with local buyers," Teare adds. "I think a lot of eBay sellers would use it."

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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