Wednesday, April 23, 2008

moving on

Dear Craigslist,

I would never deliberately underrate your many excellent qualities. You are, for all intents and purposes, my link to the real estate market, the only means by which I seek apartments, free ugly couches, and sundry other goods--moveable and immovable, tangible and ephemeral--and, occasionally, my source of entertainment. (That ad from 2006 where the guy was asking for sex in exchange for a room in an ugly house in Riverside County? Brilliant.)

But it's come to my attention--as I attempt to find a new place to live in San Francisco--that you're not living up to your potential. Half of your ads seem to be written in all caps: which, let's face it, hurts the eye and sounds not so much like the shouting to which it is often compared as it does the ranting of some teenager on MySpace whose best friend just hooked up with her crush: "GO AWAY ASSHOLE I DONT LIKE YOU ANYMORE YOU SUCK." This jejune impression is only confirmed by the general lack of grammar and observance of any consistent spelling rules. Just a hint: you don't capitalize after a comma.

All of this would be nothing, if not for the fact that your ads haven't kept up with the technology that makes them possible. I've heard tell, from the elders of my tribe, that ads for apartments used to appear in newspapers, which charged by the word and which led to a series of commonly understood abbreviations: 4/3/2 w/Chn & gmtk in HD. Which was all well and fine when one was being charged by the word, but with essentially unlimited bytes available for all of our gushing about how wonderful our 450 square foot studio truly is, why do these forms persist? And why--why oh why oh why--in the age of cheap and easy digital photography does anyone bother to put up an ad without pictures?

Perhaps I should provide and illustrative example, chosen at random from the San Francisco board and apparently posted by a professional realtor:

"Rent $1050 deposit $1000.00 2 bedroom 1 bath carport
garbage is paid ava. 4/25/08."

Where's the rest of it, you ask? Well, you see what I mean. This is it. No pictures. No mention of a pet policy. Nothing besides what one could have easily gleaned already from the title of the ad, which was "$1050/2br 1710 Magazine St," other than the status of the garbage pick-up--and I don't know about you, but whether I'll have to shell out $20 a month for my trash disposal needs is the first thing on my mind when I go to look for a new place.

So, Craigslist, I think you'll agree that we have a bit of a problem. I'd like to make a proposal, and I hope you'll consider it carefully. At a minimum, your ads for apartments and homes should include:

1. The price and number of bedrooms in the title, and repeated in the post.
2. The number of bathrooms.
3. Whether it is a freestanding structure, and, if so, whether it has a yard and whether a gardener for that yard is provided by the landlord.
4. What utilities the landlord intends to pay for. If at all possible, these shouldn't break the laws of the relevant state.
5. Pet policy.
6. Any special amenities or features, i.e. ocean view, washer/dryer, bathtub with those nice little circulating jets, comes with its own harem, etc.
7. Amount expected for deposit.
8. Pictures. And not just exterior ones on sunny days, either. You could have punched a hole in the drywall for all I know. Or your bathroom could be pink.

What it should not contain:

1. Any subjective, unverifiable praise. I don't care if you think it's the nicest house on the block. Let me decide that, and then decide whether I care.
2. Barking about how you want good tenants who won't wreck the place. Of course nobody wants tenants who will wreck the place. That's why saying so is completely unnecessary. Offensive, too.
3. Suggestion that I will like it so much that I need to bring a completed rental application and a gigantic check to the first showing. It smacks of desperation and the delusion that the housing market hasn't experienced significant declines since the bad old days of 2004. In all likelihood, you're some speculator who bought up houses by the dozen because "everyone" was making a killing in real estate and you're now trying to unload them as rental properties, but simultaneously sticking your fingers in his ears to avoid hearing the daily reminders that each of your houses is worth $100,000 less than you paid for it. Don't inflict your insecurities on me. I wasn't stupid enough to buy back then.
4. Complicated series of demands about how and when I should get in touch with you if I'm interested. You're the seller here, and in a depressed market (see above). If you don't make things as easy as possible for me, I'm going elsewhere. Your condo is what's known in economics as a commodity: virtually identical in every way to the condo sitting next to it. If your neighbor is easier to reach, I'm going to choose your neighbor. NB: If you're advertising, you know, electronically, you should probably have some sort of electronic way for me to get in touch with you. I hear there's this newfangled thing called "e-mail," which stands for electronic mail. Know it, love it, use it.

If you follow these simple rules, Craigslist, I foresee our relationship as a long and mutually profitable one. If not, I'll probably still use your services, but I'll grumble about it a lot.

Sincere best wishes,


Posted by Shannon Chamberlain @ 8:32 AM