It's hard enough to sell something good, something that you believe in. But how on earth do you sell something that nobody wants?
I've written a lot that I'm proud of—plays and novels, essays and sportswriting, and endless reams of juicy descriptive copy—but none of it is quite as effective as my Craigslist ads. This is not paid work, and it is not particularly respectable work, but it is something I adore.
The voice of a Craigslist ad is a funny thing—equal parts screamy and desperate—and the understanding of when to switch to all caps takes a delicate touch. It is an opportunity for me to play the part of a sleazy used cars salesman. What could be more fun?
My greatest Craigslist coup came in the fall of 2015, when my wife and I decided to get rid of the piano that had been taking up space in our apartment for over a decade. No one played it, no one tuned it, and years of sitting on a slanted floor in a humid apartment had warped its works beyond any hope of repair. Getting rid of it would be a nightmare.
There is such a thing as a piano mover, I realized, and there must be men who set out into that field only to find they lacked the delicate touch to move a piano without damaging it. Those were the men I wanted to hire—the failed piano movers, the piano destroyers, who would lug this useless upright out of my fourth floor walk-up and charge me a fraction of what I would pay if I wanted the piano kept whole.
There are several piano destroying firms in New York City, and their representatives make a very funny sound when they hear the word "fourth floor walk-up." Getting rid of the piano would cost between $500 and $700, and with the new baby looming, that was more than I was willing to pay.
After a week or more of failing to find someone to take my piano away, I was desperate, even angry, and so I turned to Craigslist. I hammered out the least appealing ad I could possibly write—"FREE PIANO -- Works Badly!"—intending it to be a cathartic scream into the void, or at the very least something to amuse my wife. But then, something unexpected happened. I started to get responses.
There were people all over Brooklyn, it turned out, who were interested in my white elephant. Even the phrase "fourth floor walk-up" didn't turn them off. Three people were particularly interested, almost banging down my door, desperate to take this piano that simply did not work. Who were these maniacs, I wondered, and could I trust them?
I insisted that they hire piano movers to take the beast away. One of the prospective takers, a composer, refused. He had a buddy who would help him move it. It would be fine. I told him about my stairs: the steep, two story incline that scared off all the junk guys. He was unafraid. Finally, I told him he couldn't have it without movers. I did not need any composers being crushed to death in my hallway.
The other "buyers" stopped emailing me back. I reposted the ad, and got one last response, from a Morgan Stanley employee who wanted the piano for a music video. It didn't have to play well—it just had to look convincing. Our piano could do that.
Asked about piano movers, she said she had that covered. I didn't question her. She arrived that evening flanked by three gigantic men—the sort of men to build a football franchise around—who groaned audibly when they saw the piano they had, for some reason, agreed to move. They got it on its side. They got it through the door. And over the course of a sweaty, profane hour, they got it down all four flights of stairs, saving me $500 and clearing out badly needed room for baby.
It was the greatest sale I'll ever make, and it started as a joke.
free piano -- works badly
Want this piano? We sure don't!
A lovely wooden piano which, according to one piano tuner, cannot be properly tuned. Maybe you'll have better luck. Maybe you just want a piano to smash in your spare time. Maybe you're looking for a very large paperweight. In any case, this is the piano for you!
If you can extricate this piano from our apartment in the next five days, it is ALL YOURS!