Lessons Learned from a Craigslist Dresser

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Craigslist is an awesome thing. I’ve bought and sold many items using Craigslist and have honestly never had a less than great experience, until now.

I even bought my couch off of Craigslist and drove 3 hours for the privilege. I love my Craigslist couch.

For about 6 months, I’ve been searching for a dresser for my entry way. It used to look like this …

And it’s actually now completely bare. The table that used to be in there, I moved to the living room under the gallery wall. It works perfectly there. I always thought it was too small for the entry way.

So, I’ve been on the lookout for a good, cheap dresser in Craigslist to paint and put in the entry way. I wanted something that could be a nice table to fill the space, but also provide some storage.

OK, so back to the Craigslist experience. This time wasn’t horrible, but maybe I needed to learn a thing or two. Maybe I’ve just been lucky or naive and you are laughing at me because you’ve had to learn some Craigslist lessons along the way. Or maybe you’ve had great experiences like me, and can learn from my mistakes. Either way, hopefully this helps you.

{Safety note: It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that you want to be careful when buying and selling on Craigslist. I follow many safety precautions and always take Coach (my husband) with me or make sure he’s home before I let people come and buy something from me.}

Tips for Buying on Craigslist

I learned three valuable lessons that I learned on this purchase. Thankfully there weren’t more lessons to learn, you know what I mean?

1. Always be willing to walk away.

This is just a basic buying guideline for anything really, but is so basic that we (meaning me) sometimes forget it. If you’re going to drive 30 minutes {or 3 hours} to buy something, prepare yourself mentally before arriving to let that time and gas spent go if the item isn’t the right one. If the quality isn’t what you thought it would be, then leave. And be willing to “waste” your time and money that it took to get there. We drove 30 minutes to look at this dresser and I was already mentally invested. My walk-away skills were low because I didn’t mentally prepare myself.

2. Look at the product in day light, or at least a well-lit area.

I made the mistake of looking at my dresser in a poorly lit carport after dark. {My hubby was with me and we felt safe.} But what I couldn’t see in the shadows was that this left corner had been chewed up by an animal. I didn’t see it until we got home and unloaded it. I could have kicked myself for buying something with such major damage.

3. Stick with your gut on the price.

When I arrived to look at the dresser, I quickly saw that the quality wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. I was under impressed. And I really didn’t think the dresser was worth what the lady was asking. I offered a lower price and she came down a little, but not enough. I should have left then, but I ended up buying it for her lower price so that I didn’t feel like I had wasted mine and Coach’s time going there.

So, now I have a dresser that isn’t great quality and has a chewed up corner. I’m still going to paint it and see how it looks in the entry way. I’m using my first can of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I’ve actually already painted something with it, and love it so far. I can’t wait to get started on the dresser and see if it helps me like it more! Who knows, I may love it once it’s painted.

Have you ever had Craigslist regrets?

What lessons have you learned from shopping on Craigslist?

Do you want to see the finished dresser? Check it out here!

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  1. I am horrible at walking away, too. Sounds like you learned some great lessons. I have had a lot of success using Minwax wood filler for repairing gouges on my finds. And Annie Sloan covers it up really well. You won’t be able to even tell where you put it on. Good luck!

    1. I was so curious to see which one was your comment. HA!! So crazy that this was five years ago. And I still have that dresser in my foyer with the dog-chewed corner and all! lol

  2. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing this story and your tips. I haven’t had any bad experiences yet, thank god! I have, however, been finding lately that people selling on Craigslist in my area are not very nice. They don’t seem to want to set up appointments with you or anything! It’s weird!

    Anyway, thank you!

  3. Anne sloane makes everything look good you should see what this girl does her before and afters are amazing one pink girl. You can fix the dresser before you paint. Also free cycle you can get things for free or ask for something. Also where I live people put things out at garbage day and people drive around and get it. I have good luck

  4. Use wood filler on that corner and sand it nice & smooth before you paint and you’ll never know there was damage there 😉
    I think it’s going to look lovely once it’s painted 🙂 Good luck with your project

  5. Buyer’s remorse and impulse purchasing is part of DIY territory. I’ve had my share, however, that’s the beauty of DIY creativity. The dresser looks sturdy and the chewed up section will disappear with a good sanding. Look forward to seeing what you do with it.

  6. I had one of these a week ago! it was two bedside tables and when i got there it was pouring with rain so I didn’t even look at them at all! It was ebay and I had won the auction so then it is a bit harder to back out of buying it. But I was wondering on the way home if I was wasting my time. It was about 40 mins round trip so not too bad. When I got them out I saw immediately that they weren’t worth my time painting, so I stuck them straight on gumtree and sold them a couple of days later. The next person had the opportunity to look at them more as I left them out for her. I hope she liked them……. I will try to be more careful but you are right- prepare to walk away if needed!

  7. Yes! After a long day of searching for something and driving all over, I found the item we wanted newly posted on CL. So I asked my husband to please just go get it, I was too tired to deal with looking anymore. Well you guessed it, he did go and buy it, it was getting dark, says he looked at it but boy oh boy! It was pretty beat up and all I could think of was I don’t want it and we won’t get our money back.

  8. All these wonderful tips couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for sharing so much. Iv’e just recently started to try to sell an old Suburban and tool boxes with tools. I’m also looking for furniture to buy to redo and sell. One big problem, no camera to post pics of items we’re trying to sell. I know we have to do something about that post haste. Gee maybe that’s why we haven’t had any calls?

  9. Lesson learned but I bet in the end it is going to turn out looking really good. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  10. Laura, I once repaired a chair for a friend that was so much worse than the dresser. They had a wooden dining room chair with a corner chewed off the seat, courtesy of their big dog. I added a lot of wood filler/putty then sanded it to reshape the seat. I stained it, then with a tiny paintbrush I painted on matching wood grain. You’d never know that the corner was anything but original. It was not painted. You have that advantage. Some wood filler and some sanding will make it look good as new, especially if you will paint it afterward. Since that corner will be at the front, I’d recommend this type of repair. Good luck !

  11. Hi Laura, I saw your link over at Redoux, and since I linked up a dresser too, I thought I’d check yours out. Would you believe that I had those same regrets with my dresser? And it was from Craigslist too. I didn’t realize what poor shape it was in until I started working on it, and it was literally falling apart. Shame on me for not looking more closely. I thought I knew what to look for, but obviously not. In any case, my story has a happy ending because I was able to shore it up and then paint it to suit, so all is well. But next time I’ll take a closer look. Oh, and like others have said, use some wood filler on that corner. When you get all done, you’ll never even know it was there. Good luck!


    1. So glad I’m not the only one! I thought I knew what to look for too. And I’ve already applied some wood filler. I can hardly tell it was there … well I can tell, but no one else will be able to. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Great advice!!! Learning to walk away without any guilt!!! And I love the bun feet on your dresser…………try using some wood filler on the chewed parts, then do some sanding. The paint you are using will cover a multitude of sins!!! Get some upscale hardware and I think you have a winner!!! If the drawers are smelly or musty…….fill them with clay cat litter, close them up and in a few days empty them out and clean them up. Use paraffin wax or WD40 on the glides. This is a great storage piece, can’t wait to see it all done!!!

  13. Those are great things to remember. I usually make my husband do the negotiating, but I’m with you on the “mentally invested” part. That’s why my husband is great–he knows that lesson! Thanks for the reminders, and good luck with your dresser!

  14. My problem is that I usually send my husband to pick up the furniture. He doesn’t haggle at all but just pays the money and takes it. I’ve been very underimpressed twice. Once I resold something the same day! Sorry you had a bad experience but I bet it will still look great painted.

    1. GREAT BLOG POST!! I’ll add one other tip…be sure to try the drawers on a dresser. I bought a dresser at a good price BUT I neglected to pull out the drawers and to test them. After painting and waxing it, styling and photographing it AND pricing and making a hangtag and then delivering it to one of my consignment shops, the owner told me that prospective customers were “complaining” and how the drawers looked and felt like they were going to fall out when pulled out. That was my lesson learned the hard way!

  15. It could have been me telling the story! I’ve had so many great deals with buyers and sellers on CL, but a chest I bought one time was pushed up in the corner of the garage. It was beautiful until I got it home and saw the big chunk that had been taken out of one side! You learn real fast!
    See if you can replace the strip on the edge, if not, wood putty can do wonders. Maybe strips of ornate metal on each side. You will do good.

    1. I’ve gotten some great deals on Craigslist. My kitchen table, couch and rocking chair all come from Craigslist. And then I’ve sold a few things too. It can be a great tool!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  16. I deal with Craigslist often ! You have a great tip as well. But sometime I just let people come to my apartment without my husband home ( don’t do this if you are not feel comfortable ). As matter of a fact I have someone coming in the next 1/2 hour to buy a table ( this time my husband will be at home 🙂 I’m sorry about your table. Sometimes people just don’t put the detail with what is wrong with the stuff they sell. Found you site from Rain on a Tin Roof party !

  17. Never feel like you can’t walk away. I have sold/bought tons of stuff from CL. Met some wonderful people as well. And, well, a few “different” folks. I’ve driven 60 miles and was so disappointed that it was different from the pic that I walked away empty handed. Live and learn. The damage isn’t too, too bad. Some filler and sanding, and it will hardly be noticeable. I’m sure you will make it look fab!!

  18. I bet some quality wood filler and sanding with take care of those bite marks. Especially since you’re using chalk paint. Its pretty thick stuff and usually covers small imperfections pretty well. Good luck!

  19. The style of the dresser is gorgeous, how sad the corner is bad. I think it will be hidden with paint, hope you like it when all done. Hugs, Marty

  20. Good ideas! I always SAY I’m doing things safely when buying/selling on Craigslist but I sometimes forget! My post is on buying something on Craigslist also. But when buying this great ” find ” I forgot to take my husband and the house ended up being way out in the country. Could have ended up badly but the couple was very nice!
    The dresser looks great and I’m sure you can get it looking better with the chalk paint. Good luck!

    1. Great tip to check it every day! I also check it often just in case there’s something great I don’t want to miss. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  21. I bet it will be great. A little sanding and elbow grease and you’ll hardly notice the trouble spot. I would love to see how it turns out!

  22. aw, too bad! we’ve had mostly pretty good craigslist luck, which is good because I’d be terrible at walking away, too!

  23. With a little wood putty, a sander and your talent, that dresser will look great. It has good bones and looks solid. Keep creating! cindy

  24. So sorry…but I bet you’ll still make something beautiful when you’re done with it.
    I’ve done similar things…not with Craig’s List, but at garage sales, an auction, and a few other times when it was something I couldn’t take back. As you said, it was a learning experience.
    Lighting really makes a difference, doesn’t it?

  25. I love Craigslist! I have bought 2 sewing machines and they were both fabulous. The last one at a great price and it was a Bernina! My best furniture find was a coffee table with two end tables. The coffee table had been chewed by the owners big dog. With some sanding and distressing I love my treasure. All three pieces were painted white and then weathered with grey to look beachy. A perfect find. I love the lines of the dresser you bought and hope when you work your magic you love it!

  26. Gosh, it’s the truth! I’ve brought home a couple items because I felt too guilty to walk away after everyone had invested time. I do feel like this person should have pointed out the damage in the ad and it almost deserves another email to say “hey, I think you hid this on purpose.” That being said, I do think it’s salvageable. Or, do what I’ve done. Sell it on CL and find what you really want!

    1. Yeah, I thought about selling it to someone else. But hopefully it’ll look great when I paint it! I’ve even thought about painting it and THEN selling it. We’ll see!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      xo, Laura

  27. I have Only made one purchase from Craigs List. The transaction went smoothly and I was beyond excited about my purchase. Turns out, the four chairs I purchased were on there last legs, they were solid when I brought them home, but one by one they started cracking and breaking like they hadn’t been used in years and the wear and tear we were putting on them was too much. I think your dresser will turn out amazing and you will barely notice the damage. Good luck 🙂

  28. I think it will look fine once painted, especially if you do some distressing. Good tips on surviving Craigslist! Thanks for sharing, Patti@OldThingsNew

  29. So have been there. Still can’t wait to see how it turns out. Your newest follower

    Desiree @ YourCraftyFriend

  30. This is such a great post as we really do need to be reminded that we’re allowed to look at the items more in person even if we’ve ‘committed’ to buying them via phone/email. I have for sure bought something that I was less than impressed with in person because I felt like I had to. Even thought I KNOW I don’t have to buy anything, you just feel an awkward pressure to move forward with the sale or that you can’t bargain in person. I recently had this happen to me, and I choked and ended up getting something I was less than enthused about. Maybe next time I’ll remind myself of this post.

    In the meantime, I hope some sanding and your ASCP can salvage your craigslist dresser.

  31. I have learned lessons…too many lessons! Oh well, you eill probably love it once it is painted. I know there are ways to fix those chew marks…you can do it!


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