Friday, October 29, 2004

When you’re advertising your laptop for sale. . .

Please list more than the model and price. PowerBooks and iBooks come in a variety of sizes and configurations. If I can't guess from your ad whether you're selling a battered Wallstreet or a brand-new 17" PowerBook with a gig of RAM, I'm much less likely to email you about it and ultimately to hand you my hard-earned cash. Same goes for Windows laptops.

Some ads are short enough to count as haiku, though most ads omit the obligatory reference to the season. This is Craigslist, not a newspaper. You are not being charged by the word for your ad. Go, tell me alllll about it. It’s easier than answering 17 emails or telling the same information to a dozen callers.

Here's a basic list of specific features to put in your ad:

  • Processor speed: 333 MHz? 1.33 GHz? Is your laptop a tortoise or a hare?

  • RAM: 128MB? 1 GB? RAM’s a lot cheaper than it used to be, but today’s computers gobble memory like potato chips. I need to know what I’ll have available and whether I can run Quark, Word, Excel, and a chat window simultaneously.

  • Hard drive capacity: 235 MB or 80 GB, this is one place where size does matter. When I got my Lombard, I wondered how anyone could ever fill up a 10-gig hard drive. I learned.

  • Communications capabilities. Modem? Ethernet? Wifi? If I have to find a freaking phone jack whenever I want to check email, I need to know -- and you need to adjust the price accordingly.

  • Screen size, type, and condition. The 17” monsters have some allure, but there are good things to be said for a more compact, lighter laptop. There’s also a difference between passive matrix, active matrix, and TFT. Are there any dead pixels? Any strange red vertical lines? Does the image waver?

  • CD drive details. Can I burn CDs? Watch DVDs? Burn DVDs?

  • Any extra drives. Got a Zip drive? A floppy? Tell me about it.

  • Operating system. If you’re still running System 7.1, I would like to know about it.

  • Non-standard configuration. Tell me about anything else you’ve added to the machine -- upgrades, replaced parts, what have you. If you’ve overclocked it and done a killer case mod, brag about your achievement.

  • What else is included. Installation disks? Commercial software? If so, what? Cables? Speakers? Packaging? The vague promise of "extras" does not count as actual information. Does that mean it comes with one hyper-violent game installed? or a full licensed version of Adobe Creative Suite, a wireless keyboard and mouse, a 22" flat-panel display, and an address book with useful blackmail material on seventeen prominent hiring managers?

  • Case condition. Scratches? Dents? NaNoWriMo stickers?

  • Anything that doesn’t work. If half the keys stick, I will not buy it, and you can save us both a lot of time and trouble if you come right out and tell me.

I want to buy your laptop. I crave that big, full hard drive. I yearn for a speedy processor. I ache for the millions of colors on your screen. I want to pay a fair price, get a machine in good condition, and leave us both feeling happier. But you’ve got to cooperate. You’ve got to communicate.

Cross-posted to Craigslist.

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