Early last month, Craigslist shut down its adult services section. The section, which brought in an estimated 30 percent of the site’s total revenue, has been the source of much controversy over the past few years. What may appear to be erotic massages and similarly harmless erotic services is actually straight-up prostitution and, in some cases, human trafficking, justice officials allege.
Of course, forced sexual labor is beyond awful and is a different beast in itself. But we could talk for days about the merits of legalizing and regulating prostitution; the uselessness of censoring the web; the unfairness of targeting Craigslist when web sites and print publications of all stripes host similar content. There are multiple conversations to be had, and they really could go on forever.
But, as a regular user of Craigslist, I posit: (human trafficking not withstanding) adult services is not the worst thing on that site.
Finding an apartment
I’ve used Craigslist to find apartments in two cities with pretty difficult-to-navigate rental markets: Toronto, where I lived for five years during college, and, more recently, New York, where hunting for an apartment over the past few months made me seriously consider moving to the rural Northwest and renting a 5-bedroom house for a price that could barely land me a closet in this godforsaken town. I digress.
There is something about the landlords and brokers that post rental ads on Craigslist. For one, a bunch of the listings look something like this:
SAVE$$$$$ BEST SPOT..GR8 4 COUPLES..L,JMZ..LAUNDRY..VIEW TODAY……..
ARE YOU READY TO CALL THIS PLACE YOUR HOME???
====SICK DEAL===2BR/2BATH LUXURY ==BALCONY===GYM===NORTH 8===BEDFORD L
It’s a sad day when, after hours upon hours spent on Craigslist, you can identify landlords and brokers based on their use of caps locks and zapf dingbats.
But, as if copy that looks like it was written by a 12-year-old girl weren’t bad enough, here’s the clincher: neighborhood barriers go out the window on Craigslist. I hate to go all New York-real-estate on you, but Bushwick is not Williamsburg; Red Hook is not Park Slope; Washington Heights is not the Upper West Side. The subtleties of New York neighborhoods may not apply as universally to other parts of the country, but I’m willing to bet that some serious geographic decoding is needed wherever you go.
And as for that huge, gorgeous loft that’s advertised at less than half of its rental value, chances are it’s actually a scam. But if you correspond with the ad-poster anyway, just to make sure you aren’t losing out on an amazing deal on account of your cynicism, that’s okay. And if said ad-poster sends a bunch of typo-riddled questions, and then asks you to wire a Western Union money order to Abuja or Belgrade, where he’s currently working as a missionary and from where he will send you a key once he receives your deposit…Well, if that happens, welcome to Craigslist.
Maybe a lot of this is bitterness about the apartments Craigslist has stuck me with over the years: tiny holes-in-the-wall that include, but certainly aren’t limited to, the apartment that constantly smelled like samosas because of the Indian restaurant downstairs; the one where the landlord’s suggested fix for a series of hot water outages was to “just wait till the temperature drops”; heating outages during the dead of winter where that same landlord suggested I “put on some more layers and buy a space heater.” Yeah. It’s probably bitterness.
The following sections get an honorable mention for pretty awful Craigslist experiences…
Finding a missed connection
For all of its wistful F-train-at-rush-hour romances and unrequited coffee-shop-on-Grand-Street love, the missed connections section is pretty sad. More often than not, the listings aren’t actual missed connections; they’re cheesy laments about lacking the guts to actually approach someone. Lame. And, as my friend Megan Gibson found out firsthand, the section is full of losers who troll the listings trying to pick up random girls. Not that romantic after all. (Except for that couple on Ellen).
Finding a job
This section should really be called “internships.” I don’t doubt that some people have found work on Craigslist, but as a barely employed young person, I’ve seen my fair share of awful Craigslist job postings. Memorable ones include: “internships” at retail stores; a bunch of pyramid schemes; scams that ask for applicants’ personal information. Hint: it’s unlikely that anyone will pay you $100,000 to work as a secretary.
As a friend recently pointed out after a harrowing Craigslist couch-hunting experience of her own, it’s incredible what people think their junk is worth. A common refrain is, “I paid a gajillion dollars for this a really long time ago.” But fast-forward too many years and a bunch of rips, scratches and stains later, and that velvet reclining couch is not worth the $1,500 you paid for it in 1986. In fact, you should probably pay me to take it off your hands. Also: bed bugs.
Sigh. But, as much as I hate you, Craigslist, I just can’t seem to quit you.