Monday, September 5, 2011

Craigslist caper = troubled trauma

Can you say "Scam"? How about "Bait and Switch"?

You know how your mother always told you that if something seems too good to be true it probably is?

This morning I checked my local Craigslist to see if anyone wanted to get rid of an old dollhouse today.

This is what I saw. Newly listed for only $100.00.  Sure, it looks like a museum piece, but I have had some good luck finding dollhouse on Craigslist, so I emailed immediately to see if I could come to see it. I admit I was a little suspicious. I didn't say in my email that I wanted to buy the house. I just said that I wanted to see it. Something just didn't seem right, but the seller emailed back immediately and the adventure began.

I had to rent a car, as the seller was about 30 miles north of the city, I Google-mapped the directions, I stopped at the bank for cash. It took me 45 minutes to drive up there.

When I arrived it took four or five tries ringing the doorbell and banging on the door and about a ten minute wait for someone to come to the door. That gave me plenty of time to enjoy the fake flowers and the plastic cats that decorated the flower pots there.

Finally a young woman came to the door and took me upstairs. I wondered if I was going to be murdered, as I still didn't believe they had the dollhouse in the picture there.

Items were piled high along the route to the upper room, making me hope that Hoarders might show up to film a show there and save me from the fate that might be coming.

But no, the young woman took me into a large room and showed me a 30 year old tab and slot dollhouse that had seen better days.

It was not quite as nice as the one shown here, but much dirtier, and full of really bad broken furniture.

"What about the one in the picture?' I asked her. "That is the one I wanted."

"oh, that one," she said. "It is already sold, but I can give you this one for less than the ad said."

"No thanks," I said. "I wanted the one in the ad."

"Oh, sorry," she said. "Everyone wants that one. It sold really fast. I hope you didn't have to come too far."

I know I should have been happy to escape with my life, but I was thoroughly annoyed. I realized I had been scammed and I had paid well for the privilege. That rental car was not cheap.

When I got home I searched Google and, though it took me a while, I found the house in the picture. It was built over a period of 15 years by a man in England. I had read about it before, I realized. No wonder it had looked familiar. It sold to an overseas buyer for approximately £50,000, yes, £50,000. Not $100, and not on Craigslist.
 You can read about it here.
 And at any of the links below:

But . . . then again . . .

What if . . . 

What if the overseas buyer lived north of Toronto?

What if the overseas buyer had recently passed away?

What if the young woman wasn't a liar and a cheat?

What if the overseas buyer's heirs are trying to clean out the overseas buyer's house?

What if I was just an hour late to make the dollhouse deal of the century?

Scammed or scorned? Which am I? And, which is better?

Is this the one that got away? Or the one that never was?

What do you think?



  1. Was there a family resemblance with the man in the picture?

    The dollhouse world is a hard, hard place...

    I'm a glad you escaped with your life. Myrealitty

  2. No, no resemblance. Just a pathetic attempt to lure dollhouse fanatics to their home. It was touch and go for a minute, but came back older and wiser LOL

  3. I'm SO sorry, Susan! It's a shame people operate this way, even when it comes to doll houses! Did the Craigslist photo of the house resemble the environment of the owner's house at all? It seems your gut feeling is that the woman was lying...did you probe her further on the sale, or how she came to get the house in the first place? You probably just wanted to get the heck out of there. I think we've all been there one way or another...I've definitely been to plenty of strangers' homes to buy a house or furnishings. Again, really sorry about this nonsense. Good karma is definitely on its way to you...not so much for the scammer lady.

  4. It was definitely a bait and switch. The first picture on this blog is the picture they used in the Craigslist ad and it is taken right from an internet article about the house. I have reported the ad to Craigslist.
    Up to now I have always had good luck with Craigslist ads and I have picked up some real treasures. I guess the odds were against me today.
    I wonder if the person thought that no one would care as long as they were selling a dollhouse.
    Thanks for your kind thoughts.

  5. Susan, thank you for sharing this incident with us. I'd never have imagined that people would go to this extent to try and sell a dollhouse. The one she's selling looked like something someone bashed together in a hurry. Although it may have some kind of a vintage value.

  6. Susan, the next time, ask the person to send you a couple more photos...Say that you need to see the back of the house, inside of the house etc. If they are legit, they will cooperate. If they tell you that "the camera broke" or some such, run, don't walk, away as fast as you can! They aren't selling the real thing...

  7. Thanks Sans. I guess they thought that if they could get someone to their house they would make a sale. I can just see them saying "Just pull a picture from the web. No one will know the difference. A dollhouse is a dollhouse."

  8. Thanks Casey! that is good advice. I was very suspicious before I went to see the dollhouse. I should have trusted my gut feeling.

  9. Ohh what a pity,
    but never you can foresee all
    the bad ideas and intentions
    other people have...
    if you would not have been there
    you may have the feeling of a missed chance!
    Hope you booked it under "experience"
    and wish you good luck for the next time!

  10. Thanks Irmchen! It was an experience. lol. And I am glad I checked it out and didn't miss the dollhouse deal of the century.

  11. What a shame that you went through all of that hassle for nothing! Hopefully the ad will be changed or removed since you reported it.

  12. Thanks Rick. I hope so. I will certainly look before I leap next time.

  13. Susan,
    I have recently been looking at Craigslist and have been amazed to see many really nice houses posted for so cheap. But most of them are out of my area and I always wonder what if it isn't what it seems. As well as wondering what if it IS! I just bought a wonderful antique house on Ebay this morning and even though I am probably going to have to pay dearly to have it shipped, it makes me feel better to see the rating of 100% the seller has, etc. I feel more secure going through Ebay even though it isn't foolproof. One time I bought a tin house completely (and I mean completely) covered in rust. I had such a hard time getting my money back. The seller kept trying to tell me that all collectors expect some rust. I told her I had been collecting for 25 years (at that point, now close to 35) and that it wasn't the case! But that has been my only bad experience so far. Still, the deals you can get on Craigslist remind me of how Ebay was years ago. SO sorry you had to experience this. Glad she didn't try to kill you though!! Loved your descriptions of the experience, especially the plastic flower comments and the hoarding show reference. LOL Happy hunting! :)

  14. Hi Susan,

    Man, that sucks. And this person is still at it!


  15. Hi Mel;
    Yes, I noticed that the ad had been re-posted. I reported it, and it was removed, but they put it back up. I looked at the list of other ads the same person had posted and one was for stag parties. There were a few other questionable ones as well. It makes me wonder what the young woman was doing that it took her so long to answer the door. I am just glad I got out of there unscathed.