1. Initial Contact
Ask questions. When you first contact a seller by phone or email, express your interest in the item and ask any questions you may have. Ask about the condition and/or history of the item. If no photos where included with the ad, ask to see digital photos as well.
Limit personal information. Limit the amount of information you share about yourself (for example, don’t give out your home phone or address. However, after the seller has answered some questions and seems credible, you may need to disclose more information about yourself such as your name and cell phone number (but keep it limited to that).
Establish the credibility of the seller. In addition to communicating over email, we recommend talking to the seller by phone before meeting them.
If the seller seems evasive or suspicious, or makes you uncomfortable at any point during the initial contact process, do not continue to pursue the transaction.
2. Meeting the Seller
Meet in a public place. Meet in a public place if possible – during the daytime when other people will be around.
Bring a friend. If the item is large, like a piece of furniture, and you must go to the seller’s home, always let someone know where you are going. You may also want to share whatever contact info you have for the seller (their email address, phone number).
If the seller seems evasive or suspicious, or makes you uncomfortable at any point during the meeting, simply excuse yourself.
3. Seeing and Evaluating the Item
Do your research. It always helps to do advance research on the market value of item so you will know if you are getting a good deal. You may want to bring copies of similar listings with you that support your valuation. Don’t be afraid to haggle or negotiate on price, (it is our customary in The Gambia) but don’t insult the seller with an unreasonably low offer.
See it before you buy it. Always see the item in person before you buy it. If it is merchandise, inspect its condition carefully. If it is a car, check the vehicle history .You can also request a pre-purchase inspection at a local mechanic, a service which can identify potential safety and mechanical issues. Take the car on a test drive and for extra precaution, ensure that the car is registered in the seller’s name.
If the item is not as described or pictured, don’t be afraid to walk away from the deal or change your offer.
4. The Transaction
Pay cash. In online classifieds, it’s best to pay cash and to keep the payment simple. Do not use personal checks, money wires, Western Union or Moneygrams. Do not give out any personally identifiable information such as bank numbers.
For big purchases, use a bank check. For an item priced over D50,000, you may be more comfortable using a check from a well-known bank so you don’t have to carry around the cash. You can bring a check in person to your first meeting, but it may be better to wait until you are sure you want to buy the item since you will need to make it out to the seller and you will need a final amount. You should also ask for a signed receipt.
Protect your personally identifiable information.
If the seller seems evasive or suspicious, or makes you uncomfortable at any point during the transaction, walk away from the deal. Always trust your instincts.
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