Americans Unload Prized Belongings to Make Ends Meet
Hard-hit Americans are unloading their family heirlooms to pay for food and gas.
April 29, 2008— -- NEW YORK (AP) - The for-sale listings on the online hub Craigslist come with plaintive notices, like the one from the teenager in Georgia who said her mother lost her job and pleaded,"Please buy anything you can to help out."
Or the seller in Milwaukee who wrote in one post of needing to pay bills - and put a diamond engagement ring up for bids to do it.
Struggling with mounting debt and rising prices, faced with the toughest economic times since the early 1990s, Americans are selling prized possessions online and at flea markets at alarming rates.
To meet higher gas, food and prescription drug bills, they are selling off grandmother's dishes and their own belongings. Some of the household purging has been extremely painful - families forced to part with heirlooms.
"This is not about downsizing. It's about needing gas money," said Nancy Baughman, founder of eBizAuctions, an online auction service she runs out of her garage in Raleigh, N.C. One former affluent customer is now unemployed and had to unload Hermes leather jackets and Versace jeans and silk shirts.
At Craigslist, which has become a kind of online flea market for the world, the number of for-sale listings has soared 70 percent since last July. In March, the number of listings more than doubled to almost 15 million from the year-ago period.
Craigslist CEO Jeff Buckmaster acknowledged the increasing popularity of selling all sort of items on the Web, but said the rate of growth is "moving above the usual trend line." He said he was amazed at the desperate tone in some ads.
In Daleville, Ala., Ellona Bateman-Lee has turned to eBay and flea markets to empty her three-bedroom mobile home of DVDs, VCRs, stereos and televisions.
She said she needs the cash to help pay for soaring food and utility bills and mounting health care expenses since her husband, Bob, suffered an electric shock on the job as a dump truck driver in 2006 and is now disabled.
Among her most painful sales: her grandmother's teakettle. She sold it for $6 on eBay.