Craigslist Tenderfoot

Out of control from lust for a new-to-me bike, I listed my perfectly lovely ZRX1200 Kawasaki on Denver Craigslist. In the text of the post, I wrote about the fine condition of the bike, the happy miles it has been ridden, the originality of nearly everything, the life remaining in the tires and chain and sprockets—all pretty predictable stuff.

I wrote that text just as I try to write my columns, as one motorcyclist telling a story to another.

I posted the Craigslist ad on a Thursday evening. Friday morning, I get this response via Craigslist, from, no kidding, John Smith:

Do you still have this available for sale? If yes please get back to me with your email address. Craigslist relay not working for me. Thanks. 

(Note: I repaired the punctuation a bit.)

Attentive readers will note that the type of item listed for sale, in this case a super nice, high mileage but utterly dependable red 1200cc Kawasaki motorcycle, was not mentioned.

I replied: John, even if your name is really John Smith, this request feels scammy.

John Smith replied: Couldn’t read your message, please get back to me with your email address. Thanks.

I admit that I have no idea what John Smith or whoever he is would do with my email address. Probably everyone with a fifth-grade education knows what he’d do, but I am baffled. I had, you’ll be relieved to hear, begun to suspect that something fishy was going on. I did, however, want to sell my wonderful ZRX, despite dozens of perfectly sound reservations.

So I wrote John Smith: John, I can’t read your message.

Artwork by Mr. Jensen

Soon I heard from Smith, who evidently was not upset by my sarcasm. He wrote:

Sound great. I would love to know its present condition and the reason why you want to sell it. What’s its condition? Any damages? When have you been using it? Do you have the title in hand? Are you the original owner?

Can you send me more pictures? What is your reason for selling? What’s your final asking price? Do you have any offers yet? Do you have verified PayPal email address? Looking forward to read back from you.

That’s all exactly as written except for maybe a dozen punctuation errors I’ve fixed. You will again note that nothing specifically refers to the motorcycle-ness of my for-sale item. And evidently Mr. Smith wanted my email and PayPal addresses.

Ah, but I still wanted to sell my terrific ZRX. What a fool. I wrote John Smith this honest, clear response to his inquiries:

John, its condition is excellent. I’m not so young at this point and I want something smaller and lighter. I have owned the bike for about six years and used it for many trips, mostly to the Midwest. I got a new computer recently and did not copy all my images to it as I should have. I’m sorry.

I’d like to have $3,650 for the motorcycle. I just listed it yesterday. I do have a PayPal address.

There is a rear rack and Givi mount for a top box. Using the rack with a box on it cracked the original rear cowl, but a new one would go with the bike. I also have a new Yuasa battery that I have never used. It’ll go with the bike. A new front tire, a new battery, the new rear cowl, pretty fresh chain and sprockets, pretty fresh rear brake pads, recently changed oil. Oh, I have a spare air cleaner element and an unused oil filter. I think that’s everything.

There’s a scuff on the fairing from a tip-over in our garage, which has an un-level floor. Oh, the bike has those Chinese brake and clutch levers, copies of the classy Italian ones.

Oh again. I am not the original owner. If you need more information, just write me again…

Then, after an hour or so, I wrote him again: I forgot to mention that I have the factory service manual on CD. And a racing-style rear stand because the braced swingarm doesn’t allow a center stand. I think that’s everything…

John wrote me back, seemingly unimpressed by the completeness and sincerity of my notes to him. It began to dawn on me, maybe he’s not a motorcyclist at all… and I’ve been talking to him about braced swingarms and Givi top box racks.

He wrote: Do you have an account with PayPal?

I responded, and you can imagine my embarrassment at telling you this: In my last long email, John, I told you that I do have a PayPal address. This morning, I rode from Capitol Hill (in Denver) out to Morrison for a smoothie. Where do you live? I thought about asking you to meet me in Morrison, but I didn’t want to bother you.

John responded: I am a serious buyer but so sorry. I have been in camp (Schofield Barracks Army Base in Oahu, HI) for some time and calls are restricted here. I can only pay you via paypal as only online secure payment. So kindly get back to me with your paypal name and email address so that I can make the payment as soon as possible… Thanks.

By this time, despite wanting to sell my faithful bike, I was growing somewhat suspicious. I wrote John Smith:

John, you are not nearby. You have not asked me one question about the motorcycle that a motorcycle rider would ask. All your questions are general, questions anyone might ask about anything that was for sale. You want to buy the bike sight-unseen.

I feel bad about the time I have wasted with you, John. From the beginning, it all felt wrong, and it still feels wrong. I wish you a long and happy life… without me in it.

This story originally appeared in our May 2018 issue. 

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