As vaccines find their way into arms and the final lockdown measures are relaxed around the country, many Americans are trying to figure out what post-quarantine life will look like. They’re seeking new friends and social groups, opportunities to travel, or just an indoor drink; they are not touching the weights sets, inflatable pools, or other homebound essentials they bought at the pandemic’s nadir. Instead, they’re putting all that crap on Craigslist.
I spent a couple days scanning Craigslist ads in various cities to see what Americans are trying to unload right now. It was an illuminating look at how people tried to entertain themselves, stay in shape, socialize, work from home, commute, and survive during a strange and scary time. But also: Did we really need to order so many disinfectant wipes?
Perhaps the most common pandemic hand-me-downs you’ll see up for sale are exercise equipment: Pelotons, weights, and rowing machines galore. The product descriptions are almost always the same: The seller bought the equipment hoping to exercise at home and either couldn’t find the time and willpower to use it or now has no need for it as gyms reopen. A subset of this category is sports gear. A man named Arsen in San Francisco is currently offering a full set of hockey goalie equipment—which includes skates, pads, a mask, gloves, a chest protector, sticks, and jerseys—for $2,600. Arsen spent more than $3,000 on everything but says he didn’t end up using the set much. “I’ve developed different hobbies, and don’t really have the same fire as I’ve had previously,” he told me. “Friends got me into it anyway.”
Another popular post-pandemic resale category is protective gear like masks and sanitizers. Where once there were shortages of PPE, it seems there’s now a glut, and people are eager to reduce their stockpiles. For instance, there are two six-pound buckets of Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner Disinfectant Wipes that’ve been on sale in New York since late May. For $80, you can get a total of 370 wipes that won’t expire until March 2023. The buyer, who declined to give their name, told me over email that they were in “panic mode” at the start of the pandemic and couldn’t find wipes anywhere. They were eventually able to find a company that sells medical supplies on the West Coast and ordered the two buckets last April. The shipment was supposed to come in by June. Because the wipes were on backorder, though, they were delayed for more than a year. “I contacted the company and asked them to cancel the order but it was nonrefundable,” the seller said. “I received the wipes a couple of weeks ago, and by now, as you know, you can buy/order sanitizing wipes easily.” The seller added that they now have no need for two whole buckets and is trying to hand them off to someone else without “price-gouging.”
A writer in Washington, D.C., who asked that his name not be published is also trying to find a buyer for a large HEPA air purifier that he used only once as a protective measure for a small New Year’s party he hosted earlier this year. The purifier is currently going for $50, about a quarter of the original price. “My husband and I have a long tradition of throwing a really big New Year’s party, which obviously was not going to happen, but we wanted to do something,” he said. “We felt like there were about six people we could have over, and we talked to them all and agreed we would get tested in advance and self-isolate between getting the results and New Year’s Eve.” Beyond the testing, though, he felt that it would give him and his guests some peace of mind to have other precautionary measures in place. He’d heard from a friend that there was some evidence that HEPA air filters could help curb the spread of the coronavirus, so he decided to spring for one. “I knew it wasn’t a magic bullet, but it was kind of a security blanket, an extra thing to diminish the risk,” he told me. He and his circle of friends are now all vaccinated, however, so he no longer feels the need for such a device. There don’t seem to be a lot of takers for the purifier on Craigslist though; one person got in contact but then ended up ghosting the seller on the day that it was supposed to get picked up.
Finally, cooking products from pandemic hobbies like bread-making are in abundance on Craigslist. An art writer named Tansy in New York City is selling an electric hot pot cooker that comes with a pan and “egg rack” attachment. “I never had to cook in my whole life,” she said. “I live in a neighborhood where $6 for a healthy full meal is pretty common.” At the beginning of the pandemic she “panic bought” the device, because she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to frequent the restaurants where she usually gets her food for a long stretch of time. That fear didn’t really materialize, though, and Tansy never ended up using the cooker. She’s now selling it for $32. “It was literally still in its original box, never used or even plugged in,” Tansy noted. “So I only dropped one or two dollars I think.” She hasn’t had much luck finding a buyer for the cooker, though she was been able to sell a bike she got during the pandemic for the exact same price at which she bought it.