I love Craigslist, San Francisco’s foremost community website. Thanks to Craigslist, I found the majority of my apartments, furnished my home, sold furniture, and befriended a handful of fellow Burners.
In business school, for my New Ventury Strategy class, we were tasked with interviewing entrepreneurs. When I announced that I had interviewed Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, everyone was excited about what I had to say. So you all know, the guy is really hard to interview. A typical techie, he gave one-word responses and kept downplaying his role as the creator of this online revolution. The site was merely his way of communicating to friends; he had no idea it would become a phenomenon. Nevertheless, he remained steadfast in his philosophy of making this available (FREE) to everyone. Income is strictly through job postings—and even this is restricted to corporations. Small companies and startups are not charged for posting to the site. In b-school, we’re consumed with profits and margins. Craigslist kinda defies all that as a successful company founded on the principles of social responsibility.
I still haven’t seen the new Craigslist documentary, but since it is out and getting press, I figured I might as well document my favorite off-the-wall Craigslist story. Enjoy…
I had been working for a startup for almost three years and I loved it. Everything was going smoothly until 9/11, after which we lost a couple major accounts, I got a pink slip, and I had a few good cries. Luckily, within a month’s time, I got accepted to the University of Chicago. I was laid off and heading to business school the following year. It was a good position to be in.
I had more than enough money to tie me over until school started, but I curiously looked into waitressing or performing some odd job. I came across an interesting ad on Craigslist. The ad read, “Looking for cute girl to clean my loft.”
The whole thing kind of intrigued me. I responded: “Cute laid-off dot.commer looking to make some money under the table.” We set up a time and place to meet. He chose a weekday afternoon; I figured he was probably living off an inheritance and didn’t work. Turns out, he was a successful trader.
I remember sitting on the patio of a waterfront restaurant (the name escapes me), catching some of that beautiful California December sun, sipping one of the restaurant’s famous house martinis, wearing a low cut top and the tightest pair of jeans I owned. When a professional, dashing young guy came over to introduce himself with a hungry look in his eyes, I knew I had just secured a job. John was a year older than me and we had a great time sitting there chatting. We stayed, had some appetizers, ordered a couple of pricey steaks, an even pricier bottle of wine, and of course, I had to have dessert.
Afterwards, we drove over to the loft that he owned nearby. The guy must have made an insane amount of money. I can’t pinpoint my exact feelings when I walked into the door, but it was some combination of shock, amazement, and confusion. His tri-level loft in a prime location of Potrero Hill was absolutely gorgeous and SPOTLESSLY CLEAN. I was stunned and all I could think to mutter was, “nice place.” He cracked open another bottle of wine and we discussed the terms of my employment. He asked how much I wanted and I threw out $100. I didn’t know how I would be able to justify any amount of compensation for cleaning an already clean place. “Is that it?” He questioned.
I was flabbergasted. I told him I thought that $100 was plenty. So he said he’d start me off at $100 and if I needed more to just let him know. I cleaned John’s place once a week and it took me no more than three hours each time. Calling it three hours was a stretch. I spent most of my time watching movies on his wide-screen TV while I waited for his laundry to dry or the dishwasher to finish. He also insisted that I help myself to anything in his place. I made delicious gourmet sandwiches and ate bowls and bowls of Godiva ice-cream. I have to say it was one of the better jobs I’ve had in my life.
People always ask if John was there when I cleaned or if I worked nude or if I had to wear some French maid outfit. None of the above. Nothing ever happened because I had a boyfriend at the time. They met on a few occasions and they naturally despised each other. Whenever he could, John seized on the opportunity to bad-mouth my boyfriend, and vice-versa. My boyfriend would joke, “Yeah my girlfriend’s headed to a top business school, but right now she’s this guy’s housekeeper.”