Mold, Clarifying Definitions, Rage, Air Conditioners, and Craigslist

We searched Craiglist for 2-3 weeks to find an window air conditioner for our living room.  After a fairly creepy exchange with one seller (who kept asking for our home address so he could deliver it to us – ummm, NO!), we found the perfect one, picked it up last Thursday, and brought it home, thrilled that we’d saved quite a bit of money and kept something out of a landfill.  Monday night, we installed it in our window (just in advance of Tuesday’s major heat wave) and with the light shining through the back of it, we discovered that it was infested with mold.  Not just a little bit of mold either – there was mold everywhere you could see.  We were horrified.  We didn’t think that the sellers had purposefully sold us a health hazard but rather that they themselves hadn’t noticed it either (i.e. we were not assigning negative intent to their actions).

So, naively thinking that they would be as horrified as we were, I called them back to let them know what had happened and to ask for our money back.  The husband answered and was a little taken aback but said yes and then we arranged that we would take it back to them the next day for a refund.  About five minutes later, the wife called me back, yelling at me (plus I could hear the husband yelling the same in the background), saying that absolutely no way would she be giving me my money back, that I’d bought it as is, that I’d better just get some vinegar and clean it, that she didn’t care about my children’s health (in response to me saying something to that effect), that I had no right to ask for a refund, and then she hung up on me.

I was FURIOUS, angrier than I’ve been in a very long time.  I was also sobbing because really, I could have handled it up until she told me that she didn’t take any responsibility for my children’s health and that it was basically my problem.

To me, when you buy something “as is”, the seller has declared that there are problems with what you’re buying and you’re acknowledging that you’re buying something with issues.  “As is” doesn’t (to me) mean, “I’m allowed to sell you something which I claim is in perfect working order but then if there’s something drastically wrong with it, I can just tell you that you’re stuck with it.”  (See – that’s where “clarifying definitions” comes in.)

I was so angry I was looking up small claims court and how to file.  For the record, $100 (what we paid) isn’t worth troubling the courts for.  In the meantime, Nik, thankfully, was much calmer than I am and he called them back and in a message, basically said, “You’re right.  You have the right to tell us that we have to keep the air conditioner.  But we’re asking you from common goodness to acknowledge that you accidentally sold us a non-usable item and to give us our money back.”  Meanwhile, I was showering, crying, and really not doing a good job pulling myself together.

Eventually, the woman called Nik back, having calmed down, and she did agree to take it back and refund our money.  I’m really grateful for that although to me, the money wasn’t as big of a deal as the way she’d treated me.  Regardless, I’m really grateful that she decided to do the right thing and refund our money.  That night, we went out and bought a new AC unit and it worked beautifully this week, thankfully (since the heat index was near/over 100 for Tuesday and Wednesday).  The next day, Nik did take it back to them and they refunded our money.

So, some lessons learned from all of this:

  1. Be careful when buying used AC units. If you Google this, there are basically two camps, one which says it’s no big deal and the other that says you should never buy a used AC unit off of Craigslist (or anywhere else), precisely because of this mold issue.
  2. If you do have window AC units, check the ones you have now to make sure they don’t have mold growing in them.  We checked our other ones and found lots and lots of dust accumulated on filters (because clearly we’ve been very lazy about cleaning them up until this point) but thankfully no mold infestations.
  3. Make sure you are really up front with the people that you buy or sell things from off of Craigslist (or any similar service).  Being clear on expectations will make life much better.
  4. If you ever buy anything used from me and it turns out I sold you something unusable, I promise to be mortified, feel terrible about it, and refund your money immediately.
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