Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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FEBRUARY 7, 2013 12:37PM

The Craigslist paradox

Rate: 17 Flag

I take a breath.  How am I going to write this email without seeming overly upset?

After a few minutes, I begin:

Hi guys, 

I just want to thank you all, on behalf of myself and my brother (and Hermes) for all your help in spreading the word about Hermes!

I've just received a link to a Craigslist ad that I think one of you might have posted on our behalf.  Thank you very much, but if you post anywhere else besides personal emails to people you know and trust, I'd very much appreciate your not giving my full name or email details. On Craigslist and many other sites that are similar, you can choose to mask the email address. This means, any replies to an ad would come to my email address but the sender wouldn't see the address.

If in doubt, please feel free to contact us first.

I have since edited the Hermes Craigslist ad so that these details are hidden (but, again, I will still be receiving all replies via email).

Thank you again for all of your help.  We really appreciate it.


I hit “send” and heave a sigh.  Our desperate attempts to get my brother’s cat Hermes adopted have resulted in meeting some very interesting people.  All of them are passionate about animals, but some seem very disconnected from the ways of the world.  Maybe being around cats and dogs who need help all day, makes human concerns seem petty to them.  But most people I know would probably freak out as much as I did if their personal information was boldly posted on Craigslist for the world to see. 

The funny thing is, I don’t have any particular reasons to mistrust the site as much as most people.  In fact, without Craigslist, my life would be very different.

I first heard about when I was in college.  I think it’s where I ended up finding a job posting that was right up my alley: a start-up website was looking for a movie critic. I emailed my resume without a second thought, hoping against hope that even in the competitive world of Manhattan internships and job hunting, I’d be taken on.

Amazingly, I was, and so began a few years of free movies, and participating in round-table interviews with stars like Ben Affleck and, glory be, several “Harry Potter” cast members.

In the meantime, I’d graduated from college and was looking for somewhere to live.  I went onto Craigslist, and checked out rooms for rent.  Thanks to Craigslist, I met a roommate who turned out to be a true kindred spirit. We sat down at her kitchen table and her cat, a dead ringer for a real-life Garfield, jumped onto my lap.  “He likes you,” my prospective roommate said, “you can stay.”  I’m still in touch with my former roommate today.  Her cat passed away a few years ago. When I came to visit, she showed me his ashes, and we sat there at that same kitchen table, crying.

But the biggest way Craigslist changed my life, is that it’s how I met my boyfriend.  No, I didn’t post a racy ad in “Casual Encounters”. I didn’t even write that I was looking for romance.  After a horrible break-up, I came back to Paris and planned to distract myself as much as possible from feeling lonely.  So I posted an ad looking for people to go to the movies with, since most of my Parisian friends aren’t huge movie buffs.

By chance, the boyfriend had recently received some free movie passes from the company he was working for, and had also broken up with someone and wanted a change.  A friend of his mentioned that if he was looking to practice English or meet new people, there was this site called Craigslist that was very popular with ex-pats.  The boyfriend went onto the site and saw my ad.

Our first movie together was Sofia Coppola’s “Marie-Antoinette”. I liked it, and he hated it – but, as the French say, peu importe; what made me realize this was someone I wanted in my life was the fact that, after the film, he suggested we walk up to the nearby Conciergerie, where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned before being sent to the guillotine.

Six years later, while planning our apartment remodeling and renovations, we needed to sell some furniture.  Guess what site we used?

I’ve never had a bad experience with Craigslist, and yet, I can’t ignore the horror stories.  Rumors of ad responders attacked or assaulted.  Scams.  Unsolicited dick picks.  The Craigslist Killer.  People who raise fighting dogs or do experiments on animals are the latest threat. Many of the animal adoption places we’ve been in touch with have told us not to post anything on Craigslist about my brother’s cat.  After the email I sent about not posting my personal information there, one response I got back was this:

Wow, that stinks that someone posted it on Craigslist.  I would have to guess that it was someone who received the email blast who isn’t very savvy

– I stopped reading to shake my head in emphatic agreement. But reading on, I realized we hadn’t formed that opinion for the same reason

b/c everyone familiar with rescue knows never to post on Craigslist.  Is there any way to get Craigslist to remove it?  Since I never use CL, I don’t know their policies.

I’d never tell these people that, a few years ago when I was helping a family friend find new homes for some animals, we posted on Craigslist…and successfully adopted out several of her cats.

It’s like a lot of things: you have to be careful.  When you meet someone for the first time, try to do it in a public place. If that’s not possible, talk to them first – on the phone or, even better, via Skype or Facetime, so that you can see them, as well. If you’re trying to adopt out an animal, ask these people for references, and ask plenty of questions about their experience with animals, why they want a pet, their living situation, etc.  I also tell them to call me if they ever have a problem and can’t keep the pet in question and I’ll help them find it a new home. 

The sad thing is, of all the places and individuals my brother and I have contacted in order to find Hermes a new home, only Craigslist has given us three promising candidates.  Nowadays, no-kill shelters and animal sanctuaries are full to capacity.  Services like work exclusively with groups and shelters.  Craigslist, with its free ads and household-name status, is a great way to spread the word about something – or in this case – someone.

When I think about it, I’m amazed at the myriad ways that Craigslist has changed my life.  And yet, I’m now feeling what I’ll call the Craigslist paradox, more than ever: much as I’m grateful for the site’s existence, I’m sort of worried about the fact that my personal information was posted there for so long. Who knows what might happen?  Probably nothing.  Hopefully nothing.  So far, nothing has happened, except for being contacted by these three interested people.  No dick picks, no identity theft (that I know of). 

I guess it’s like life – you have to take risks or else you’ll never get anywhere.  Maybe you could look at using Craigslist as an electronic equivalent of doing a trust fall.  Would you expect a random crowd of people to catch you?  For now, I’m glad for all the times I’ve done those figurative trust falls…but I have to admit that these days, before I do one, I try to glance into the group to see if anyone’s naked or hiding a weapon…..


Hermes the cat is still up for adoption.  My brother lives in the Atlanta area, but it may be possible to get Hermes somewhere between there and NY, where he's moving to.  If you're interested or if you know someone who might be, please contact me via PM. Thank you so much to those of you who've offered your help (including Gabby Abby, who contacted Bellwether Vance, who wrote the fabulous ad for Hermes below), and who've been so supportive of this whole situation.  Here's hoping Hermes finds a home soon!


SWC (Single White Cat) seeks SL (Special Lady). Anderson Cooper look-alike in the market for a permanent cuddle situation. Men frighten me so I'd prefer a LOH (Ladies Only Household). I'm up to date on shots and my front paws are declawed.  I'm neutered but I've got a LLTG (Lotta Love To Give). Contact my human helpers if you'd like to adopt TBCOYL (The Best Cat Of Your Life). 

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yes take risks. these days the risk is bigger than ever, but
so is the reward. a blanket -statement for craigslist and
and theNet in general.
yes: damn simple caveat i would think:
"if you post anywhere else besides personal emails to people you know and trust, I'd very much appreciate your not giving my full name or email details."

i mean, for example, i know yer name is NOt alysa (it is astrid)
and you dont live in paris, u live in berlin!
I started my second job- teaching Math - through Craigslist ads about 10 years ago. Worked out well fro me.

I suspect each City's Craigslist has its own culture. In Sacramento, the areas I would use have become very phishy/scammy. That may be more about the proliferation of tutoring scams than Craigslist.
People dont care for Craigslist in Canada and use a site called Kijiji owned by Ebay. It just isnt the same. I love CL.
This is awful about Hermes.. I hope someone adopts him

"Our first movie together was Sofia Coppola’s “Marie-Antoinette”. I liked it, and he hated it – but, as the French say, peu importe- what made me realize this was someone I wanted in my life was the fact that, after the film, he suggested we walk up to the nearby Conciergerie, where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned before being sent to the guillotine."

Now that would had me at hello..:)
The more convenient things get for regular people, the more creative the criminals become. Whoever did that wasn't thinking or hasn't been victimized... yet. Caution is required by everyone.

I remember cringing the first time my oldest daughter told me she was meeting someone she met online. But I adapted. I kind of had to since both of my son-in-laws came by way of Craigslist. It's a different world.
Your cat is lovely and I'm sure someone will come forward soon. Craigslist is free, local and current. You just can't beat it. I met my last boyfriend on there and every once in awhile I post an ad in the personals leave it on for five minutes and then sort thru the replies. I find the good and the bad. It is up to me to sort it out. Isn't that life? Get over the danger. Life is about risks. Your cat needs you to take them and I hope a home is found soon. You can get ANYTHING on Craigslist so you better be careful what you say you want!
Here in DFW all the Petsmart stores have adoption programs for cats. I've taken in one myself. Just ask an associate when you can bring a cat in.
My experience with Craigslist is limited - bought and sold a few items, applied unsuccessfully for a couple of jobs through them, all without trouble. However, I know the horror stories and they can't be ignored. The site is a reflection of life - most people are well-meaning but the occasional one who isn't can be fatal. You certainly did the right thing removing your personal information and I hope you have success finding a home for Hermes.
Lady Lucia adopted Alice and Trixie from a small, Staten Island rescue organization that advertised on craigslist. I got my best nanny job ever from a posting on craigslist. I've also ended up wasting my time interviewing for bogus jobs found on you say, it's a mixed bag. Still hoping and praying you find a good home for beautiful Hermes SOON.
Something here needs correction, for the benefit of cats and their humans.

As the cat rescue guy at a PetSmart -

Pet Smart does NOT accept animals. The animal rescue folks who show cats at local PetSmart stores might be able to help, the same as any other animal rescue org.

Leaving a cat at a pet store is misdemeanor offense in some states.

Petsmart's website explains this to prevent the dangerous misconception in Cheshyre's post below.
I wish I lived there. That is damned handsome SWC. I would not hold the Anderson Cooper thing against him.
No one has the right to publish your personal info w/o your expressed perimission regardless of how humane the gesture may be. R
I hope Hermes finds a home soon. Our local pet shop owner put him on his Facebook Page with your email (sorry,he didn't ask my permission but took it off the email I forwarded.) One of his friends said she might have found someone interested. I take it she never got in touch with you. R
Oh, Hermes! You are so handsome. I think you guys should write to Anderson Cooper himself and see if he'll take in his feline doppelganger. You never know. That's a risk worth taking, I think.
Great story about your own Craigslist history. It is the reality of the real world and of the cyber world...everyone needs to open their eyes and pay attention to what's going on around them. I agree that there are great things / opportunities to be found on CL, we all just have to be careful. Best of luck to you and Hermes!
As soon as I saw your title I had a smiliar "flashback" of how Craig's list has also influenced my life and the life of my children. A great post - a slice of Americana - even though you are in France!! I wish we could take Hermes!!
I haven't used Craigslist. Has your brother looked into sites sponsored by cat food manufacturers? For example, Iams's adopt a pet site includes a database search by zip code. I don't whether someone can upload a notice or if the site only takes notices from shelters.
You may have heard about the Florida kitty that trudged 200 miles down I-95 to find his owners whom he had lost at an RV park recently. When he finally collapsed in his hometown, the people who found him took him to the vet and had him checked for a chip. YEP! there it was, and his owners came and got him within minutes. Lesson for kitty owners and lovers everywhere. Never give up, he's not going to be left behind sitting on the curb.

I loved your reference to a trust fall, looking back for weapons. lol. You've had more good experiences than not, so far. Let's keep the faith. Besides, look how far they'd have to come to get you!
I use Craigslist all the time, and have had mixed results. On one hand, I once got a job playing for a faded country music star that lasted three years from an ad I saw there. On the other hand, you can wade through hundreds of ads for jam bands, kid bands, and scam bands before you can find anything close to a professional situation. And I've learned never to post an item I'm trying to get rid of "for free" on Craigslist. The gnarliest, strangest, oddest people will be flooding your inbox for weeks.
I have not used Craigslist in ages, but yesterday my neighbor asked me why I was draining my pool. "I'm not" I said. He pointed to the stream of water going down the street, emanating from under the side gate to my yard. The outer casing of the filter had burst! Spare part - $400 and really hard to find as it's an obsolete model. Ten minutes on CL and I'm off to pick up a barely used one - the entire filter!- for $120.
As Frank says, it's when you advertize something you meet all the loonies in your area.
It's a dangerous world out there. I hope the beautiful cat finds a good home.
I want him....
I have never used Craig's List.