This fake Craigslist ad by copywriter Matt Heath is quite possibly the funniest thing we’ve read all year. The story that occurred after the ad got flagged by the police is priceless. Matt is not associated with Terrible Copywriter.
I was at work late on a Sunday night; dog-tired and worn out from a weeklong forced labor work session. I decided to blow off some steam by writing and posting a fake Craig’s List ad. If you read this blog, you’ll remember this one and this one. I write these, not to intentionally dupe people, but merely for some content for this blog. Since I’m a hack and can’t come up with brilliance on my own, I went to flickr.com for some inspiration. I clicked on the random button, searching for a picture to build a story around. It didn’t take me long to find a picture of a Chinese baby, who looked like she was balding. Perfect. The above picture is what I wrote. I posted it the next morning.
It took all of about 20 minutes for the ad to be flagged and removed, but during that time I got about 10 scathing emails from people who didn’t get that this posting was a joke (if not a bad one). I responded to all the emails, stating that the ad was a hoax and that they needn’t worry that there was some woman in Beverly Hills trying to trade up for a better baby.
Ok, so the ad was taken down, my friends thought the post was funny. My mom didn’t. But whatever. It was just a joke… or so I thought.
Skip forward to 5:30pm that same day. I’m still at work, getting ready for a meeting, when the office manager taps me on the shoulder.
“Matt, can we talk to you for a second?”
We go into the small conference room where there are two other co-workers (another office manager and our CFO) and two people, a man and a woman, who I didn’t know, sitting at the table. The following is a direct account of how the situation played out:
OPEN on Matt looking at the people seated in the conference room. He thinks this is an impromptu performance review ala Office Space with the Bobs. It is not.
MALE STRANGER: Matt, why don’t you come over here and sit next to me.
MATT: Ok. (Matt wonders why he would need to sit so closely during a performance review. Matt takes his seat.)
MALE STRANGER: Matt, is it ok for your co-workers to be in here for this?
MATT: Uhh… yeah, sure, why not.
MALE STRANGER: I’m going to ask you again, Matt. Is it ok for your co-workers to be in here? We can ask them to leave if you don’t want them to hear what we’re about to discuss.
MATT: (now confused) Why shouldn’t they be able to hear what we’re about to discuss?
MALE STRANGER: Ok, fine. They can stay. Now, Matt, do you have an email address?
MATT: (now even more confused) Yeah, I have a few, why?
MALE STRANGER: Is one of them firstname.lastname@example.org?
MATT: (now entering a WTF moment) Yeah…?
MALE STRANGER: Matt, did you post this Craig’s List posting?
The Male Stranger reaches into a folder and pulls out a printed version of the fake Craig’s List posting that Matt had posted early in the day. Matt laughs out loud. No one else does. Matt stops laughing abruptly.
MATT: Yes. I wrote that.
The two strangers stand, pull badges out of their jackets and point them at Matt.
MALE STRANGER: Matt, I’m Detective Castillo from the Los Angeles Police Department. And this is Detective Stelter. We’re from the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit.
Matt’s jaw drops in bewilderment. It should also be noted that Detective Stelter is a super hot female cop, which makes the situation bitter sweet for Matt. But mostly sweet.
CASTILLO: Matt, do you have any children?
CASTILLO: Have you ever had any children?
CASTILLO: Matt, have you ever been involved in child trafficking?
MATT: WHAT?! NO!
CASTILLO: Ok, Matt, then what’s this Craig’s List post about?
MATT: Whoa, whoa, this post was a joke! Have you read it?!
CASTILLO: Yes, several times.
MATT: And you couldn’t tell it was a joke?
CASTILLO: Matt, joke or no joke, you attempted to sell a baby on the internet, and I take that very seriously.
MATT: No I didn’t.
CASTILLO: Yes you did. It says here, “Serious inquiries only.”
MATT: Ok, wait a minute. I have never, and would never, actually try to sell a baby. EVER! This was a fake posting. A JOKE.
CASTILLO: Oh yeah? Well where did you get the pictures of this baby? Who is Wing, Matt? WHO IS WING?
MATT: I got the pictures off of flickr.com.
CASTILLO: Is Flickr some kind of child pornography website?
MATT: WHAT?! NO! It’s a picture hosting website. No child pornography.
CASTILLO: Matt, I’m going to take your computer. What do you think about that.
CASTILLO: Am I gonna find anything I won’t like on here? Like child pornography?
MATT: Are you fucking serious? NO! Take it!
CASTILLO: Ok Matt. I’m not going to take your computer. But I am gonna run your name though and see if there are any warrants out for your arrest. Am I gonna find any warrants?
Detective Castillo runs Matt’s name and finds no warrants. He looks disappointed.
CASTILLO: Ok, Matt. I want to search your house.
MATT: For what?
MATT: Jesus Christ. Fine.
CASTILLO: We’ll follow you to your house. No funny business.
The cops follow Matt to his apartment, where Matt’s ex-girlfriend, Catherine, and Matt still live together. They had just broken up. Matt sees this as a good opportunity to freak Catherine out, so he calls her and cryptically tells her that someone is coming over and that it’s very serious and she needs to stay in the house. She sounds worried.
CUT to Matt’s house on Venice Beach. Matt and the detectives approach the front door. Matt holds out his keys to the cops.
MATT: Would you like to open the door?
Matt fantasizes about how funny it would be if Detective Castillo opened the door and an avalanche of babies spilled out of the apartment, covering him, like in a cartoon. Instead, Matt opens the door and the detectives walk in. The fear on Catherine’s face is obvious.
CASTILLO: Are you Catherine? Are you Matt’s ex-girlfriend?
CATHERINE: Yes and yes.
CASTILLO: Does he have any children?
CATHERINE: (not knowing what this is about) Umm… no?
CASTILLO: My name is Detective Castillo. Do you know about Matt’s Craig’s List posting?
Catherine breaks down into a fit of laughter.
CASTILLO: This isn’t funny.
Catherine stops laughing immediately. The detectives begin searching the house, looking all over—including in the oven, which Matt finds funny.
CASTILLO: Looks like there aren’t any babies in here.
MATT: I told you. I don’t traffic babies.
CASTILLO: I don’t think you’ve learned your lesson. I’ma make you pay for all the time it took us to deal with your little stupid joke.
Well, not really the end. I wrote detective Castillo a letter asking him to let me pay my debt to society by volunteering. He obliged by letting me conduct a toy drive for the East LA Battered Women’s Center. I was stoked. I should have been doing that anyway. So, with the help of lots of friends, over $350 was raised in toy currency and donated. Special thanks to Catherine, who raised a huge portion of the toys, and Jessica and LaTanya who played Santa and delivered them to the shelter.
There are several morals to this story. 1.) Jokes about baby trafficking are NOT as funny as you might think. 2.) The cops are magic and can track you down, even if you deserve it or not. 3.) Detective Stelter is hot and I might call her when I get back to LA. 4.) It doesn’t take much to conduct a toy drive. Volunteering is the shit. 5.) Be nice to your ex-girlfriends. 6.) Jason Pollock is a fucking asshole. 7.) Making bad decisions might seem like a lot of fun, but learning from said decisions is way more fun. Plus, then you have a great story to tell your friends. 8.) As weird as this whole story is, be thankful that there are people in the world like Detectives Castillo and Stelter. They are saints dressed up like cops. And in Detective Stelter’s case, she’s a really hot lady saint/cop.
Here are a few of the responses I got from the angry people on Craigs List. I did respond to all of them to let them know the post was just a joke. I’m not THAT big of an asshole…:
You are such a horrible person to try to choose a baby to your liking. I read your add and was so shock that people like you exist how could you say you dont want her and any more because of her airline. Im sorry if we are unable to choose our parents and your born perfect without any flaws. This child that you have doesnt know any better if all she does is cry . But I could tell you onething though baby can tell when they are not wanted . Your lucky your parents didnt decide to give you up because of your hair line or because one of your big toe is bigger than the other. YOu should really count your blessing and be greatful for what you have. This child needs you and the want to return the child because of her hairline. you should really be a shame of your self for even posting her picture on the web and advertising her like she some kind of rag doll, she not an accessory this is your child you should love her and may she would stop crying.
I don’t know what makes me feel worse, that I wrote an insensitive Craig’s List ad, or that this person is an idiot. Her airline? Christ…
Yang from China chimed in with his 2 Yuan:
God is so wise. He won’t allow cruel people like you have baby. You will die alone like cat.
Dear Yang, Quit hating. You’re mean. I hope YOU die alone like cat. Just kidding, I love you.
Marisela thought she was really clever. She writes:
Where are you located?
I was onto her though…
Hey there, this isn’t real. It’s for an experiment I’m conducting for a foreign affairs class at UCLA. Thank you for being a good, helpful human.
Marisela lied on:
Glad to hear that because I was hoping to get your information and report you to the police!! What kind of experiment are you conducting? I work at UCLA.
To which I responded:
A very experimental one. You wouldn’t understand.
In retrospect… she probably reported me to police anyway.
Ok, I could go on like this for at least another three minutes. But I won’t. Thanks for staying till the end. I love you. Learn from my retardation.