I was writing this as a reply to someone else's topic and it got kind of lengthy, so I decided to make it into a topic instead.
The intention of this topic is to help new buyers and sellers in the BitCoin community who are looking to meet up and trade locally. I've done a lot of local trades and sales over the years, so I'm hoping that my experiences can help beginners by giving them ideas on how to trade safely. For this purpose I've separated my advice into three sections: meeting for trades, advice for buying, and advice for selling.
I've tried to format everything in a clear and concise manner to make this topic more readable. I'm open to suggestions for edits and additions to help make this guide as useful as possible.
Hope this guide helps anyone looking to start trading locally!
Note: Some names/locations I mention are US based, so I apologize if they're irrelevant for your location. The theories behind this topic should be fine regardless of country.
There are three main things I look for in meeting places:
Public Location - Are there plenty of people around?
WiFi Access - Is there free or cheap public WiFi access in the area?
Security - Are there security cameras or security guards in the area?
Public locations are like Local Trading 101: it is always better to meet in a public place. Scammers and muggers are a lot less likely to try anything with witnesses around. You can usually find these people early on by simply requesting a public meeting place: they want to meet their victims alone.
Places like McDonalds, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and many local coffee shops offer free WiFi access. A lot of hotels offer WiFi as well, but usually not for free or to non-customers. Bring a laptop or tablet with you if you have one so you can check transaction details and confirmations. Depending on what you're buying/selling/trading, having a computer to do some last second research on item values can never hurt if you're worried about getting the short end of the stick.
A location with security cameras adds an extra layer of security to a trade. If the other party does get away with stealing from or scamming you, you'll have physical evidence in a recording that can help the authorities track the offender down and bring him to justice. Security guards can help set your mind at ease if you're concerned that you might get mugged: muggers are a lot less likely to rob you if there's a guard with a gun a few yards away. A guard can easily step in and save you if a mugger does start attacking you.
My personal recommendation would be to meet at a mall, if there's one in your area. Malls have tons of security measures to help protect you as you make your trade, and many malls have WiFi access across the entire property: there's a good chance that one of the mall's stores has WiFi access even if the mall itself doesn't. Banks are a good choice too: banks have great security, and some bigger banks have WiFi access as well.
There are three things I want to cover about buying in-person:
Reviewing Your Purchase
Paying with BitCoin
Paying with Cash
Reviewing Your Purchase:
For buying items, remember that there's a lot you can't tell about something just from pictures. Make sure to look the item over carefully and make sure everything is in working condition/described condition before you pay the seller. A seller who is unwilling or nervous about letting you check out an item may know something about the item he doesn't want you to find out. It's a good idea to meet during the day or in a well lit area so you can see everything clearly. Don't be afraid to ask questions if anything feels off and don't feel obligated to complete a sale you're uncomfortable with.
Paying with BitCoin:
One of the easiest ways to pay in BitCoin in person is with a mobile wallet app from a smartphone. Blockchain a mobile wallet app for Android and iOS. It's an online wallet, so I wouldn't recommend it for long-time storage: strictly transactions. Once I know how much I need to pay for an item I put that much in the wallet, and maybe 1 or 2 BTC more just in case there's a last second price change, and when I get home I immediately transfer any leftover funds to a more secure wallet. Blockchain works the same as any other client: enter the seller's payment address and the amount of BTC for the sale to send payment. Blockchain also has a QR scanner built in if the seller has a QR code address.
As a side note, I use an iPhone and Blockchain is, to my knowledge, the only wallet app for iOS without jailbreaking your phone. I have no knowledge about jailbreaking or Android apps for alternatives to Blockchain, but you can always do your research here on the forum or on the BitCoin wiki to find an app that works for you. You can also use your laptop, if you have it with you, to access your wallet and pay the seller. I recommend creating a brand new wallet for the transaction, especially if you're the paranoid type. Better safe than sorry, right? Wink
Paying with Cash:
This section focuses on buying BitCoins. One of the more common OTC transactions is buying BitCoin with cash. If you're buying BTC, you need to give the seller a payment address to receive your funds. You can use your mobile wallet to receive the funds, which you can then transfer to a safer wallet when you get home, or you can write down or print out a wallet address for the seller to send the BTC to. If you do the latter method, make sure to confirm the transaction before you part ways: use a laptop to check your wallet and confirm the payment or have a trusted friend/family member monitor the wallet and contact you with confirmation of the funds.
There are a few things to review for sellers:
Terms of the Sale or Trade
Accepting BitCoin Payment
Accepting Cash Payment
Other Forms of Payment
Terms of the Sale or Trade:
If you and the buyer have agreed to the terms of the trade ahead of time (as in what is being sold and for what price), I recommend printing out a copy of the agreement or correspondence (emails, forum posts, etc.). I've had experiences where the buyer tries to change the deal at the last minute or claims that I agreed to a lower price for the sale. Printing out what you offered and he accepted will back you up and help you get the price you asked for. You can also take a picture of these correspondences with your phone or digital camera if you don't have a printer, or use a laptop/tablet to bring them up if WiFi access is available.
Accepting BitCoin Payment:
Write down or print your payment address and bring it with you: I also recommend having a QR code address printed for buyers who use mobile wallets. Make sure you have a way to confirm payment before you part ways with the buyer. Use a laptop/tablet to check on the transaction for confirmations as well as affirming that the buyer paid the correct amount. You could also have a trusted friend/family member monitor your wallet and contact you with confirmation if WiFi is unavailable. Mobile app wallets may be able to confirm transactions on the spot, negating the need for WiFi access and a computer if you have a 3G/4G phone: the Blockchain app I mentioned can do this for you.
Accepting Cash Payment:
The main concern with cash payment is counterfeit bills. Most banks and retail locations keep special markers at the registers that can show if a bill is real or counterfeit. Here's an example on Amazon. These markers are a cheap investment if you're worried about receiving counterfeit money. I've also found them at office supply stores like Office Depot and Staples for around $5-$15. Keep one in your pocket and mark the bills before you finish the sale. Make sure you explain to the buyer what you're doing so they don't freak out on you: I've had that happen before.
Other Forms of Payment:
The are two things to remember about alternative forms of payment: one; try to agree with the buyer ahead of time about the use of non-cash/non-BTC payments, and two; do your research on the payment method to make sure you know what you're getting and how it works (and how easily, if possible, it can be forged or reversed). This forum is full of warnings about certain payment methods for good reason. BitCoin purchases seem to be the bigger targets for chargeback fraud, so keep yourself educated when you're selling BTC in person.
There is one final warning I would like to give in this section: do not accept personal checks. One of the first in-person sales I ever did was for a personal check ($450), and I'm sure you can guess how that went simply by the way I've brought it up. Another check sale a few months after that one was paid for with a stolen checkbook and I had police show up at my house asking about the sale so they could find the guy. If you absolutely must accept a sale by check, I would recommend completing the sale at a bank so you can cash the check on the spot.
This section is for good advice submitted by other posters. Thanks for your contributions!
Make sure to specify your expectations in advance. Confirm the time and place of meeting and make sure that both parties have everything on hand to complete the sale or trade. ~ Stephen Gornick
Strength in numbers: bringing along a second person can be an excellent source of additional security and protection. ~ Vernon715