This Is What Happens When You Pretend to Sell a Chinese Baby on Craigslist

It's all fun and games, until it's not

Terrible Copywriter relates a cautionary tale warning of unpleasant consequences if you pose as an upper-class mom offering to sell (or trade!) your recently adopted Chinese infant because of her receding hairline. On a lark, advertising and TV writer Matt Heath, who currently works at Creative Artists Agency, created the Shouts and Murmurs-style ad, which asserted: "We're very gracious, and wanted to save a baby from the communists!" But the deal sours when the kid arrives: "Not only did Wing NOT look like I wanted her to, but she was BALD! I had been given a BALD-looking baby! My vertigo hit me like a wall." The pitch concludes, "She's not a bad baby. I just think we can find a better one. … Serious inquiries only." Heath explains what happened next. In short, lots of outraged people believed the offer was genuine, including one reader from China who sent him an email that closed with the zinger, "You will die alone like cat" (an apparent reference to the ad, which groused, "I think the cat might be allergic to her as well"). Heath recounts a surreal, unsettling and extremely funny grilling from the LAPD and says two detectives searched his house, even the oven, for illegally trafficked kids. Heath's Hollywood happy ending includes a charity toy drive he conducted to make amends for wasting the cops' time. Now he has an amazing story to tell—free from embellishment, I'm sure. I mean, you can't make this stuff up. Right?

Full text of the Craigslist ad:

I don't like the baby we adopted. (Beverly Hills)

Hello. My name is Barbara Stanwick. I need help, my adopted baby isn't what I expected and I don't like it. Here's my story.

Ever since my husband, Don, and I married 22 years ago, I've wanted children. The years passed, and once I turned 45, I knew it was too late for me to conceive. So last year, on my 46th birthday, Don surprised me with adoption papers. It was the greatest day of my life. We were going to adopt a baby! It was from China, but I was still excited (we're very gracious, and wanted to save a baby from the communists)!

After being on the adoption list for several months we were informed that a child had been selected for us! My anxiety acts up on planes, so Don's assistant, Lauren, retrieved the baby. I was finally going to have my very own child.

When Lauren walked in, it was swaddled in blankets. I named her Wing, right then and there. A combination of Wang and Ling. I had never been happier, holding little Wing in my arms.

But it was all downhill from there. I pulled back the blanket from her face and that's when I saw the problem. Not only did Wing NOT look like I wanted her to, but she was BALD! I had been given a BALD looking baby! My vertigo hit me like a wall.

Since then, I have been trying to send Wing back to China, but they won't take her. I filed a complaint with the adoption agency, but they didn't accept "bald baby" as a reason for returning it. Wing cries all the time, which makes my migraines act up and I think the cat might be allergic to her as well. If anyone would like to take Wing, even though she's bald, I will either trade or sell her to you. She's not a bad baby, I just think we can find a better one. Thank you for your time. Serious inquiries only.

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.