Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Yay!  It happened again!  A lot of times, I’ll start thinking, “oh, I need to get such-and-such” and that thing will appear on the local Freecycle or ReUseIt group and be gifted to me!  In this case, it was some jeans for my oldest son.  Apparently his dad (with whom he lives) doesn’t get him the right sized pants so all his pants that fit come from me.  Lovely.  Now he should have enough to keep some here and some at his dad’s house though, without me having to spend any money, since I already pay plenty in child support that his dad is supposed to be using to get him these things.
About 20 pairs of jeans! (there is a second row behind this)
I love Freecycle, and the local ReUseIt group actually used to be a Freecycle group.  I’ve been part of one or the other or both, even serving as a Freecycle moderator for a time, pretty much since the organization’s earliest days.  I don’t even remember how I first heard of it, but it has been such a boon to my life.  Everything from books to clothes to televisions to computer equipment to furniture to canning jars have either come into my home or left my home via a Freecycle transaction.  In all these years of doing this, I’ve found that my personal Freecycle-style works quite well, and would like to see other people follow my “rules” for Freecycle transactions, since it seems to result in a lot less “no-shows” and dissatisfied people, so I decided to share them here:

Guidelines for Givers
  • When you post, follow the official guidelines of putting “OFFER” then the item in the subject line of your post, even if it isn’t strictly enforced in your group.  Also, put the location in the subject line, so someone living in some outlying corner of the region doesn’t even bother opening the email unless it is something they really super need.  People that live too far away are the most likely to be no-shows in my experience, so you can save yourself a lot of hassle just by doing that one simple thing.  An example subject line using this format would be:  “OFFER:  damaged dresser (Webberville)”
  • In the body, go into more detail about the item you are giving away so people can decide whether they are really interested in it.  If someone is very excited about an item, they’re more likely to keep their agreement to pick it up and do so when they said.  Be honest though!  If you lie about the condition of the item, like fail to mention it is broken, you are going to make the recipient made and they might not take it, even if they do show when they are supposed to.  From the above example: “it might be able to be repaired by someone who knows about wood, but I’m not sure.  One side got wet in the garage and seems warped.  It might be okay once it dries or maybe just suitable for scrap wood”)
  • Use something that resembles an actual language in your post.  Complete sentences (or at least reasonable sentence fragments separated by punctuation) will go a lot farther in conveying  your message than a bunch of words without obvious organization.
  • Toward the end of your post, mention that you’d like people to mention in their first post when they’d like to pick up.  This eliminates a lot of back and forth communication trying to set up a time, since the more emails that have to be sent back and forth, the greater chance there is for a communication breakdown that results in your item not being picked up.
  • Don’t automatically give your item to the first person that responds.  This is the number one mistake I’ve seen others make that results in no-shows.  Instead, wait for at least a couple hours to get a variety of responses to pick from.  If you find someone that follows your instructions about including a pick up time in the first response and seems to really want it (good clues for who really wants it might include the words “please“ and “thank you“ somewhere in the post), that is probably going to be a good candidate to give to.  If someone replies with something like “i will take it give me ur address”, they don’t care enough to use punctuation, capital letters, manners, or follow your instructions, so what would make you think they’d care enough (or have the manners to) show up when they are supposed to, or at least let you know something is causing a delay. 
  • When part of a larger group or a popular item, I frequently will decide upon who will receive an item from me by the times they mention as wanting to pick it up.  So if someone says they can pick it up today in the early afternoon, they might have first dibs, followed by someone else that says late afternoon, then someone that says evening, and so on.  Only email the person you’ve chosen your address.  Let them know there is a list of others that are interested (if this is true), so you need to know right away if there is a problem that they can’t come when they said.  If they don’t show up or email you back during or shortly after the time they said, you can email the next person to let them know where to pick up the item.  As much as possible, it is nice to be able to be flexible about when someone picks up, but you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to get rid of it by waiting too long to offer it to them.
  • When you have a long list of people interested or the item is actually picked up, post it as “TAKEN” on the group.  This will let the people you didn’t email individually know not to get their hopes up and will keep you from getting flooded with more emails.

Suggestions for Potential Recipients
  • Be polite.  You are asking for someone to give you a gift.  Demanding the item is a sure way to have your email deleted without consideration by myself and a lot of other people!
  • Use English (or whatever language is applicable if you aren’t in an English speaking area).  Punctuation and sentences make reading your request a lot easier and a lot more likely to be responded to.  Spelling and grammar don’t have to be perfect, but it should be close enough that the reader can understand what you are trying to say without hurting their brain.
  • Follow instructions.  If you are instructed to mention what time you’d like to pick up in the first email, do it.  If there are several items listed and you are told to list which ones you are interested in, do it.  If you are told you must take all of a random selection of things and “freecycle” (not a correct use of the term, since it is a trademarked word and not a verb, but people use it like it is) the rest, do it.  If you are asked to say why you’d like the item, do it within reason.  It is not unreasonable for someone to know that you’d like something for your family as opposed to selling it, but no one needs to know that you are a single parent of 57 kids and on welfare so if you don’t get this one item your family will die (for example).  Use some sense with that last one.
  • Pick up when you say you will.  If something happens, since things do happen from time to time in life, contact the giver as soon as possible to let them know what is going on and possibly arrange another time to retrieve it.  Again, be polite with this one.  If you don’t contact them for a few hours after you were supposed to get it and they already gave it to someone else, this is not unreasonable.  It would be unreasonable to expect them to hold the gift they have for you indefinitely in the hopes that you might contact them someday.
So these are the personal guidelines I use for these types of transactions and I find I have a much lower rate of no-shows than most people seem to, so I think they work very well as a giver.  I also find I have a pretty good rate of receiving things I ask for, so I think those are pretty successful as well.

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