Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Adventures in Freecycling

I've been having very mixed results with Freecycle in the past week or so. I've been involved in seven different transactions involving nine different individuals, some of them very easy and others extremely frustrating. Here's a play-by-play:

Transaction #1: I posted an offer for a book called The Complete Cheapskate that I picked up off the free table at our library book sale, just on the off chance that it had any useful advice in it I hadn't already heard many times over. (It didn't, and it was written with a heavily Christian slant that I found a bit oppressive.) I got a request for it within one hour, and it was picked up the next day. Result: success.

Transaction #2: I posted an offer for "unidentified tomato plants" in an effort to get rid of the volunteers that popped up in the vicinity of our compost bin. (The squash plants have been transplanted to our regular garden area, where they seem, after an initial rough patch, to be settling in okay.) Three people respond, and I say yes to all three, since there are plenty of tomato plants to go around. One of them (the same one who took the book) shows up as scheduled and takes several plants. The second one gives me a runaround for several days, never actually committing to a specific time, and finally stops responding. The third one offers to come on Monday but will not commit to a specific time, does not show up on Monday because "something came up," suggests coming on Friday but still will not commit to a time, finally agrees to come on Sunday between 11 and 12, and shows up around 2:30 after I had given up on her. At this point, I assumed that the half-a-dozen remaining tomato plants would end up in the compost bin, but the first Freecycler (the one who actually came when she said she would) contacts me again and asks if there are any tomato plants left, as hers didn't survive transplanting. I tell her that she is welcome to all the ones that are left, and she shows up promptly and takes them. Result: eventual success, but with considerable frustration in the process.

Transaction #3: I respond to another Freecycler's request for a microwave cart, offering an old white one that's been sitting unused in our basement. Freecycler responds promptly with, "I can pick it up today," but then writes back saying "Sorry something came up last min" and asks if he/she can pick it up on Saturday after 5pm. I respond in the negative and propose a couple of alternative times, and I also give out my phone number to facilitate scheduling. The Freecycler does not respond and is never heard from again. Result: failure. 

Transaction #4: I post an offer for three incandescent bulbs Brian unearthed while cleaning out our basement. At this point, I am feeling a bit disillusioned with Freecycle, so I'm astonished to get a response within the hour, proposing a specific date and even a specific time for pickup. I agree to leave the bulbs out on the porch (the usual method for transferring items between Freecyclers), and they are picked up more or less on schedule. Result: unqualified success.

Transaction #5: I post an offer for a "joystick with four classic arcade games." This is a little toy we picked up for a buck at a yard sale a few years back, which plugs directly into a TV set and has four 1980s-vintage video games hardwired into it. Since then we'd offered it to several friends, but no one was interested. Assuming we won't get any replies immediately, I then head out to a 4th of July party. When I get home, there's a response offering to pick the joystick up "within the hour if not spoken for." Fearing I may have missed my window, I respond that the joystick is available at any time. The Freecycler offers to come get it that very evening if I will leave the item out on the porch. By morning it is gone. Result: unqualified success.

Transaction #6: I respond to an offer for some "woven wood shades" from a Freecycler in a neighboring town. This Freecycler, apparently wary as a result of experiences like mine over the course of the week, asks me to commit to a specific time before giving an address. I suggest 7pm, and the Freecycler agrees. Brian and I pick them up and find them to be suitable for our small back room (which has gone through the past four years with no window treatments of any kind). Result: success.

Transaction #7: Earlier in the week, as Brian was cleaning out the basement, he discovered that my guitar case (which had been sitting untouched for months if not years) had developed mildew. The guitar itself was okay and is now sitting out on a stand in the downstairs room (where I might, with luck, remember to pick it up and play it once in a while), but I thought it might be handy to get a new case for it—so when I saw an offer for a new but slightly damaged case from a Freecycler right here in town, I immediately offered to take it. The Freecycler agreed and left it out on the porch for me. Unfortunately, as soon as I picked it up, I knew it was too bulky and too heavy for me. I barely managed to lug the thing home. Now it's just sitting in the back room waiting to be relisted for some other lucky Freecycler to pick up. Result: a successful transaction, but an unsatisfactory result.

Looking over the list, it's clear that my transactions have, on the whole, been more positive than negative, so I guess I really have no cause for complaint. But the week has made it abundantly clear that the course of free shopping does not always run smooth.
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