This morning, I was expecting someone to come and collect some items of furniture we had offered for free to anyone starting out. The person in question had identified the pieces they wanted, and said they’d be here at 11am. I moved all the items into my entrance hall in readiness. At 12:30, I contacted them to say that I needed to go out, having errands to run, and could no longer wait for them. They asked me if I could drop the pieces off on my way.
Anyone who has offered items on Freecycle, Freeloved (the free section of Preloved), Freegle, Free to Collect or any of the other myriad similar sites – including community pages – will be able to relate. My own experience with these sites is a show up rate of roughly 60%. In other words, people have failed to arrive to collect items they’ve requested from me about two times in five.
On a subconscious level, I suspect people attach no value to something they’re getting for nothing. If you don’t value it enough to attach a price tag to it, why should they attach enough value to it to drag themselves away from a nice warm TV?
I’ve found the same to be true of free-to-attend events that I have hosted. It happens less often than the Freecycle no-shows, but people do tend to say they’re coming and then fail to appear, with no explanation.
I’ve had similar experiences when I have offered to do something for charities on a pro bono basis (running a craft session, providing IT training to the office staff, etc.). You turn up at the agreed time, only to find they’re not ready for you, and please will you wait there until they are? If you’re lucky, they might contact you on the morning of the agreed appointment to request an open-ended postponement.
I don’t want to stop offering these items/services. And I certainly don’t want to start dumping perfectly serviceable items at the tip. But I’d be very curious to know whether anyone in a similar position has found a way to reduce the no-shows.
On a (sort of) related note – there are those who decide to tackle a project themselves, but look to you for free advice and guidance on how to complete the project successfully. I need to think about where the line is, since I’m trying to earn my living at this, and one of the services I offer is supervised/guided DIY. I’ve always been happy to share my skills and knowledge, but it seems unfair to those who pay me for this service to give it away free of charge to others.
I don’t really have a conclusion to this post, but I’d really love to hear what others have experienced.