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The joys and woes of Freecycling

I love Freecycling, it has to be said. I am an active member of a few of my local groups. I have ‘won’ quite a few items, and supplied just as many in my turn. I have had less luck with my own ‘items wanted’ posts, sadly, but them’s the breaks.

This post is about my experiences: the ups and the downs.

If you have something that still has life in it, but is of no further use to, Freecycling is a great way to make sure it doesn’t wind up in a landfill, but goes on to become part of someone else’s story.

When you advertise an item free of charge to anyone who is prepared to come and collect it, most of the time, you will be deluged with responses. Some sites (like Freegle) ask responders to say why they want and item and what they plan to do with it. They ask advertisers to give a little time for responses to come in, and to choose someone based on…merit? Not sure that’s the right word, but you get my drift.

Most of the time, though, you will offer the item to the first person to ask for it. This can mean that, in the rush to be the first responder, people may forgo pleasantries. Responses can amount to the word ‘yes’ followed by a phone number. I make a conscious effort to be polite and friendly. After all, this person is offering to give me something for nothing. The least I can do is be pleasant about it. This has stood me in good stead on at least one occasion: one advertiser found my response such a refreshing change that he now contacts me first to see if I want an item before he places the ad.

Once you have notified the person who is to have your item, you will of course, supply your address and agree a date and time for pickup. Mostly, people are accommodating and reasonable. But occasionally one will, well… ‘take the piss’ is the expression that springs most readily to mind. They might ask you to hold the item for several weeks. In those cases, I usually move on to the next person. I don’t have the space to provide warehousing.

The most negative aspect of Freecycling is the incidence of no-shows. There is a tendency to undervalue things that come for free, and – often enough to drive some people away from the practice – people simply don’t pitch. The worst case was when I had scheduled three pickups back to back on a Saturday afternoon and none of them showed. To be fair, one of them did contact me to reschedule. On another occasion, the person failed to show, so I scheduled a pickup with the next responder who also failed to show. It can be like that.

It can also be a bit hit and miss from the other side, too. The items that people give away are sometimes not worth keeping, but that’s a chance you take. I recently went to collect an item that the advertiser referred to as ‘solid’. I wrote a bit about that recently. But there are some finds out there, too. Not necessarily always valuable in monetary terms, but potentially useful as a part of your story for a while.

Another place I tend to hang out is the reuse shop attached to our local recycling depot. I picked up a workbench there for £3. Possibly the best £3 I ever spent! If that thing collapsed tomorrow, it would owe me a thing. I use it every day. Every. Day!

So may I encourage you to get involved? Yes, there will be some negative experiences, but it’s got to be worth it, right? For the craic? For the community? The planet?

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