Sunday, November 4, 2007

Down with Freecycle

I've been working on an editorial or letter to the editor or something where I can hop up on a little soap box and rant about Freecycle.

Don't know Freecycle? Go to Yahoogroups and search for "Freecycle insert your town's name here." Chances are there is one in your part of Boston/Massachusetts/New England/America/The World. It is an email exchange group that operates on the principle that "one's man trash is another man's treasure." People subscribe to the group and then get access to a treasure trove of used crap other people are trying to get rid of. For example, say my Aunt Esther is cleaning her closet and realizes she has a half-dozen partially used bottles of lotion samples she picked up at a hotel when she was traveling across Europe by train in 1963. She now has chemical sensitivities and can't use them. So, she sends an email with the "Subject line: OFFER: 1/2 used trial size lotion bottle from Holiday Inns across Europe." Inevitably, someone then sends HER and email message saying, "I have been looking to try lotion from the Holiday Inns across Europe. My fiancee and I will use these to help us decide where to go for our honeymoon. Are they still available?"

(Editorial interjection: This is what makes Freecycle great. Crap I don't want or cannot use doesn't clutter up my closet, nor does it take up space in a landfill. And, you get to find ways to use your stuff that never would have occurred to you. Lotion testing as a way of making vacation decisions?)

The Bride-to-Be has piqued Aunt Esther's interest and she sends an email back saying something like, "The lotion samples are yours. I love knowing someone else can put them to good use." Aunt Esther then proceeds to make pick-up or drop-off arrangements with the person who wants the lotions.

Okay, this is where the system collapses. There are a lot of really stupid or over committed, or indecisive, or timid, or geographically challenged people in the world. I would need more than two hands to count the number of times I've had a Freecycler agree to pick something up at my house, and then find that, a week later, they still haven't picked the thing up. I'll get emails from people saying things like, "I was at your house and didn't see (insert name of unwanted object here) anywhere." I'll go out to the designated pick-up point in my back hall, where the Freecycle item still sits in the same spot where I left it, usually labeled with the person's name or email moniker. I give pretty explicit directions, and instructions on where to find whatever goodie they are picking up - "Come into the back hall located on the (blank) side entrance to the house. The (insert name of unwanted object here) is in a blue bag with your name on it." So, I'll then send a slightly patronizing note back that reads, "Hmmm. Not sure what to say. The bag is still in the hall and still with your name on it. Sorry you wasted your time. I'll put the item in my garage sale pile. Good luck next time." Sometimes I'll get an email back that says, "Oh. I didn't open the door." Or, "Oh, you live in Somerville? I went to the address you gave me in Marshfield. I'll be by later today."

But usually I get silence.

Which is fine with me. I'd rather sell my crap for money than give it away to idiots who haven't figured out the joys of using a map or reading directions carefully, or opening up a door.

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