I joined my local Freecycle group about a month ago and since then have been able to declutter my house and pass things on. I've also obtained some books, though my main reason for joining was to give things away.
(www.freecycle.org for those who haven't heard of it)
A few days ago I offered a shoe rack and autographed poster of a band I no longer like, and I got a response from a woman who was interested in picking it up - but wanted it to be left outside. I thought it was kinda antisocial but forgot about it. This morning I offered a spyglass and some electrical tape, and the same woman contacted me asking for that stuff too. I left all of the things outside my apartment door for her to pick up and sure enough, when I left this morning the things were gone.
Around an hour ago I posted another message offering some old books and without fail, the same woman emailed me asking if they'd been taken yet. At this point, things started to get shifty. My first thought was that this could turn into a potential stalker-esque situation, because the woman has been interested in every item i'd put up - books of a variety of genres, a band poster etc. Then I really started to think and it occured to me that she might be running a 2nd hand store and re-selling things she gets from Freecyclers.:mad:
I looked at her user profile and it showed she lived in a certain Sydney suburb notorious for its flea markets and lower socio-economic status. I know that it might sound judgemental that I'm making that connection, but I'm just trying to gather as much information as possible and piece the puzzle together to make sense of why
a) the woman was so interested in every item I had to offer
b) she insisted on me leaving it outside for pickup, rather than coming in for one second to pick it up.
To top it all off, one of my neighbours (who I trust and am close to) said she saw a man putting the things I'd freecycled into a courier truck.
Maybe I'm paranoid, but this all seems fishy to me.
The thought of someone abusing Freecycle and making profit out of it infuriates me. It's non-profit, run by volunteers and was developed for all the right reasons.
I really had to rant. Thanks for listening.
Does anyone else have other similar stories? Anyone use freecycle and ever suspected something like this happening, or known someone it's happened to?
12-28-2008, 09:17 PM
I use freecycle, and love to know that the things I don't need are being reused! It does sound suspicious though that she wants EVERYTHING you are offering. I don't think leaving things outside sounds that suspicious, personally. It is easier if you don't have to arrange for both parties to be at the same place at the same time.
Next time you offer something, if you feel that she is reselling items, hold off replying back until you see if someone else wants it.
I don't personally know of anyone who has abused freecycle like this, but it surely has happened.
My freecycle rant is that some people will post the most unlikely wanted requests : ie, a laptop, a living room suit, an automobile, a new bedroom set, etc. And it seems to be some of the same folks. I have no problem will people posting an occasional wanted request, but be judicious. Don't be the person that requests everything and never offers anything.
12-28-2008, 09:27 PM
JTammy is right, if you are suspicious of her, just ignore her. I haven't done freecycle but I've donated and sold a lot of things on craigslist and come across a few shady people who clearly want to buy my stuff cheap to resell it. I don't have to sell it to them! There's no guarantee that someone will take your stuff and use it themselves, but if you don't like the idea of resale, then don't respond.
Just think of it this way: is it worth it to get rid of your junk, even if someone else is trying to make a profit? Or is it important that someone uses it (and doesn't resell) that you hold onto it long enough to find a good owner?
When I was moving out of the country, I tried to sell a lot of things online and give things away to friends. A few days before I left everything that didn't go went to Goodwill or Savers.
Jtammy, yeah cars and room sets is a big ridic! I wish I had known about that site, I always think like--I need a strainer, but what's the point in buying a new one? But I don't really want to go to all the 2nd hand stores all over town looking for just a strainer.
12-28-2008, 09:35 PM
I think it sounds EXACTLY like she is getting stuff to resell at fleamarket, ebay, whatever.
Maybe you can tell her you need freecycle the rest of your stuff to other people, to be fair.
12-28-2008, 09:41 PM
I understand where you are coming from and I too have run into people that get things from freecycle just to turn around and sell it.
She may have asked for you to leave it outside because she was afraid of the potential risks....and for good reason. I always leave my Freecycle things outside if my husband isn't home.
Something that annoys me more than the potential for income (honestly, with the things that I've given away on freecycle it wouldn't be more than a few dollars) is when people swear they are going to come and pick it up, so I leave it out...and leave it out...and leave it out...when I finally contact them saying that I will not hold it any longer, I get attitude or no response. I've been burned by that many, many times and because of it am not willing to meet anybody at a central location unless it is convenient for me and on my terms. I will no longer drive all over just to have someone stand me up.
12-28-2008, 09:58 PM
I'm also a freecycle member, and there's nothing in my groups rules that prohibit a person from reselling items that they pick up or request, nor limiting the number of items a person can take. However in our local group, it has been recommended/suggested that it would be good manners to say whether one intends to resell the items, especially when requesting items moreso than picking items up.
I'd say about half of my freecycle transactions were conducted with the items left or requested to be left "on the porch." A lot of people prefer this (on both sides of the giving equation).
The purpose of freecycle is to keep things out of landfills, not to make sure items are only given to needy folks. If you want your gifts to be given only to folks in need, you can donate to charities or screen your recipients. The problem with assessing "need" is that a person who sells items may be in more need than a person who is going to pick them up in order to use the item themselves.
One thing to consider (unless your group has policies against it) is that you do not need to give your items to the first person to reply to your offer. You can decide to give your items to whomever you wish to - so if you want to place conditions on the recipient - that is your choice.
12-28-2008, 10:06 PM
Thank you for the well thought out, thought provoking replies ladies - I now feel more at ease about this whole thing and have all of you to thank.
Zeffryn - I totally agree with you regarding her having a good reason for wanting the things left outside. What made me think twice about it was when I put it into context - the courier truck, and the other odd things that happened. I know what you mean about the people who say they're going to pick it up and don't... It's very frustrating and time consuming.
JulieJ, Joyra and Jtammy - I haven't replied to her last email and I've just emailed the moderator explaining my concerns. I'm interested to hear what he has to say, and if this is a frequent worry for fellow Freecyclers.
Joyra - about what you said regarding getting rid of the stuff no matter how (even if it's getting sold later) - what bothers me is the fact that after I promised a spyglass to the woman I got emailed by a man interested in it (for his son). Also, the books were kids books. I'd definitely prefer that my things are going to children or people who will actually use them than to a trader. You're right - you can never know where it's going, though. I'll have to accept that if I'm going to keep freecycling.
Thanks again guys.
12-28-2008, 10:12 PM
I'm also a freecycle member, and there's nothing in my groups rules that prohibit a person from reselling items that they pick up or request, nor limiting the number of items a person can take.
The purpose of freecycle is to keep things out of landfills, not to make sure items are only given to needy folks. If you want your gifts to be given only to folks in need, you can donate to charities or screen your recipients.
One thing to consider (unless your group has policies against it) is that you do not need to give your items to the first person to reply to your offer.
I agree with you here, Kaplods. There's no way I can guarantee my stuff's going to needy folks, even if that's what I'd prefer. At the end of the day if I truly want it to go to a good cause I have to find another means of passing the things on - and make an effort.
Good points made, you puts things in perspective for me.
RN BSN 2009
12-28-2008, 10:16 PM
My biggest pet peeve is when people post for ridiculous things - Just WANTS - Not NEEDS
I can understand someone without a bed asking if someone could donate a mattress
I don't understand people asking for video games
12-28-2008, 10:24 PM
RN - I kinda do understand asking for games.
Think about it this way - I have an old xbox somewhere that I haven't played in years and about 2 games which I also haven't played in ages. I'll probably freecycle these things soon - but if I didn't remember I had it and somebody asked for xbox games, I'd probably remember and offer them to that person.
I understand what you mean about a mattress for a person in need being more justified than video games - but at the end of the day, as mentioned before, it's important to remember that freecycle is first aimed at reducing waste and giving stuff a 'second chance' in someone else's hands instead of throwing it out.
12-28-2008, 10:32 PM
I tried to take some clothes to a consignment store once, and the lady told me they weren't nice enough to sell there, so I donated them to a second hand store. A few weeks later, I walked past the consignment store, and saw my 'crappy' dress hanging in the window. I got even by going in with my Mom's fur coat and walking up to the lady at the counter. Before she said anything, I looked around distastefully, and said, "I'm sorry, but your store isn't nice enough to sell my fur." and walked out.
12-28-2008, 10:44 PM
There's no way I can guarantee my stuff's going to needy folks, even if that's what I'd prefer.Hm. I guess I never saw Freecycle as a source for the "needy". I mean, I use it ... have given and gotten things ... and I don't really consider myself "needy" - I make a decent middle class income and don't "need" any of the things I've gotten. Most of them I could have afforded to buy new if I really wanted to. Mostly I've just seen some cool stuff that I liked or that I knew I could give to others as gifts that they'd like.
I think at that point you start saying that you want needy people to get things, then you start getting into shades of "who deserves it more". Does the person who gets the spyglass to give it as a unique gift to her well off BIL deserve it less than the guy who gets it for his son? How do you know that the guy who gets it for his son is not a well off but thrifty man? (As an aside, I have a really good friend who makes 6 figures annually as a researcher for a government agency, but still buys things at garage sales because he loves getting a good deal and he loves finding unique items that he couldn't get at the stores. He buys about 1/2 of his kids Christmas presents every year at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift shops and no one would consider him "needy" by any stretch of the imagination.)
Which then leads to the question: does the person who sells things she gets deserve them less? What if you found out that the person who is selling the things has built a small business doing so and it allows her to supplement her family income and feed her kids? Would that make a difference in how you viewed the sale of the items? (And I'm not being snarky here ... I'm actually asking an honest question - one that I don't know the answer to in my own thoughts either.)
It's ... I dunno ... a complex series of what-if type questions and situations.
Ultimately, I'm with those who say the purpose of the organization is to get rid of things w/out filling up landfills. In fact doesn't the FAQ say something about "no strings attached"? So is it really abuse to take things that others don't want to sell, clean them up, and resell them to people who will use them?
Obviously if you think there's something suspicious going on, then just quit responding to this particular woman. But honestly ... for me ... one of the things I tried to do this year (and will be continuing into next year) is decluttering my life and eliminating a lot of "things" that I've accumulated and don't really serve any purpose. I've sold a lot of stuff on Ebay and given a lot of stuff to Goodwill ... but I've also given a lot of stuff to people on Freecycle and if they can use it or can sell it and make a few $$ off of it ... more power to them. :) They got something out of it and I got it the heck out of my house! :D
12-28-2008, 11:59 PM
My group has rules against reselling! I think they might be different everywhere... it would bother me though, too!
12-29-2008, 12:51 AM
What if you found out that the person who is selling the things has built a small business doing so and it allows her to supplement her family income and feed her kids? Would that make a difference in how you viewed the sale of the items? (And I'm not being snarky here ... I'm actually asking an honest question - one that I don't know the answer to in my own thoughts either.)
This is actually a really interesting point you've raised.
At the end of the day, it comes down to passing things on - regardless of who they're going to. I just said that if i had a choice, I'd rather it go to a 'needy' person (read: someone who will get honest use out of it, and if that means selling it to 'supplement' an income or 'feed kids' then so be it.. like you said power to them :)) - not that i'd necessarily go out of my way to ensure that happens.
I guess that since this whole situation was just a new experience for me, I didn't really know how to react. I hadn't really (and probably still haven't completely) really formed my opinions regarding things like this in relation to Freecycle.
12-29-2008, 01:00 AM
Hmm that does sound strange, I haven't encountered anything like that before on freecycle.
12-29-2008, 09:22 AM
I think that rules about reselling would be difficult to monitor and enforce. I mean does that mean that when I'm done with an item, I can't put it on a garage sale. What if I offer it back to freecycle first and no one takes it?
I've asked for a non-needed item once. My husband had just had to go on disability and I bought him a small cross-stitch kit and he loved it, so I asked on freecycle if anyone had cross-stitch supplies to give away. I did stress that it was a want, not a need.
I don't mind when I see someone ask for items that are completely frivolous, but that someone really might be likely to throw away. What sometimes gets me shaking my head is people asking for things that I can't imagine anyone throwing away, or when they add a bunch of conditions (must be in excellent condition, must be delivered to me, etc .... I mean you're getting it for free. Putting demands on the gifter is terribly rude).
I mean recently I saw a person requesting a computer and monitor that "must be fewer than 3 years old," and specific software that the computer had to have, and the minimimum size of the monitor - I mean GEEZ why not ask for a brand new computer still in the box?
I also hate when I see someone ask for items that might be valuable, but the owner of the item may not know it. Such as when people ask for obscure collectibles (not long ago a person requested "pie birds" and another requested an "old" spinning wheel). I don't know that the people making the requests knew that what they were asking for realized the value of what they were asking for - and I definitely didn't know if anyone having the items would know what they were worth.
Our local group has a separate Freecycle Discussion group (as no discussion is allowed on the freecycle board) and I brought it up there, but basically everyone decided that it was inappropriate to judge or criticize specific requests on the forum. That we could email requestors or gifters with our information at our own discretion. Since my concern was mainly for requestors, I dropped the issue, because my concern was with people asking for items they NEW were valuable. Emailing such a person privately wouldn't do any good, because they weren't worried about scamming anyone.
I guess "buyer beware" applies even when money isn't changing hands.
12-29-2008, 09:44 AM
I have used freecycle both ways, I have given away items I don't need and have picked up things I do need. I have never seen the other persons .
Items are left on the porch or patio, etc. Much better than having a total stranger in your home.
12-29-2008, 10:01 AM
My group has rules against reselling....I've had someone reply to everything I posted in a day & she wanted it all. It was various items like baby items, pet items, boy toys, etc so instead of giving them all to her I told her she could have the first couple of things she responded to and then told her the rest were already spoken for. I lied but I was right about my suspicion....she was reselling the items on ebay & when caught was banned from the group.
You are free to choose someone else to get the stuff if you want.
It'd be one thing if she desperately needed to sell the items but it sounds like her business ethics are horrible. Being sneaky like that (sending a courier) should be proof enough.
12-29-2008, 10:04 AM
Well, in any event, I'd never heard of FreeCycle, so something new to check out :D
12-29-2008, 10:29 PM
I use Freecycle all the time, and love it. There are great people that use it, and also some really greedy creeps.
One thing to remember is that you get to decide who you give your items to. If you don't like the sound of someone, just say the items are spoken for, or you can ignore them. You don't have to give them to the first person to reply, or to the pushiest person, you can chose to give them to whichever responder you like the sound of.
My favourite weirdo was a woman that got terribly upset at me and threatened to call the cops because I gave away a VCR to another member instead of her. I told her to go ahead :D :rofl:
One thing I have learned to do, is to add a line or two on each offering or each private reply stating that certain conditions apply, such as a time limit for responses, a no show policy, limited quantities etc... Once I had about 50 old computer games and I didn't want a dealer taking them and reselling them - I wanted people to play them. So I put a limit of 5 games per person. Another time I had a broken computer that was really only good for a dealer to strip and reuse the good bits, so I indicated that it was best for dealers or people that could repair it. Some people gave me a hard time about these restrictions, but I ignored them (why do some people think being rude to me will make me give them something ?!?).
In general, I ignore people that are not polite in their initial contact, or people that give me odd vibes. But my Freecycle group has 12 000 members, so there are always a ton of people replying to any post and so it's easy to find someone I like the sound of :D
12-30-2008, 11:33 AM
I quit using free cycle because of the greedy people. I had one lady who wanted everything I posted, I finally started ignoring her e-mails and gave the items to someone else. I gave away something else and found it on Craigslist the next day and they were trying to sell it for $200!! I already tried to sell it and couldn't so gave it away. The group in our area was shut down for a while do to greedy wants and dishonest people. I give to local charity now if I have clothes ect... that I need gone.