The Problem With Giveaway Sites

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

If you’re familiar with sites like Freecycle, you’ll know that experiences are typically a mixed bag. These platforms can be a great place for genuine people who really want to make a difference to the world, but there can be more than a few bad eggs, too.

My most recent experience prompted me to write this article and share with you some tips and tricks. Whether you’re collecting or giving away, you’ll find some simple ideas below.

In the UK, because of some copyright laws, Freecycle is now known as ‘Freegle’. It’s really quite funky and there is a cool little app that you can download onto your smartphone. There’s a calendar that you can use too, so you can mark when you’re available for collections. Freegle works on the same principles as Freecycle – still usable, clean and suitable for all ages. Also, plants and seeds are fine, but no live animals. Simple stuff.

As a rule of thumb, it is expected that you agree a reasonable collection time, usually between 8am-8pm. This means that your fellow Freecycler isn’t disturbed early in the morning or late at night, and those of us (like my husband) who need to be up early for work can turn in at a sensible time. It’s also common courtesy that you keep communication open, and let a Freecycler know if you need to cancel a collection.

About a week ago, I offered up some acrylic paints. They were new and unsed and were for a project I had planned last year. Because of my father’s health and the subsequent grief, my plans sort of got put on hold and the project that I had in mind sort of doesn’t really matter anymore. Because of that, I decided to let the acrylic paints go.

The woman I promised them to said that she would be by at about 11am the following day to collect them and, as a blogger and a housewife, I said that would be fine. I usually walk Hugo after lunch anyway, once my blog posts are done.

At 11am, my door was still silent. At 12, 1pm and 2pm, still nobody had turned up. We got all the way to 8pm and so I decided that as there was no communication, she was probably wasting my time, unpromised the item that I’d promised to her and left it at that.

I got a message from her – she had to take her husband to the hospital and she forgot about the paint. Understandable! That’s very serious stuff. I told her not to worry and let me know when she’d like to collect it, which she did, at about 3pm on Saturday. Again, that was fine by me.

Once again, she didn’t show up.

I received another message from her telling me that she was running late and it would now be about 5:30pm. I was getting annoyed now, but if she was really having issues then she was really having issues, so I agreed.

Still nothing.

At 6pm, I received a message from her telling me that she was running late and if I’d leave them outside for her, then she would collect them. By now I was visibly vexed (according to my husband!), and so I put the paints in a carrier bag and left them on top of the gas meter box.

They were still there when my father-in-law went home at 10:30pm, so I bought them back in and told myself that she couldn’t collect them. Four missed chances was at least one chance too many.

At 7:57 this morning, three minutes before my alarm, I was startled awake by Hugo barking. My Tesco shop was due just before lunch, and the postman never comes around much before about 10:30am. I wasn’t expecting anyone else, so who could have disturbed me so early?

When I checked my Ring doorbell camera, there was a dark-skinned woman at my door.

My first thoughts were that she may have been from the local Jehovah’s Witnesses hall, so naturally, I didn’t bother to answer. When I received a message at 9am this morning telling me that she had been, I immediately withdrew the offer for good.

Missing a collection, making no contact and turning up unannounced is not okay. I do not like people turning up and picking things up from outside my home because if a crook sees someone else do it, then what’s stopping them? I like to be able to complete the transaction in person when goods exchange hands. Even if nothing else, it allows me to get to know the person to decide whether I want to give free goodies to them again.

With that in mind, here are some basic guidelines from my own experiences for you to take home:-

Agree A Sensible Time

I’ve had people ask to collect from my door as late as 10pm at night. No, 10pm is not okay. I want to be relaxing and enjoying some downtime with my husband then, not diving up to see who is at the door. Freegle’s guidelines are generally 8am-8pm anyday, which seems like a sensible policy to adhere to.

Don’t Be Greedy

The only time I will promise several items to someone is if I know them. If I know, for example, a Mum who has creative children, then I’d have no issues with promising several crafty bits and bobs to them. Sometimes though, I get seven or eight emails from one person for nearly everything that I’ve listed, and it’s nearly everything that has the potential to sell. If I get a whiff that a Freegler is just going to stick it on Ebay or pop into Cash Converters on the way home, then the deal is off. Two or three items I get let slide, but asking for most of what has been offered seems fishy

Mind Your Manners

In another recent incident, I had a woman turn up for two requested items, which I gave her. She responded with “okay Helen, thanks, bye!”, without even looking at me, and she was gone. It doesn’t hurt to make eye contact, it doesn’t hurt to say please and thankyou and it doesn’t hurt to exchange a few lines of conversation with the person who just gave you their unwanted goods for free. Treat nice people as nice people, always.

Don’t Go Alone

Ideally, nobody should collect (or donate) alone. If you don’t know the area, you don’t know who lives there and so it’s worth having someone with you, just in case trouble kicks off on your way there. Similarly, you’re opening your door to a stranger and it always pays to have someone with you if there is a problem. 99% of Freecycle and Freegle folks are lovely, genuine peeople, but there are always the odd one or two. Stay safe and always have someone nearby during exchanges, especially more valuable ones.

On a sidenote, if you’re collecting furniture, please, please always take people with you who can help you, and have a vehicle that is big enough to transport the goods. I gave two drawer units to a young mother, but her nor her friend could do any lifting and she couldn’t fit them both in the car. Remember, you’re dealing with a stranger, and some of us have health issues.

Try To Stick To Daylight Hours

Again, similar to above, it’s safer for you and safer for them if everyone can see what’s going on. Try to agree a time for a collection during daylight hours, if you can.

Keep Your Dog Under Control

You may love Fido, but your Freecycle friend may not. I collected some hamster bedding once (way back when I had a hamster) and I was met by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Fortunately, the only part of him that caused me any pain was his very whippy, waggy tail, but if people don’t know the dog, they’re likely to be very nervous of it. Also, if your dog is a nervous dog or likely to scent the newcomer, then you owe it to your visitor not to let them get peed on. Pop Fido away for five minutes, please.

Be Authentic

I mentioned the sneaky sellers above, but some Freecyclers don’t actually mind if their goods end up being sold, they do, however, ask for a right to know. It’s fine to receive unwanted goods to sell at a car boot sale or garage sale, but please be honest and don’t con anyone out of cash. If you plan to sell the goods, tell them. If you’re selling them for a good cause, be honest about that too. Most givers will be fine if you’re selling the goods to raise funds for a charitable cause, but will unlikely be more peeved if you’re just planning to pocket the dough without telling them.

Don’t Forget The Moderators

Lastly, don’t forget the moderation teams. Whether they advise you on staying safe or how to behave, they are also there to make sure that everyone is behaving appropriately. I haven’t had to contact them often, but I didn’t hesitate when a married man collected an unwanted handbag for his wife, then proceeded to hit on me and refused the item when I turned him down. Most people on these platforms are genuine, but the moderation team is always there if things do go amiss.

How have your experiences with these recycling platforms been? Let me know in the comments!

Keep smiling, everyone!

Helen xx

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