One of the fun things about running a blog is keeping track of stats. That is, the statistics that show not only how many people read my blog daily but also what websites are linking to my blog–and leading readers here–and what search terms people used that eventually had them showing up at Suddenly Frugal.
I’m guessing that lots of folks have been cleaning out their basements, attics and garages, and giving stuff away on Freecycle and Craigslist. Why? Because I’m seeing lots of traffic from search terms having to do with Freecycle etiquette.
Last year I did a do’s and don’ts post about using Freecycle and Craigslist. Now seemed like a good time to revisit the topic of Freecycle etiquette but with a slightly different take on things.
FYI, I really do know what I’m talking about when it comes to the etiquette of anything–I’m a certified etiquette and protocol consultant, courtesy of the Protocol School of Washington, and I’m the author of The Everything Etiquette Book.
That said, here are my 8 Simple Rules for Using Freecycle (or Craigslist):
1. Freecycle isn’t about window shopping
It’s easy to think of Freecycle as a bargain, free-f0r-all. I mean, everything is free, literally. But that doesn’t mean that you should respond or window shop with every “offer” post that shows up on your Freecycle list. When people do this, it ends up making it difficult for everyone involved to get rid off their stuff. Case in point: recently we cleaned out my office, got me a new desk, and put the old one up as an “offer” on Freecycle. When the first person responded, I let her know that she would need to get to my home within 24 hours to pick up the desk. Guess what? 36 hours later when I still hadn’t heard from her and she hadn’t shown up, I gave the desk to the second person who’d responded to my Freecycle ad. I guess she was just window shopping for a desk.
2. People who use Freecycle are not your personal shoppers.
When you respond to a Craigslist “for sale” ad or something being given away for free on Freecycle, it is your job as the interested party to get the desired item in a timely manner. To respond to an ad, then say, “Oh, I’m going out of town tomorrow; can you hold it for a week” or “Gas is too expensive; can you meet me somewhere halfway?” is just not cool. These people are not your personal shoppers and shouldn’t be at your beck and call. You should be bending over backwards to pick that item up in a timely and hassle-free manner.
3. There’s nothing wrong with putting time limits in your “offer” ad
Recently, we were getting rid of some pretty big pieces of furniture, and I did not want them cluttering up my house any longer than they had to. That’s why when I posted them on Craigslist, I put in my ad “Only respond if you can come to my home by Friday of this week.” Twelve hours after I posted the ad, I got an email from someone who wanted to come by to get one of the items in the ad. Six hours later, he was here, the piece was gone, and my house was a little less cluttered.
4. Freecycle doesn’t mean trash so don’t give away crap.
While the thinking behind Freecycle is that one person’s trash can become another person’s treasure, that doesn’t mean that you should waste people’s time putting actual trash out for grabs. Sure, there are so-called “curb alerts” that people post from time to time, which basically is carte blanche to go dumpster-diving when someone puts out the trash. However, most people assume that others will have good intentions when using Freecycle and will only offer up decent items that someone can truly use or at least find useful.
5. When posting an offer, it’s a good idea to include a picture.
When you shop online, you really want to see something before you buy it. Well, Freecycle and Craigslist are no different. I’ve found that when I’ve been in a rush and posted an offer without a picture, I didn’t get a lot of responses to my Freecycle offers. However, if I was able to upload a picture–especially if I’m using Craigslist–stuff just flies out the door. Think about it this way: if you sell stuff on eBay to make some extra bucks, then you know that having a picture always ends up with your item getting more bids.
6. Price responsibly when trying to make some cash by selling on Craigslist.
Before we moved I sold all of my kids’ toddler toys, which had been taking up space in our basement but surely didn’t need to move with us (the girls were 10 and 12 by then). When I put an ad on Craigslist for a Fisher-Price toy box, I didn’t expect to get anything near what I paid for it. So I priced it at $10 and, bam, it sold. I also sold file cabinets ($10 each) and a worn-out leather couch (a college student got it for $30 for his frat house). Craigslist ≠ estate auction.
7. There are not givebacks or returns with Freecycle or Craigslist.
Have you heard the phrase caveat emptor? It means buyer beware. That saying applies perfectly to getting stuff for free on Freecycle or for dirt cheap on Craigslist. You get something, it’s yours. You don’t get a return policy or a warranty. And you’ve got to live with the outcome. For example, last year, I figured out how to get gardening goods for free by posting a “wanted” ad on Freecycle. That had me going to people’s yards with my shovel in hand, and digging up plants and bushes that they no longer wanted. Like this one family that was putting in a fence and was going to have to pay someone to take out their Rose-of-Sharon bushes. Nope. I did it for them. Now, is it their problem that when I got home, replanted the Rose-of-Sharon, and they all died? Nope. It was the risk I took in getting plants for free.
8. Just be nice in whatever dealings you have with people.
You know that little thing called karma? Yeah, well, I think that in situations like Freecycle, it really is important to keep karma in mind. You are doing something good for someone by giving them something for free–or taking something off their hands for free–and there’s no reason to be high-maintenance about the transaction. Smile, say, “Thank you,” and I’m confident that karma will come back to reap her rewards on you in one way or another in the near future.