Monday, June 29, 2009

How to Reply to Offers on Freecycle

Freecycle items on the doorstep

Freecycle is pretty straightforward. People send messages to their local Freecycle group members, saying what they are offering, and you reply if you are interested. (You can also send messages asking for things you want - someone just might have them.)

I'm an avid Freecycler; I give away things of my own, as well as things for my clients, who are thrilled to see their items go to someone who can really use them. That picture above is my porch, this morning. There's a bag of stuffed animals going to one person, three bags of clothes going to someone else, two stacks of books for two more people, a cheese grater going to yet another person - and more. In total, nine people were coming by for things!

But as simple as Freecycle is, I'm sometimes amazed at how some people respond to my messages. I keep a list of people I've found to be good recipients - and another one of people to avoid. (You can always choose who you want to give your items to, and you may well get multiple requests for the same item.) Here are my guidelines on how to get on my "good people" list.

1. Be polite.

There's one person whose replies always read something like this: Tell me the address to come pick it up.
I'll never give anything to this person. Rather, I'll give it to the person who writes: May I please have this, if it's still available?

(OK, I must admit I also get a grin from the person who has received things from me many times, who will now write messages like this: Dibs on the picture frame. But that's because I already know him.)

And "thank you" messages are always welcome, too.

2. Have a normal-sounding e-mail address.

I know this is sort of a strange item. But there's one person I never give things to because she's got an off-putting e-mail address that always makes me pause; do I really want this person coming to my home? I've decided the answer is no.

3. Follow instructions.

I often have a large list of something - many books or CDs, for example. I will usually write: Take one, some or all - no preference for taking more than one, so ask for what you really want.

Using the book example: Some people then write and say they will take everything; others ask for specific books. I'll give the books away first to the people who asked for a few selected ones. Then I'll write to the "take everything" folks and tell them what's left - and lo and behold, they don't want those books.

4. If you need more information, ask right away.

Don't say you want something, and then - after I've said you can have it - ask for more information. If you have questions, include them in your first message.

5. Don't ask me to deliver the item or mail it to you.

You want it, you come get it. That's just how things (generally) work on Freecycle.

Now, there are some people who I offer to deliver to, because I drive by their homes, and I know they are unlikely to be driving by mine - and we live a 20-minute drive away. (My Freecycle group covers a large territory.) But these are people I know - not strangers asking for something from me.

6. Show up when you say you will.
Yes, sometimes things happen, and you just can't make it. If you send me an e-mail and explain that, and set a new time, I understand. But don't just neglect to show up.

Related Posts:
The Things You Find on Freecycle
Short Takes: Funny Stuff Found on Freecycle
The Thoughtful Consumer Uses Freecycle


Anonymous said...

I love Freecycle and your post is terrific - right on target. I've used it many times - mostly to get rid of stuff but occasionally to get a few things.
The big one for me is to show up if you say you will. Otherwise, another person who might really want something may not get it and it's aggravating and rude to the person doing the giving.
Thanks for the great info!

Jeri Dansky said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, Liz!

Rose Safir said...

I have been getting the freecycle emails for 2 years now and I haven't used it once. Everytime I see something I'm interested in, it is already taken. I must admit I'm a bit intimidated, it seems like a very quick paced turn of events. I've gotten a few free things on Craigslist(and given away some too), but I had to be the first person to reply to get them. It seems like you would have to be sitting by your computer and ready to drop everything to actually be successful. What are your thoughts?

Jeri Dansky said...

Rose, things can indeed be snapped up pretty quickly on Freecycle. Those who get the digest rather than individual e-mails will miss out on most of the best stuff. And even if you do get the individual e-mails, it's easy to be too late - since many people give to the first person who asks.

So yes, sadly - those with good e-mail habits, who don't check e-mail compulsively, will often lose out to those who check e-mail all the time.

Since I use Freecycle mostly to give things away, this hasn't been a problem for me, but I can see why it would be discouraging to you.

If there is something you particularly want, have you tried sending a WANTED message?