(An open letter to Freecycle.)
I love you — in theory. You’re such a great way for a community to share its resources, meet its members, and keep usable things out of the landfill. Your motto, “Changing the world, one gift at a time,” makes me go all mushy inside my secret hippie heart. The greenness, freedom from money, and community spirit are all things I would love to see more of in this culture.
But do you have any idea how much more aggravation you cause me than just driving a couple boxes of stuff down to Goodwill? Because of you, I’ve spent whole days waiting around at home for people to show up. Because of you, I’ve had to deal with people who are flaky, greedy, or just plain unpleasant. And they know where I live. Remember the time that lady strung me along for six hours to pick up a dollhouse? At 8pm, I’d had enough and told her I was giving it to the next person. Her response: a carefully crafted guilt trip about how long her daughter had been wanting a dollhouse and how disappointed she was. I guess I should be grateful she didn’t TP my house.
Screw that. I have enough passive aggressiveness in my life. I don’t need any more. The only reason I continue to offer things on Freecycle is that the pain of dealing with these people fades pretty quickly, so in another couple of months, I’m ready to do it all again. Eventually I may give up on it. I’m starting to think that maybe I just don’t like people enough to change the world one gift at a time.
Want to keep me around, Freecycle? I have a short list of things to do that would drastically cut down on the amount of suckiness involved in freecycling.
- Allow givers to leave takers feedback. Feedback allows givers to make smarter decisions about whom we want to give things to. Punctuality, reliability, politeness, and ability to find an address are all important. I also wouldn’t mind knowing a little about the taker’s recent actions on Freecycle — whether s/he has offered things before on Freecycle or is just a taker/requester. I’d still be willing to offer an item to a newbie, just not someone who has a bad track record.
- Allow takers to leave givers feedback. Accurate descriptions of the item, reliability, and politeness are all good things to know before you show up at someone’s door.
- Get rid of the ‘gifts must be given in person’ rule. Although there are definitely exceptions, a lot of takers are too flaky to stick to a reasonable pick up time . In defiance of the rules (and this is big for me, as a stickler), I’ve started putting things outside my door for pick up within a certain window. The takers seem to be fine with that, and nothing has ever gone astray.
- Keep an online inventory of still available items for at least a two week period. It would cut down on the email clutter and provide givers more opportunity to get rid of things. And if you’re looking for something specific, digging through a stack of archived emails isn’t too fun, either.
- Screen out the clearly greedy and unrealistic requests. Working laptops, iPhones, jewelry kilns? I really don’t think so. These emails clutter up the stream and frankly irritate me. Nice try, people.