Ever since I heard about Freecycle – lo, those many years ago – I have been a fan. It’s just a terrific concept, really. People trying to reduce clutter can offer up their unwanted items to others who need them.
More often than not, I don’t need or want whatever is posted. But it’s nice to know that there is a place where things I need might come up. Perhaps it’s a strange sort of comfort, but it’s mine all the same.
That said, before we moved, I had already begun to notice a shift in the tone of emails. People were writing an increasing number of “wanted” posts. For those of you not familiar with Freecycle, that is simply stating that they need/want a particular item. If anyone has such a thing lying around unused, the poster will get a reply.
It just seems wrong. To me, Freecycle is about what you have — about what you can give — not about what you want to get. If you want things, you sign up for the updates. Perhaps what you need will be posted. Perhaps not. It’s the nature of the site.
So this attitude of the posters strikes me as odd. Would these people dictate a list of needs to a thrift store worker? No, of course not! (At least, I hope not.) Because what you see is what you get. If the thrift store doesn’t have it, it’s because no one has donated it — or the ones that were donated were snatched up already. And given that you actually pay the thrift stores money, I really don’t understand how that attitude extends to something where people are gifting it to you.
Please don’t mistake my distaste for cynicism. If we were talking about kids’ clothes or something dire, I would of course support it. But that’s not what gets posted. People request random things, few of which ever seem all that necessary. Often, I open these posts, to see why the person felt justified in asking for it. I’ve yet to see anything like, “Brother in hospital, parents flying down, have no bed for them to sleep on.” It’s usually just a quick couple sentences about the desired item.
And I should add that I’m not alone in my surprise at people’s attitudes. About six months ago, some of the Seattle Freecycle mods wrote a note about the increasing number of “wanted” posts. It reminded people that Freecycle was about giving, not receiving. That did decrease the number, at least for a time. But the frequency was picking up again by the time we were preparing to move.
But if I thought it was bad in Seattle, boy oh boy I was in for a shock. The first week we were here, I signed up for Freecycle. I hoped to find some furnishings for our new place. No such luck, I’m afraid.
Still, getting email updates for Phoenix Freecycle groups has been quite educational. The sheer number of “wanted” posts boggles the mind. There’s about one for every two posts actually offering something. Some days, the ratio is a lot worse than that.
These people aren’t shy about asking for things, either. One poster wanted furnishings for a new apartment. The post literally just asked for furniture. Nothing specific or humble about it. Another person actually asked for a laptop computer. (!!!!) Based on the wording and writing style, I’m pretty sure it was the same one who then added another post asking for plates, silverware and glasses.
And yes, I know the old adage about a few bad apples. That’s what I thought at first, too. But we’re in our third week here and the “wanted” posts show no sign of decreasing. These people never explain that there exigent circumstances, or they just moved and have no money til payday to get a bed. They just state their needs and hope.
I guess, technically, there’s no law against being brash. To use another cliche, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But it seems like they’re taking a selfless system and tarnishing it with their greedy expectations.
Who are these people? The more cynical part of me says it’s the same people who overspent during the boom. They got further and further into debt with their consumerist ways, thinking they deserved to have nice things and a big house; now, in the economic contraction, they think they’ve found a whole new way to fulfill their sense of entitlement — all while staying in budget. Sort of like breaking the spirit of the law in order to follow the letter of it.
But perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe those people are finally learning their lessons and it’s some other group entirely. Perhaps it’s random people from various walks of life, all burned out by the recession and the constant self-denial.
In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter who it is, does it? Whoever they are, why they are doing it… The fact is that it’s happening. And there aren’t many ways to get around it. Sure, the mods can banish them. But they can get another screen name and come back. There are enough free email accounts out there to tide someone over until the next millenium.
Nope, this greed is probably here to stay. I only hope it won’t pollute the whole system. There’s been enough of that in this country already.
Are you a member of Freecycle? Have you noticed any change in posts? Do you think it’s okay to request things in these sorts of forums?