Thursday, November 03, 2005

Stardate 59839.65 - freecyclenewyorkcity

I don't know if you are aware of this service known as "freecycle". Essentially, if you have stuff you don't want but you also don't want to just throw it away (e.g. old computer monitors, telephones, bikes, printers, furniture) you can post to the freecycle site for your geographic area and then people who want your discarded stuff will contact you and arrange to come pick it up. It was recently mentioned in a Time Out New York (TONY) magazine article, and Cheryl remembered the name as I was lamenting that I had a large, non-flatscreen, 17" monitor taking up a lot of space in the closet and the baby was going to need that space for baby stuff.

So I decided to take the plunge and on October 17th I placed the following post on their NYC site:

> Upgraded my computer a couple of years ago and I've been keeping my
> old 17" Color Monitor in a closet. Baby on the way and I need more
> space. It hasn't been turned on in more than 2 years, but I don't
> know why it wouldn't still work fine. If you are interested please
> let me know and I'll drag it out and test it before we schedule a time
> for you to come pick it up.

I had 10 people respond that day, and another 2 the following day. I started with the first person to respond. She apparently forgot to check with her husband before saying she wanted it, because she turned it down when I told her that she had won the "who can be first to take my crap" contest. I moved on to the second person. He also turned it down, so I moved on to the third person. All this activity took two days. The third person did not get back to me (ever), so after 48 hours had passed I moved on to the fourth person on the list.

The fourth person arranged a time to pick it up, and I gave him my cell and told him to call me when he was 10 minutes away from my building and that I'd come down to meet him. He never called, and he never showed. I tried to reach him a couple of time over the next 48 hours, but never heard back. Maybe he died on the way to get my monitor, but I'll never know.

I then was away for a few days on a business trip, and decided to re-engage upon my return. At this point it had been 10 days from my initial post, so after such a positive response and a list of 12 interested people, I was beginning to think that I would run through all 12 names and still have the monitor.

Finally, number 5 on the list wanted the monitor. We scheduled a time on Saturday for pick up, and he was told to call me when he got close to the building. About 30 minutes after he was supposed to show up he called to say he was running late and would be there in 30 minutes. 45 minutes later I got the call that he was downstairs. I took the monitor down, loaded it into his car, he shook my hand, and drove into the sunset. Well, actually the noonish sun. And I went to the gym.

So what is the point of this long story? Well, here are the lessons I have learned from my very small data sample of using freecycle once to get rid of one item:

  1. People respond quickly so they can be at the top of your list, but then either have second thoughts or spousal conflict. So be sure to have a large list of interested people because it may be the fifth or sixth or seventh person who actually gets the item.
  2. People are quite insistent at times. One person, when informed he was down the list a-ways, said, "But I can be there NOW!" I, however, stuck to a strict first in first out stack.
  3. Courtesy is lacking. People did not respond at all, set up appointments they didn't make, and were already late before they called. People were not as schedule driven, nor as courteous as I am. I may be a lot of things, but I'm on time and I'm responsive. The general public, or at least people who want free things, are not.
  4. In the end, I did get rid of my item with some confidence it will be used and not trashed.
So I give the service a restrained thumbs-up. I met my end goal, but not without a little bit of pain along the way. And I feel better having given a perfectly working piece of electronics equipment to someone who will probably use it, rather than donating it to an organization that will just dump it in a third-world country.

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