Do We Value Free Stuff Less? The Downside of Freecycle

Stephen Depolo/CC BY 2.0

From Lloyd's experiences with delighted freecyclers to Rose's enthusiasm for the Really, Really Free Market, TreeHugger is full of examples of people getting stuff for free and being profoundly grateful for it.

But that's not always the case.

Lucy Siegle of the Guardian responds to a reader's email about the problem with Freecycle, in which they complain that a recent Freecycle transaction was ruined by the lack of gratitude, and sense of entitlement, of a recipient of a free mattress - who expected the giver to deliver the thing to them. Lucy argues that this is simply a sign of the times:

Your ungrateful recipient confused Freecycle's altruistic approach and the moon-on-a-stick expectations of consumerism. There's always one. Shaylesh Patel of Healthyplanet.org recently held a successful Stuff For Free giveaway in west London (look out for further events). Over three days he saved 25 tonnes of stuff from going to landfill. Hundreds of people went home happy – bar one man who wanted a bike earmarked for a charity: "He got annoyed," says Patel, "even though I explained that the charity would allow multiple people to use it."

I must admit that my limited experiences of Freecycle and other such institutions have been the exact opposite. When I picked up a free heater to warm my home office/shed, I was so profoundly grateful that I have come to treasure what would have seemed like a $15 piece of junk had I bought it on Amazon. When I have given away things, I have always been greeted with so much gratitude that it has far out weighed the monetary compensation had I gone to the trouble of listing the same items on Craigslist.

Sure, there are always a few bad apples out there. And yes, as a society, we may take some time to wean ourselves off of some of the expectations of hyper-consumerism. But that's more a problem with human nature and consumerism in general than it is Freecycle. The biggest barrier to sharing really is ourselves. It's time to get over it.

Tags: Activism | Communities | Economics | Freecycle | Living With Less | United Kingdom