Stunted By Reality Just another know-it-all talking about life, business, technology, sports and music.


Frustration on Freecycle

Yes son, it is the thought that counts. But your mom would appreciate an expensive thought much more!

Like most people who go through a lot of stuff, when I heard of the idea behind Freecycle, I thought it was brilliant. Advertise any stuff you wouldn't mind giving away for free, or post a request for stuff you're looking for and anyone can offer you their own unwanted but useful items.

I signed up about a year ago after moving home because I fell into both camps. I wanted to be a giver but I could also use some stuff that I didn't need to buy brand new. Well today I'm cancelling all my subscriptions because in a year, I haven't completed one freecycle either in responding to a wanted ad or when I've wanted to pick up the stuff advertised by others.

My biggest frustration is that all the stuff is always taken. That's not a bad thing in itself of course. However, I only get to know that an item has been taken AFTER I have clicked on a posting, been forced to log into the site, and then filled out a message to the advertiser. Only when I've clicked send does the system tell me that the item is no longer available! Well, if they knew that the item isn't available, why am I forced to jump through all the hoops just to find that out?

There are other annoyances too, like

  • the huge number of 'freeloaders' who seem to use the site as a source of free stock to sell-on. A scan down the wanted ads can be disheartening, though there are of course some genuine people.
  • the huge number of emails you get (mostly of said wanted items) even when you're only getting a digest of site activity. Invariably when you come to click on an ad, the item will be taken, thus rendering all those notifications useless.
  • The broken nature of the website. You can't freely move from one group to another without signing up and logging in to each group. Groups are based on area you see, but of course most people are near enough to 2 or 3 groups and to want to join them all. There's no free movement in freecycle, because the tech is really quite outdated.
  • The fussy posters on the wanted ads. I've responded to some wanted ads only to be told that my item is not exactly what the poster is looking for. Ah, dude I'm offering you something that would suit your needs and is in good condition, for free and you still wanna be fussy about it? Man, whip your card out and go to a store!
  • (Updated) People are also pointing out that it's very common for someone not to turn up and collect items they have requested. I guess the fact that items are free, means that people can't be bothered really!

It does make you wonder whether this is more reinforcement for the idea that freemarkets (pun intended) are able to solve society's problems better than some of these utopian ideals. There are certainly a lot of moderators as a result of the disenguonous swamping the genuine. Ironically the moderator involvement on Freecycle only serves to put off the genuine people. It's as far removed as you can get from Laissez-faire, but it still lacks the order of a highly structured, social utopia which I think was being aimed for.

Even as an ardent capitalist, I still like the idea of social utopia, but I  just don't think it would work on any sort of big level. However I would have thought it would work in doing something as simple as redistributing unwanted goods. For me that hasn't turned out to be the case, and I'll be cancelling my subscription today. So long freecycle.