Thursday, 27 May 2010

Anyone want a child's pushchair, needs painting?

Anyone who visits the internet knows that a large proportion of what you find there is garbage, and sometimes dangerous: get involved in it and you may be cheated, robbed, corrupted, or just waste a great deal of time. So it is pleasant to be able to note the existence of some enterprises made possible by the net which are in every way salutary and make all those who use them happy.

These are the sites for giving things away, things you no longer need but which you cannot be bothered to try to sell on eBay or take to a boot sale. The largest and most successful one originated in Tucson, Arizona (like many much less admirable ideas such as deep-fried peanut butter 'n jelly on rye): the Freecycle Network™ is now made up of 4,775 groups with 7 million members in over 85 countries. It is an entirely non-profit movement, run by volunteers, of people who want to give away and acquire things in their own towns. No money is involved.

It works like this: you email a description of something you want to get rid of, or that you want to acquire. If acceptable it will be published; you give only a nickname and your email address is not published but the group will forward replies saying "yes, please" or "OK, I've got one you can have" and you can make contact by phone or email, give your address, and arrange the collection (or, if you're polite, say "sorry, its already gone"). Should you suspect that they are coming to case the joint, you don't even need to let anyone into your house: you can simply tell them that you will leave it on your doorstep at a certain time.

My town has one of these groups with 5,291 members, and entries are currently being listed at the rate of around 250 a week.

The entries are moderated, of course. If you attempt to offer (or ask for) a Heckler and Koch MP5 in working order or a set of coloured photos of Ann Widdecombe in the nude (or clothed, for that matter), your entry will never appear. But offers of items that look as if no-one could possibly be bothered to drive over and pick them up will be happily published, for it is amazing what people might find useful: "two 6-foot planks with some nails and holes in them", or "bag of baby socks, clean, various colours" may well be taken up by someone who has a need for exactly those things.

There is an example here of the website of one typical local group in the UK

Over the last few months I have made a lot of use of a local group. I have replied to only one offer, and this was a mistake: it was a laser printer, and I found after a week or two that I didn't really want it, but no harm done: I put it back as an offer and someone was delighted with it. But I did offer the following:

A CRT colour monitor; 83 LPs; two hundred audiocassettes; a vintage wind-up portable gramophone with 38 78rpm records; a coal-effect gasfire; a scanner; a collection of software; a cast-iron firebasket; a videocassette recorder; 70 videocassettes; a box of electronic cables & connections; a 14" TV; a 22" TV and seven years back numbers of Private Eye.

For some of them I had half a dozen or more requests, and in nearly every case the items were taken up within a few hours, collected within a day or so and the takers expressed themselves very happy with what they got.

This has all been very rewarding but I still have a lot of things cluttering up the house which I don't need, such as two thousand books I shall never read again (or in some cases never have). But books look nice on the wall and I simply cannot give them away.


Froog said...

A vintage wind-up gramophone? Ooh, I've always wanted one of those. I believe the striking image of Klaus Kinski subduing the Amazonian Indians by playing them Caruso on one in Fitzcarraldo is probably responsible for this longstanding obsession of mine.

I don't think anyone gives away that kind of thing for free around here.

Tony said...

Pity, I would happily have given it to you.

We took it on narrow boat holidays with us and wallowed in nostalgia with old 78s. But you didn't miss much: we tired of it because it makes a pretty awful noise and we've digitised all our old shellac that's worth hearing again.