Monday, March 14, 2011

Why I don't FREECYCLE anymore

When I lived in California, as I cleaned out 20+ years of accumulated stuff in preparation to move to South Africa, I Freecycled...a lot.

Freecycle is an international Yahoo group dedicated to keeping stuff out of the landfills by giving it away to people who can use it. The various Freecycle organizations act as a clearinghouse: those with stuff to get rid of, advertise it for free and those who want it, come get it. Also, those who need stuff can advertise...also for free. It's a win-win situation, especially for the landfills.

Between garage sales, eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle, I managed to clean out a cluttered house in record time and with minimal impact to the landfills. It was so successful that when I got settled in Cape Town, I joined the local Freecycle group. Sure enough...when I was packing to move from Cape Town to Johannesburg five years later, Freecycle came to the rescue again. I advertised a "pick up load of miscellaneous computer stuff, including a G3 Mac" and the phone rang off the hook!!

So, one would expect even better from Johannesburg, right? It is bigger, busier, stingier...all the things that make a "free stuff" website appealing, right?

Wrong.

When I first tried to join the Joburg group the moderator didn't bother to admit me, decline my membership request, or even respond to my emails. Eventually, after I contacted the HQ of the group, the individual got back to me and processed my membership. But this was a harbinger of things to come.

My husband is diabetic and one day at the pharmacy his pharmacist gave him a brand new glucose test kit. The manufacturer was giving them away to selected patients as a promo, and Hubby was selected. After opening the box, examining the machine and reading the literature, he decided he didn't want it and gave it to me to Freecycle. For WEEKS after I submitted my ad, I waited for it to show up on the site. Eventually it did, but the response was disappointingly low.

I began to realize that months...literally months...go by without my seeing a Freecycle ad show up in my mailbox. So few people use the site that it takes weeks to get enough ads to put up a digest of half a dozen items. It took a while for me realize what apparently everybody else around here already knew: the Freecycle site is poorly attended, not because there aren't any interested parties, but because the management of the site is so inattentive that it might as well not exist.

You see, there is another free site here, Gumtree. You can buy and sell stuff, rent apartments, find jobs...kind of a latter-day Craigslist. And, there is a section for free stuff...and people post there. Free stuff changes hands in Johannesburg, it just doesn't do it through Freecycle.

So, today I have a lot of plants to give away. Nice plants dug out of my overgrown garden. The first place I though of was Freecycle, but based on previous experiences with the local group, these plants will long be compost before the ad even appears on the site! So I posted the ad on Gumtree...free to me, free to the takers, no Rip van Freecycle to deal with.

6 comments:

  1. Hello, I agree with your comments about the Johannesburg free cycle group. One would imagine that in a place like Johannesburg, free cycle would be a thriving success, but sadly it's not the case. I have just joined and am disappointed by the few posts on the site. However, they are looking for moderators to help out, so thought I'd let you know as you seem to be a person who might want to become involved and help give it some new life.
    Regards,
    Zoe Griffiths

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi there - I am a member and one of Moderators of the Cambridge UK group and Freecycle really humms here. So all I can think is that your admin team for the Johannesburg area need a wake-up call (or a kick up the you-know-where) and GET GOING! Alternatively, perhaps Violet can take the bull by the horns?

    Good wishes,

    Roger Bramford
    Moderator, Cambridge Freecycle
    rogerbramford@yahoo.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi there - I am a member and one of Moderators of the Cambridge UK group and Freecycle really humms here. So all I can think is that your admin team for the Johannesburg area need a wake-up call (or a kick up the you-know-where) and GET GOING! Alternatively, perhaps Violet can take the bull by the horns?

    Good wishes,

    Roger Bramford
    Moderator, Cambridge Freecycle
    rogerbramford@yahoo.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  4. Not interested, Roger. I want to USE Freecycle, not run it.

    Lately I am being bombarded by the Freecycle autobot sending me email to tell me that Freecycle here is defunct and it has all be moved over to something called My Freecycle. My attempts to verify the legitimacy of "My Freecycle" as part of the Yahool Freecycle organization have been fruitless--nobody I have contacted has bothered to answer. Why would I want to be part of an organization that makes ME struggle and work hard just to get a simple answer to a simple question?? No thanks.

    I have switched to Gumtree for recycling my used stuff. If my maid or gardener doesn't want it, then I give it away on Gumtree. In Joburg, Freecycle is more trouble than it is worth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Pretoria freecycle group is better than the Joburg one, although not as good as the Capetown one. Capetonians seem to rock at freecycle. The moderator of the Pretoria group keeps contact regularly, and people do respond to ads, albeit there are far less than in the Cape. I, too gave up on the Joburg one.

      Delete
    2. Well it is good to know that SOMEBODY up here in the Highveld is making good use of the Freecycle concept. Joburg's Freecycle organization is a perfect example of how a wildly successful franchise can be crashed by poor, inattentive management. Unfortunately, I am 50 kms from Pretoria, so I doubt it would be worth the effort to post on their Freecycle--I am just too far away for Pretorians to drive to pick up some little gewgaw I don't want anymore. Meanwhile, Gumtree is working for me...

      But it IS good to know it's working somewhere up here!

      Delete

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