timesonlinepic
(Scavenging for minerals among the hazardous electronic waste at a dump in Accra. Image © Times Online)

Having recently replaced the mac I work on at home, I needed to get rid of my old one. This machine was five years old, had been repaired several times, and was becoming rather unreliable. I didn’t want to sell it, and neither did I want to give it to a charity shop to sell, since a buyer might (quite rightly) complain when it gave up the ghost. It might, however, be useful to someone who was in need of a computer. So I listed the mac on freecycle — a system I like both because of its informal grass-roots element, and because it keeps stuff out of landfill. I received over 80 responses in a couple of hours. Many of these were a plain “yes, please I’ll have it”, some were a little peculiar in their human-interest element, and some responses were a little disturbing and demanding. I ignored the last category, and out of the rest selected a recipient who lived nearby and who, when he turned up to collect the mac, was just as pleasant and straightforward as he’d sounded. Late yesterday evening I changed the freecycle listing to ‘taken’, and thanked everyone for their interest. And then the weirdness started. I began to receive a barrage of odd emails. Some of these messages were from people who told me they were kicking themselves for not noticing my ad earlier. Some emails came from individuals who were slightly peeved that I hadn’t selected them, and felt like telling me about it. I received one berating me for not noticing that they had placed a ‘wanted’ ad for a computer a few weeks ago. And then there were the others – the messages which a) told me I was stupid, or b) informed me that they were sure they were a much more worthy recipient than the person I’d selected. There were quite a few of these. Here are the ‘best’:

‘”Gone to a Good home” — unlikely — suggest you check ebay or gumtree over the next few weeks. At least I would have kept it and used it for my kids education’

‘You’ve just thrown away £300 of YOUR money. It winds me up how naive some people are.’

Now, perhaps I am naive — in the sense that I think that people are perfectly capable of participating in systems of exchange where money is not involved. I am of course also canny enough to realise that many resellers may well use freecycle for profit — but frankly, this is their business, and not mine. In getting rid of the mac I was pleased to be able to help someone out with something that they needed and I didn’t — but this pleasure was not essential to the transaction. I was simply getting rid of a thing that I didn’t need, and that I didn’t want to sell because it was an unreliable thing of uncertain value. If someone else felt able to sell that thing then that would be, as I said, their business. But what I did not want to do was to relegate a thing that still worked, and which could still be of some use, to the tip, where it would end up on one of those mountains of poisonous waste with which we are now blithely polluting Ghana and Brazil, and which are the stuff of my nightmares. So to the individuals who have sent me these peculiar, abusive, and upsetting messages, I would like to say that the worthiness of the recipient of the thing is not really an issue: the point is that the thing is being recycled and put to use, rather than being thrown away. However, if you do want to bring a moral element into such exchanges, you might like to think of the bigger picture: the one that is at the top of this post. Thankyou.

38 thoughts on “property

  1. Dear Ms Moralistic,
    these imbelciilc infantile\ negroid humans have he opportunity to better themselves but they elect to lie in their own excrement and wait for a hand out from the UN. I should know I have toured with ABRI- now TNI Indonesian’s military working in such dunghills of Africa as Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan and Ghana.
    Compared to the poverty of Indonesia- these people have a life of plenty. The poor African negro is proven beyond refutation to be simply imbecilic, inept and lazy.
    Compare Haiti to Aceh. Indonesia was unaffcted- and though the very greatly appreciated aid- could cope alone without and be on its in weeks- like in my ancestral fiefdom in Central Java around Kelaten- where no money came to help drought nor earthquake survivors.
    The UNDP exopends milloins on these utter emtpy-heads- holds their hand trying to teach them to read their own damn language, prints thousands of literature including the fantastic texty from my nation ‘Teknologi Kampungan’ which instructs people how to make all manner of mahcines and tools from rawest possible materials. Every year millions are wasted to help these people- but they do nothing to help themselves- including controlling their own fertility- which they lack the resources to then care for resultant offspring.
    They have minimal education and no skills- what work is there for them in nations that lack both human or mineral resources?
    That which other nations reject- including recycling technology that the bloated west finds far cheaper to send to mainly India or Ghana or some other God foresaken hellhole.
    If you truly care about such recycling- and seeing you seem to have a socialist leaning- whether it is a la mode or simply typical UK middle-class condescension/self-indulgent middle-class- you would establish a co-op that could hire the disabled to save on “carbon miles” locally.

    How to start? Search the UNDP library online and a white in Africa who collected thousands of documents only to despair at the moronic genetic infantilism of the negroes: CDW3D.
    Otherwise- be thankful your trash is at least another treasure and spare us the moralization.
    In 2009, Glasgow certainly did not look a wealthy city, and country Scotland seemed very poorly.

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  2. How strange people are! I’ve never experienced such bilious emails in that situation. I’ve used Freecycle and Craig’s List to give away many items (in fact, have some in the driveway now that are free, just to avoid the dreaded and never-happening tag sale). I am so glad people want the items and will use them, however they use them. If they sell them, fine — I don’t want the bother. I just want them GONE.

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  3. People never cease to amaze me, especially people with an inordinate amount of assertiveness and a deficiency of tact. It’s bad enough to think selfish thoughts that show one thinks the world revolves around oneself, it’s unfortunately worse to push that thought on someone else…

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  4. I’ve had a bad experience with freecycle here in Sydney. Despite putting a photo with clear measurements up on the web of a really nice piece of furniture, I was inundated with questions about the size and colour of the furniture. Eventually I had about three people who seemed really interested (as in, they had wasted quite a lot of my time finding out details), so I emailed them all saying that the first person to turn up to collect it could have it and… dead silence. Never heard from any of them again. Our builder’s labourer took it for someone he knew in the end, after it had sat out the front for over a week in the weather, but I’d never bother with freecycle again.

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  5. Yikes! Never had that problem with Freecycle… what a shame. You absolutely did the right thing and I’m thrilled that there were so many wannabe takers, too. There’s a scary amount of dangerous stuff in landfills these days.

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  6. I hope you reported these idiots to your freecycle moderator; they deserve to be very strongly reminded of the rules. I’ve mostly had positive experiences with freecycle but I do keep an email folder of people who don’t show up to collect items. I have a One Strike And You’re Out policy for that. I may be giving my stuff away for free but my TIME is still valuable!

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  7. How bizarre. What a shame. Well, I really wouldn’t worry about the fate of the Mac – you wanted to keep it out of the landfill and you did, so who cares if the next person sells it? I’ve used Freecycle without getting any weirdos, I hope they leave you alone next time!

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  8. The world we live in is a strange one indeed… I would like to say that all those people who gave you grief forgot their netiquette and are better behaved in person, but in my experience, that is not the case. Alack.
    For all the weirdness that ensued, I think Freecycle is a wonderful idea. Whatever that nice guy decided to do with your Mac, you can be quite sure it’s not in a landfill!

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  9. I hate people… I’ve used Freecycled many times, on the receiving end in my previous job as a social worker, and on the giving end in the process of merging 2 households. I think I singlehandedly redecorated an elderly lady’s apartment, she was a repeat taker of some of my things.
    I’m sorry the crazies came out to taint your good deed.

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  10. I can’t believe people were so rude! I’d have been tempted to report them to a moderator. I’ve not used Freecycle much – just gave away some printer inks, which there wasn’t much demand for. But I did get fish tank and a fridge, both for school. People are really good if you need stuff for school.

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  11. I use freecycle in our area and think that it is a wonderful thing . I have gotten and gotten rid of many things in a more useful way and met manylovely people. I recently gave yarn away to someone who wanted to knit for charity. Only once have I had a bad experience where like you I had a person who assumed that he was the most needy and wanted me to post at my expense the item to him and I got a few quite unpleasant emails . I forwarded them to our freecycle adminstrator . Don’t let these guys get you down I beleive that for the most part freecycle is full of like minded people and anything that stops landfill is a good thing.

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  12. Good grief, and I thought the people who still emailed looking for something after I’d put a taken notice up were annoying, nothing like this. I try and give stuff to charity shops first and sell things if I think it’s worth the hassle but otherwise Freecycle, if they want to go to the hassle of selling it then fine, at least it’s not cluttering up our house anymore and it hasn’t gone to landfill.

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  13. Sheesh. What a shame you had to go through/are going through that. Good for you to do what you felt was right–I firmly believe we’d all go crazy if we tried to micromanage everyone ELSE’S actions. Reminds me of people who never give money to charity, etc, because they say it’s wasted, on drink or big salaries for managers or stuff like that. We make our choices, and we do our best.

    Hope you can take a deep breath and forget the hassle factor!

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  14. Oh man–I love freecycle, and use it to give away the slightly-used padded mailing envelopes I pull out of the trash at my workplace all the time. But, yes, there are some nutjobs on there.

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  15. I completely don’t really unstand the whole re-sell argument and I’ve had it several time with people when I’ve giving things to freecycle and charity shops. I have no problem with people reselling – if they want to go through the hassle and manage to get a profit, good luck to them. I like you am all about opposing landfill and also ensuring that my houses doesn’t just get full of stuff because I don’t want to bin it. It is all about sharing the love and exchange (but I’m a big hippie at heart and I also recent have lost the plot with people who are critical of the whole volunteer and get concert tickets in exchange for young people scheme). I’ve also had crazy people on freecycle though who have wanted pictures of stuff (like an old gate) my mum had before they would express an interest in it! Hurrah that you prevailed and I’d just delete the crazy messages.

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  16. Funny you mention Brazil, garbage and England. A few weeks ago my Mom regaled me with a never ending rant about Britain. I was born in Rio de Janeiro, and as my Mom read one of the daily papers from Rio online she came accross the report on the discovery of the 40 some cargo ship containers in the Port of Rio… Apparently it was supposed to be an import of plastic to be recycled by a company in Brazil and what arrived was mixed industrial and household garbage. Which I was told was promptly returned with a “thanks but no, thanks”. The best part was when she decided to engage my husband in the discussion of the “evils of developed countries”. She speaking in Portuguese, he speaking in English, and his comment being on how lucky it was that the whole thing did not explode given the fact that household garbage in anaerobic conditions does produce methane…

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  17. This breaks my heart more than a little to know that an act of generosity and ecological responsibility was met with such distasteful reactions :-(

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  18. What an odd world we live in! However, I’m a firm believer in “what goes around, comes around”. If the person to whom you willingly gave your computer chooses to do something “bad” with it then he will get badness back in the end. But I feel sure he was most probably genuine, and it is all the nasty e-mailers that better watch out!! :-)

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  19. Wouldn’t it be good if we had the computer equivalent of a shredder, to put such nonsense in!! We recently refitted our kitchen and I asked around to find someone to give the old one to, as long as they took it away. I got tired of being told I ought sell it!! Eventually we were able to give it to a young couple who had just bought their first home and had no money left for a new kitchen. Their delight was worth far more than a few pounds!!

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  20. freecycle is a funny thing, not in a very funny way. I think the original idea is fantastic but as many things that comes bundled up with people mailing you before with almost all of their life stories and then people unhappy that you didn’t choose them and why. Which is frankly non of their business. I had people not turning up once too, which is very worrying for a different reason.

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  21. yeah, freecycle is definitely not to be broached unless you’re wearing a cup. the locusts who turned up for my mother’s furniture were odd in the extreme and also full of their own rights.

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  22. I am on the freecycle list in my area but have yet to use it. I have to say that I am absolutely shocked that people would sent hate mail because they weren’t chosen to receive your unwanted item. But I may be naive too, ever believing that people are human and that they understand others are too and at this point in the history of man there is a little bit of winning and losing that comes with the territory. And obviously you chose the right person because if they sent you a complaint about not being chosen they are very clearly the wrong person.

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  23. Wow, I’ve had only positive experiences with freecycle, and the more crazy stories I hear the more I’m glad I don’t have any to tell.

    I’ve even heard of people adding to their offer that responses will be judged on politeness and use of grammar…

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  24. Oh, that is awful! Why is it so that people are always ready and willing to insult you via the Internet? At least you know you did the right thing. :)

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  25. I hope I do not sound confrontational nor conceited about this, as I really do not mean to, but, in my opinion at least, the crazies, as referred to above, are best left to their idiocy. Your heart-felt post on here dignifies them in a way they really do not deserve. And mind you, I understand why you are upset/annoyed/flabbergasted even, or every combo thereof, but I also think that morons aren’t worthy of so much as one thought, let alone a reply or a post.

    While I am here though, also participating in dignifying them with a piece of my mind, I should add to the imbecile that thinks it will fetch £ 300 on eBay… no, it will not, because with
    £ 300 people can get a brand new laptop, although a basic one, and they know it. There seems to be this misconception that we are throwing away (or exchanging, as in this case) stuff which is worth a mint while it REALLY isn’t and people realise it.

    My husband is a qualified computer technician among other things (accountancy… why?!) and has bought and sold rubbish of the sort for years, until even he realised that there is no value to be had by listing a past-its-best computer, be this a Mac or a PC, anywhere. And it won’t surprise you, and the other readers of this blog, to hear that even when he listed stuff waaaaaaay past its best and already gone to Sylicon Heaven for 10 quid, he *still* got calls from idiots that wanted to give him 5 quid. When he listed basic and perfectly working re-furbished computers for a mere £ 80, he got calls from low-lives that wanted to give him £ 50 or claimed the item wasn’t worth £ 10 (not true). I could go on, the list is as depressing as it is endless and when I come across such examples, I almost lose the will to live and connect with people.

    You’ve done what felt right for you (and how I understand that… I have a stack of CD cases I don’t know what to do with because I don’t want them to end up in a landfill, so they are landfilling my study instead), and that’s all that matters.

    All the best,

    Steph~

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  26. Some people are so strange…I had the same thing a couple of years ago when I offered an unreliable but still working iPod…

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  27. I hope you put all of those annoying messages right in the electronic bin where they belong! At least they don’t literally foul our environment, however upsetting it may be to receive such virtual trash.

    Here in the American South we have a peculiar subgenre of freecycle petitioner, the responder who claims that they alone are worthy of receiving your benevolence because they are “good Christians.” I’ve encountered so much self-righteous behavior with freecycle that, although I support their mission wholeheartedly, I now search out other ways of recycling things.

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  28. I must say I am most disturbed by these people who thought it appropiate to give you a piece of their mind. My experience with freecycle was extremely positive, but I was on the receiving end, so I would say that, wouldn’t I? I was given the most wonderful bicycle by the most wonderful lady. I couldn’t afford to buy even a cheap one, and every time I cycle I think of the person who made my day, almost every day.
    In Brighton where I live, people quite often leave their unwanted furniture and stuff outside the house, for anybody to take. I’m sure some people make profit on it, but the truth is, does it really matter? I think it matters more that the stuff doesn’t end up in the bin. In the end, someone will make use of it. Surely that is the point? I completely agree with you.

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  29. We are currently trying to give away a perfectly acceptable teak dining table. The last charity I phoned wouldn’t take it without a set of chairs even though they were collecting in our area this week. So now I’m putting a notice in the local shop but having just read your post I’m wondering if that’s such a good idea. And don’t get me started on landfill as I look out of my front window and see the weekly pile of black bags full of garden waste that most of our neighbours find acceptable to have collected by our local authority (by arrangement). We live in a rural area and all have at least half an acre of ground, I seem to be one of the few who has heard of composting. You did get me started, good post, thanks.

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  30. Good heavens! I was initially stunned to read this and then sad and not so stunned because, sadly, these sort of viewpoints seem to be held by growing numbers of people in our rather self-centred, must have society. I do hope you don’t receive any more unpleasant emails and that this won’t put you off using Freecycle again.

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  31. Wow, that is shocking!! I’ve used freecycle several times to unload smaller items (a box of books on a single topic, a child’s 3/4-size guitar, acrylic painting supplies and canvas stretcher frames, an old printer), and each time I decided it was only fair to accept the first person to contact me. (If it had been my old laptop, however, I might have done what you did and decide who sounded like they needed it the most.) The only weird experience I had was repeat messages from a woman who was clearly trying to resell, because she responded to *every single thing* I posted.

    Anyway—I’m so sorry these nasty messages have been clogging your inbox! You’re absolutely right, avoiding the landfill (and creating good karma) is the point, and I wish those folks could recognize that. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you can be a greedy jerk when something you wanted goes to another user.

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  32. Argh! Freecycle is wonderful (people will take away your unwanteds – for free!) but it does have its fair share of the crazies. I hope they don’t bother you too much and that you can appreciate them for their entertainment value.

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  33. I Freecycled our old computers at work – well I let the computer repair guy take them he said he was going to Freecycle them and I choose to believe him. The first thing my boss said was – I bet he sells them on ebay. But like you I felt that any future “life” they might have was better than a trip to landfill and possibly eventually to some overseas dump of toxicity.
    I think your rant was remarkably restrained – things like this have the potential to wind me up for days!

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  34. Ohhh, I share your rant. I love the idea of freecycle but oh, it is a bit ‘hell is other people’ at times.

    I’m currently sitting on a perfectly good all-in-one printer but can’t quite bring myself to start off another round of dealing with the crazy on freecycle. Must venture back in though – am tired of it sitting underneath my desk!

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