charity

Why in Europe sometimes you just have to dump things on the street

When I was younger, I loved yard sales. I was able to sell some of the stuff my Mom never used and made a couple of bucks while at it. Then, a few years later, I gave my bike to somebody who needed it for free. I still remember the message he sent me, thanking me over and over that he takes the bike to work instead of walking there. He was so grateful and I was thrilled I could help. So, every once in a while, I still leave a box on my yard with a sign “Free stuff.” Someone always pickes it up.

Then, I did my study abroad in France. I lived in a furnished apartment I shared with other students. (btw, my book about the French study abroad is available on Amazon ;)) We only got the bare necessities, so we decided to buy a few things to make our lives more, errr, livable I guess.

At the end of the semester we listed them on a board at school and on a Facebook website where people who wanted to give stuff away for free were welcome to list the items. I mean, surely people will be happy to get nice stuff for free? Surely they will come on time and won’t be picky, right?? (btw, it is forbidden to dump stuff on the street)

We only had a few people genuinely interested… everybody else wasted our time, energy and generosity with the following stupidities:

1) “Your place is too far” (far being 15 minutes out of the way)

2) “I only want one of the items listed in the bundle” (yes, let me make a special appointment for each of the people who want to take the damn dying flowers)

3) Didn’t read the ad right (“I thought you were offering X” (when in fact it was Y))

4) Showed up 2-3 hours late (because of course, I have nothing else to do in my life)

5) Say they will show up and they don’t- without telling me (because again- apparently I have nothing else to do in my life than wait for them)

6) Book a time to come and cancel after they realize that it is too expensive to rent a truck (because checking rental prices prior to making arrangements would be nonsensical)

7) “Do you have it in another color?” (please, can I refer you to a furniture store??!)

8) “Could you deliver it to me?” (no comment…..*sigh*)

Ultimately, the amount of effort I had to put in to deal with these people just made it not worth it. It actually killed my joy to try give useful stuff to people. I follow the online blogs/websites and I am still a memeber of some of these groups and complaints like mine show up  all  the  time.

The biggest problem with giving things away for free is that people think you are also giving away for free your time, energy and sometimes even your transport. And it truly kills the joy of trying to do good and trying to help. Ultimately, after offering the items to some charities (which only took selected items), we sneaked out in the middle of the night and dumped the stuff on the street. Eventually it was all picked up but I promised myself I would never give stuff away for free anymore, not while I was there. When people have to pay, they suddenly realize their time and energy are vested in the exchange too.

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