Givers Ought Not Be Choosers

Dear Reader,

Do you ever buy things on Facebook Marketplace? Through this Facebook feature, it is quite easy to coordinate the buying, selling, and delivering of items as small as used earrings to as big as a whole mattress in your community. After living in Boston for a few years, I have now had a decent amount of experience buying, selling, and giving away items through Facebook, and I must say — your mileage may vary.

In a recent post, I wrote about the joy of giving to others in one’s own community (more here). Whenever I post a (decent) item for free on Facebook, 9 times out of 10, I receive responses in under two hours and coordinate a pickup time in under a day. Giving away items for me always feels like a win-win. I gather the items and hand them off at my front door and feel great to see space made in my apartment. The receiver too wins as they receive nice items for only the cost of a car trip. In my experience giving on Facebook, everyone has been polite and considerate of my time. I have had only two instances so far when someone claimed an item online and forgot about or lost interest in picking it up. The majority of all takers (coincidentally, all women so far) have been very eager to pick up the offered items within a few days’ time. I have had women ride over on their bikes, drive up by car, and even jog over for the handoff. In short, the feeling of giving is fulfilling, convenient, and easy. Selling, on the other hand… is a different story!

After completing grad school a few years ago, I moved from one spot in Boston to another. During this process, I decided to sell as much as I could to lighten my load and make some money back. Some sales went very smoothly. I ended up selling a perfectly good mattress and bedframe way below value and sold it quite quickly to a woman about my age. She, her father, and brother came prepared with tools to disassemble the set and they removed the whole thing without a trace in under a half hour. Other sales have been a hassle.

The difference between buyers and takers can be summed up with one crass (not entirely accurate) phrase: beggars can’t be choosers. To be clear, no one on these Facebook groups interested in taking free things is a “beggar,” but the sentiment rings true when I compare my experience to those paying for items and receiving items at no cost. For example, when I tried to sell a perfectly good clip-on fan for $5 (originally around $15), I had a lot of back and forth and had to schedule and re-schedule pickup only to have the whole transaction fall through in the end. More recently, I tried to sell a bathroom scale in normal condition for a mere $3 online. A week after the listing, someone reached out to me and asked, “is this item still available?” I responded to coordinate pickup and then nothing. Radio silence. Selling things is apparently no easy feat!

If money is the priority, then by all means, sell on Facebook! I consider this a win-win when the pricing is fair. I have procured a handful of precious items including a standing lamp, coffee table, and water kettle from college students and others looking to make a quick buck. However, if the priority is to minimize waste or to simply help others out, then give to your drawers are empty and your heart is full!

I don’t intend on my making my first million by selling used products for $3 on Facebook and the hassle is just too much for me right now. I have withdrawn my bathroom scale from the Facebook Marketplace. I will continue to give, and I hope you will too. If not through Facebook, then to food banks, Goodwill stores, or even a book to your local little free library. November is the month of giving!



P.S. I was told that January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and December are also great months to give — who knew! 😉

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