The Price of “Free”




Free stuff: who doesn’t like it?

But sometimes – much too often to be honest – free stuff comes with a price tag that isn’t quite worth it.

I’ve been – and still are sometimes – on both sides of “free,” meaning I’m on the giving and the receiving end. For years, I’ve been the receiver of things that were given to my son and me because we were so poor. Sometimes, I was glad to receive something that we needed, but most times I regretted having accepted a donation.

Indeed, too many people “donate” their broken, stained, torn, or otherwise useless things and clothes to the needy when, in fact, their stuff is good for only one place to go: in the trash.

Did they ever spend one second thinking about how the recipient of their trash would feel when being gifted a burnt pan, broken dishes, stained clothes, shoes with holes, or even food that’s way over the date and partially spoilt?

I can tell you how it feels: one gets the clear impression that one is about as worthless as the trash that is given to us!

Lately, since our finances aren’t quite that tense anymore, I’m sometimes (albeit rarely) in the position to give something away for free. I only give things that are in good condition, that I would still use myself had I a use for them. If the items have scratches or stains, I advertise this fact and only give them to people who understand that the stuff isn’t great anymore.

However, even as a donor, I’ve run into interesting problems.

I often advertise my free things on craigslist or facebook. My stuff is generally in good or almost good condition and it’s free, and so I expect the person who wants it to come pick it up.

No, I don’t deliver my free stuff.

Yes, I do get cranky when we agreed on a pick-up time, I’m sure to work my schedule around it so that I’m home, and the person doesn’t show up and doesn’t feel the urge to call or text me to let me know.


In the end I wonder if I want to continue dealing in free stuff, either as the recipient or the donor, since one cannot count on normal human behavior of the other party, such as true generosity, punctuality, truthfulness.

Sometimes, the price seems simply too high and it’s better to do without when in need or not give away anything of my surplus.