"Buy Nothing" groups blur the line between trash and treasure

Indeed. Lord forbid any surplus possessions make their way from a rich neighborhood into a poor neighborhood.


Lots of flakes. If I am selling something, and it is worth a bit - I occasionally get the audacious question:

“What is the least you will accept for this item?”

Protip: Respond with: “The most you are willing to pay.”


If only there were an intermediary who could just collect my gifts to the universe when I schedule a pickup, and distribute them to people who want them when they can pick them up. People might pay a small fee for this convenience, and it would be great if it all went to a nonprofit.


"Excellent. The most I’m willing to pay is ‘nothing’. "

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“Excellent. That is also the amount of product I have to offer at that price point.”


What about saying “a dollar more than you’re willing to pay?” It’s a roundabout fuck-you for even asking an audacious question like “what’s the least you will accept?” Like, too bad, you can’t have it now, and barely.


This explains why the group we were split into a separate group that dropped the “buy nothing” logo/name/trademark, though the larger area “buy nothing” is still in existence.


Eeeewwww! I thought this was a fluffernutter!

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I heard an urban myth about someone who wanted to get rid of their old (functional) fridge. They put it on the curb with a sign that said “Free to a good home!”. It lingered there for days.

They changed the sign to “For Sale $10” and it was stolen within the hour.


That’s pretty much it. The lines always seem drawn in a way to keep the unsavoury unwashed out of the nice neighborhood. Some people take offense to you snapping up their castoffs and reselling them.


It may also be the difficulty of managing a group like this, people aren’t supposed to sell things, but some will occasionally ask for money in exchange, and if any group gets too big, it can require moderation. The more folks, the more work for moderators, so it makes sense to limit the size, as moderation is not their day job. Keeping it hyperlocal also decreases the carbon footprint a bit, which may not be everyone’s motivation, but it adds up.

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Surprisingly, even a Buy Nothing group with thousands of members can require very little modding. Part of it is the rules that preclude off topic discussions, so few threads get out of hand. The primary time suck for mods is vetting people who apply to join to filter out spammers in advance and to keep the members local (which is the controversial issue, how local is too local to be equitable). YMMV.

However, this is why I’m wary of the future of the attempt to build a global app version of Buy Nothing. As Mike Masnick likes to say, moderation doesn’t scale. Or perhaps more accurately, good moderation doesn’t scale economically. And there are no plans I’m aware of for the kind of investment in modding needed to keep the Buy Nothing App from turning into a poorly moderated mess, like YouTube comments (which aren’t as bad as they used to be, at least not in the channels I read the comments on).


Thank you, thank you, thank you for this overview.
It’s very useful.

As member #300-something of Austin Freecycle, I have long found true-giveway-not-sell-things groups praiseworthy, at least for their original intentions. Mutual aid, solidarity not charity, cashlessness not a barrier, etc.

These groups do seem to devolve, or get loved to death, and then everything changes. Ugh.

… oh so that was what happened when I was kicked out as that group neared 30,000+… and all my attempts to rejoin were thwarted.

Good to know.

I suppose it helps if one lives in an area that the following groups have established a physical spot (I sometimes box things up and pay the cheapest shipping I can find, to the nearest point on the map that needs what I’m sending), but fwiw, and please vet them as the spirit moves you:

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants













I believe it can require little modding, but it may be that I’m in a particularly unruly group, as folks don’t necessarily follow rules in my group of 400. I agree that the app may have little that keeps it from descending into youtube comments. More than the chaos of people not following rules, I believe the more successful the app is, the more there will be schemes and guides on how to make $$$ by exploiting the Buy Nothing app. The hyperlocalizing split that I saw happen didn’t seem to fall along good side and bad side of the tracks, but my town is more economically diverse than average, so it may be an exception to the hyperlocal walling off the rich folks from the poor folks.


I’d never heard of fluffernutter before. And yet:

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