The Buy Nothing Project Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the frequently asked questions with answers from our co-founders, to help explain how our rules work in practice. These explanations should not be interpreted as our “Rules”. Please see The Fine Print for a complete list of our Rules and Standards for Posts & Comments in our groups. For more details on why we do things the way that we do, please read our Mission and Principles. These may shed some light on your questions as well.
- What do you mean by “adult”?
- Can I join more than one group?
- What do you mean by “Give where you live”?
- Can I invite my friend to join my group?
- What should I do if I move?
- What if I don’t have anything to give?
- Are there any limits on how much I can give or request?
- What if I don’t have transportation?
- Can I ask for something on behalf of a friend or family member who isn’t on Facebook or in the group?
- What do I do when my gift is gone?
- Can I upload multiple photos?
- Can I use abbreviations in my post?
- Can I include a link in my post?
- Should I mention the monetary value of my gift in my post?
- Can I just post my address and tell people to come pick things up from my porch?
- Can I privately message a member to ask for a gift they’ve posted?
- What’s the Buy Nothing Project’s definition of civility?
- What can I give away or ask for here?
- I have an expired or recalled item. Can I give that away here?
- Can I post a request for cash?
- Can I trade or barter in this group?
- Can I look for or offer a place to live?
- Can I look for or offer employment or odd jobs?
- Can I post an offer or request for political action?
- Can I post a request for information or advice?
- Can I post a request for a recipe?
- Can I tell my neighbors about a free community event?
- My dog or cat is lost! Can I use this group to alert my neighbors?
- Can I use this group to rehome my pet or livestock?
- Can I offer goods or services from my business?
- Can I mention my business name in my post?
- Can I post a request for donations of stuff for a fundraiser I’m helping with?
- Can I resell items that I receive here, for profit or to raise money for something?
- Can I ask my neighbors where I can buy something locally or online?
- Can I find a plumber/electrician/service provider here?
- Can I direct people in need to our local food bank and other community resources?
- I am unable to pick up a gift as requested. What should I do?
- My neighbor never picked up the item I gifted to them. What should I do?
- I offered a gift (or posted a request) and received private messages without permission/prior to choosing a recipient. What do I do?
- I received a private message that I am uncomfortable with. What should I do?
- I noticed a post that I believe is against the rules. What should I do?
- I received an item in disrepair, or not as described. What should I do?
- Something is missing from my porch or home. What should I do?
- I have a complaint about another member. What should I do?
- I believe a member of my group is being dishonest. What should I do?
- I offered a gift, and someone offered to purchase the item from me. What do I do?
- I believe a member of my group is using a false name or otherwise violating Facebook rules. What should I do?
- I believe a member of my group has broken the law. What should I do?
- Why wasn’t I chosen to receive a gift?
- Shouldn’t they have to choose my need over another person who just wants something?
- My post was deleted! Why?
- I don’t like your group, your rules, and how you do things here.
Questions about Eligibility
Q: What do you mean by “adult”?
A: Our definition of “adult” refers to the *most restrictive* definition in your area (country/state/county/city). In most cases, this age is the legal drinking age, but this is not always the case.
By using the most restrictive age requirement, we are able to freely gift things in our groups that would otherwise be disallowed, including items of an adult nature. This way, everyone truly has the legal right to participate at their own risk, per their local laws.
Q: Can I join more than one group?
A: Our mission is to create hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors. Because of this, we have a “Give Where You Live” rule. Our groups are about connecting people more than about free stuff, and we’ve found that these connections need trust and familiarity to flourish. So our rule is one hyper-local group per person, the one where you live.
Q: What do we mean by “Give where you live”?
A: Each of the groups in the Buy Nothing Project has a specific set of boundaries, determined by landmark areas, transportation patterns, and population density, as well as other factors.
In order to join a group, you must physically reside within the designated boundaries of that group.
If you have more than one home, are without a permanent residence, or are traveling, we will ask you to provide a location where you spend most of your time, or where you sleep at night. We may remind you that you are only permitted to join one Buy Nothing Project group at a time. If your circumstances or location change, we ask that you contact your admin in order to switch groups, and that you leave one group before joining another one.
Q: Can I invite my friend to join my group?
A: If your friend lives within the boundaries of your group, you may most certainly invite them! If not, your admin may be able to help you find the right group for them. Either way, we would love to have your help spreading the word about our project!
Because of the somewhat quirky nature of Facebook’s messaging system, the best way to invite a friend is to send them a link to your group, rather than clicking the “Add a friend” button. If you do add a friend using that option, please let them know that you have added them, and let them know that we will be contacting them to confirm their location. Your friend can also reach out to the admin to help with the process of being added to the group.
Q: What should I do if I move?
A: If you move out of the boundaries for your group, it’s easy to find a new one! Just send a message to your Admin and they can help you find the group for your new home.
How to Use Our Groups
Q: What if I don’t have anything to give?
A: You may be surprised at what you can share with your neighbors. In the Buy Nothing Project, we believe that all gifts are equal. Even if you just moved into your new place and have no tangible items to share, you may have some extra time, a talent or a skill that could greatly help your neighbors.
However, members are not required to give, in order to receive. All gifts in this project are freely gifted, without any expectation of reward other than the joy of giving.
Q: Are there any limits on how much I can give or request?
A: The only limits are the ones you set for yourself as a giver, and those your neighbors set in terms of their giving to you. We believe that we have an abundance of material goods, services, and gifts of self to give and share. If you want to see more giving, model that in your own offers. If you want to see less giving, model that. If you’re feeling left out, as if you’re never chosen and are going without, post a request of your own. Our volunteer admins have many tips and thoughts to share about how to best connect with your group, how to manifest more generosity in the group, and how to deal with the many emotions that might come up for you as you participate in this gift economy. We’re all learning how to trust in abundance, how to give freely without expectation of any reward, and how to receive with gratitude.
Q: What if I don’t have transportation?
A: We try to draw the boundaries of our groups to optimize the use of public transportation and sidewalk-travel. However, we realize that even this is a challenge for some. If you are unable to transport an item, be sure to include that information in your post or comment, whether it’s an offer or a request.
Sometimes, other members of your group may be able to help with transportation. Try posting a request in your group!
Remember, Givers are not expected to hold onto items for a recipient for any longer than is convenient, but we do hope that all of our members will do what they can to work out any scheduling mishaps.
Q: Can I ask for or give something away on behalf of a friend or family member who isn’t on Facebook or in the group?
A: Yes and no.
You can only join the group where you live, not where your friend or family member lives.
You are free to offer things on behalf of a friend or family member, as long as you are up front about the location of the item, or you transport the item to your own home for gifting.
Yes are free to ask for things on behalf of a friend or family member, as long as you’re up front about it when you write the request, and you’ll be the person who will pick up.
Q: Why do you ask people not to delete their old posts? All these old posts with new comments are cluttering things up and making it hard for me to find what I want! It would be so much more efficient if we could delete our posts!
A: This may sound a bit crazy at first, but please bear with us. We’re not so interested in efficiency, we’re interested in building a shared narrative and a strong network of connections between real people in real neighborhoods. When we chose Facebook Groups as our platform for the Buy Nothing Project, and when we wrote our “don’t delete” guideline, we did that knowing full well that once groups got to a certain size and activity level, things would be inefficient. Believe it or not, this seeming con is actually a pro for our mission.
Efficiency is a much desired trait in market economies and systems that value things over people. A more human-centered economy is going to look very highly inefficient to anyone with market economy vision, since human communication and relationships are complex, organic, and have much more in common with fractal geometry than with the linear math that so effectively describes things such as profit and loss.
Since our mission is to help connect real-life neighbors in hyper-local gift economies to grow a wealth of human connections and mutual support, it’s actually beneficial when it takes people a little longer, when we have to ask each other for help, than when we can pop into our group, grab a thing we want, and disappear.
Once your item has been gifted, feel free to edit your post to reflect that status as “Gone” or “Gifted”. Please do not delete your posts.
Q: Can I create a photo album for my offer, or upload 17 photos of my great-grandmother Enid’s couch? I know people will want to see all of the details on this beauty!
A: Here’s the scoop: When you create an album or upload more than one photo to an original post, it creates all sorts of duplication and visual chaos, thanks to FB’s system.
We do want to see all the details of that beautiful thing you’re offering, so here’s how to do that:
Upload a single photo with your original post. This secures a single spot for your post in the thread and also gives it a stable, permanent location in the Photos tab. Then add all of the other images you’d like as comments to your original post. Voila! Lots of photos for people to appreciate, but just one location you need to keep track of to monitor comments from people interested in your post!
Q: Typing ISO is so much easier! Can I just use some abbreviations in my post?
A: We would prefer that you not use abbreviations, acronyms or “net-speak”. These things can be confusing, and they’re not how we speak to each other in real life. You’re talking to your neighbors in this group, so take the time to use full sentences, a bit of personality, and even humor. If you wanted to borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor, we’re pretty sure you wouldn’t stand in their front yard and yell out, “I! S! O! One cup sugar!” No, we’re betting you’d knock gently on their front door, say “hello” and ask how they’re doing, and then you’d ask if you could maybe use one cup of sugar for that banana bread you’re baking. This is an online portal to a group of your real-life neighbors, so write here as you’d speak in person.
Acronyms and abbreviations are all about making it quick and easy to get stuff. We’re not about the stuff, we’re about the connections formed between people, and that’s where whole words make a huge difference. Saying things like “ISO” doesn’t help us see each other as real people and neighbors.
Q: Can I include a link in my post?
A: While there is truly a lot of great content online, this isn’t the group for sharing it via links. If you’re a writer, a poet, an artist, a photographer, or have some other talent and interest you’d like to share with the group, post a gift that can be accepted in person. For instance, instead of linking to your personal blog, offer a writing class or help setting up a similar website, a personal poetry reading, or a printed copy of your best photo.
When gifting a tangible item in the Buy Nothing Project, including a photo with your post is a great way to show your neighbors your gift. We ask that you use only one photo in your post, with any additional photos added in the comments. If you are unable to post a photo, consider looking your item up on the internet and providing a screenshot. As a last resort, you may include a link to that item if it will help you in your gifting. When posting a link, please keep all of our other rules and guidelines in mind.
Q: Can I mention the monetary value of my gift in my post? I think everyone will want to know how much my gift is worth – That’s what makes it so great!
A: This is an experiment in getting away from our internalized habit of assigning monetary value to every transaction, and away from using each other to increase our own value. Instead, we’re trying here to learn how to give freely without any expectation of reward, and how to receive graciously without needing to pay for what we’ve been given. We’re experimenting in giving and receiving because that’s how we can take care of ourselves, each other, and our community, building connections between ourselves that don’t carry the market economy inequalities.
Every gift here has the same value as every other gift, we don’t measure things by the market economy value of an item or service, but by the very act of giving freely to a neighbor. When we include the cash value of an offer in our posts, we ignite all of the internalized market economy value judgements that we each carry in our minds, and that kicks us out of the new gift economy mindset that this experiment aims to strengthen.
Q: Can I just post my address and tell people to come pick things up from my porch?
A: As in all things, everyone here participates at their own risk. We urge you to consider both the potential risks to yourself and the impact on the group, and to make the decision that works best for you. Although our groups are “closed” so that only members can see the posts, we do not recommend posting your address tied to your personal profile here, for a variety of reasons.
The vast majority of your fellow group members are trustworthy, but there’s no guarantee. And if something you weren’t giving away is ever mistakenly taken off your porch, it’s a whole lot easier to track it down if you know exactly who you’ve given your address to. Keeping your address to private messages helps us keep suspicion and worry to a minimum.
Q: Can I privately message a member to ask for a gift they’ve posted?
A: When you’re interested in receiving a gift that has been offered to the group, please post a comment to the offer. Then sit back and enjoy what happens next, knowing that if you’re not chosen, you can always share a request of your own in a new post, looking for whatever it is you’re interested in.
What is not okay is sending a private message to the giver, putting any pressure on them to select you as the recipient. This is a potential violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service for their private message system, and it’s just plain rude (and likely to backfire on you in more than a few ways). So please do ask for things, but please do that requesting in comments and posts to the entire group, not via private messages.
Q: What’s the Buy Nothing Project’s definition of civility?
A: Please use this pledge from The Civility Project as your guide: We act with empathy, compassion, integrity, and humility. We take a deep breath, listen patiently, and we find common ground. We speak our minds without degrading someone else in our conversation.
Your mother was right: You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and saying “please” and “thank you” is always a good idea.
Questions about our Fine Print
Please see The Fine Print for the full text of our Rules, Standards, and Guidelines, as well as some other helpful tips.
Q: What can I give away or ask for here?
A: It would be impossible to list all of the things you can expect to see being gifted in our groups! Just remember these simple rules:
- Offers of any goods, services, or gifts of self that you’d like to share, loan, or give away.
- Requests for any goods, services, or gifts of self that you’d like to share, borrow, or keep.
“Keep it Legal” is the rule, so you can offer or request almost anything, with just a few exceptions. All items gifted in our groups must conform to all federal, state and local laws, as well as Facebook’s Community Guidelines.
While we do not allow buying, selling or trading in our groups, the Project has adopted a list of Regulated Goods in keeping with those within Facebook’s Community Standards. We do not allow the gifting of items that require legal interpretation, such as prescription medication, marijuana, firearms, ammunition or any other explosive devices. (This is not an exhaustive list and is subject to our interpretation.)
We understand that some of these items may not be legally regulated everywhere. In order to enforce our policies as fairly and consistently as possible, we use one broad set of standards for the entire Buy Nothing community.
The Buy Nothing Project also prohibits the gifting or asking for items that endorse or oppose any current political party, candidate, or ballot option.
For more details on Facebook’s definition of “firearms”, see this link
If an item being offered is illegal to give away, please send your local admin a note so they can remove the post.
Q: I have an expired carseat / drop-side crib / recalled item to give away. Can I do that here?
A: To the best of our knowledge, it’s not illegal to own an old car seat or crib and it’s not illegal to give away items such as these in the United States. Different countries, or municipalities within those countries, may have different rules. Remember, our rules are that all gifts must be legal in your area. Also remember, that all members participate in this project at their own risk. We strongly recommend that everyone does their own research, especially with child safety items. We cannot guarantee that an old seat is still safe, or that a crib hasn’t been recalled. It may be safer to choose to reuse an old crib as a pea trellis, and to turn that old car seat into a swing for your cat.
Q: Can I post a request for cash?
A: We’re about giving, receiving, and sharing of goods and services. We do not permit requests or offers for monetary assistance, including requests for loans, cash or donations (for yourself or anyone else).
Instead of asking for money to buy groceries, ask your neighbors to check their pantries for food you could put to good use. If you need money for something less tangible, try to think of where else you are spending your money and ask for help with those things.
Q: Can I trade or barter in this group?
A: The Buy Nothing Project is an experiment in giving and receiving freely, with no expectation of any reward beyond the joy of giving, receiving, and growing a network of connections between real-life neighbors. On top of that, trading and bartering would turn the group into an entity recognized by the IRS as an official trade/barter exchange. And that would mean lots of paperwork for everyone involved in every transaction. That’s not a road we’re going to travel down because it’s not in line with our mission and also because we can think of much better things to do with our time than tax paperwork.
Q: Can I look for or offer a place to live?
A: This is not the place to post anything related to the market economy, including marketing or advertising, items for sale or rent, requests for items you’d like to buy or rent, items you wish to barter, trade or exchange, or real estate posts.
If you are looking for, or offering the gift of a FREE place to live, you are welcome to post in our groups. If there will be any sort of compensation exchanged, this doesn’t belong in our groups.
This is also not the place to post “Open House” notices, invitations to view a home for sale or rent, requests for “leads” for somewhere to buy, rent or lease, or any other post promoting the potential sale or rent of real estate.
Q: Can I look for or offer employment or odd jobs?
A: Do you need a dog walker? baby sitter? house sitter? housekeeper? someone to mow your law? clean your carpets? fix your car?
Are you a dog walker, baby sitter, house sitter, housekeeper, etc, looking for work or odd jobs?
It is okay to ask for or offer all of these things, as long as these services will be provided freely, with no expectation of compensation.
We love gifts of self, time and talent, but this is not the place to offer or ask for employment of any kind.
It is always acceptable to ask your neighbors for help or offer help to your neighbors in the form of a Gift of Self.
Q: Can I post an offer or request for political action? I have this great petition that I’d like my neighbors to sign…
A: You can’t post that here, but that sounds perfect for your personal page or one of the online discussion groups that serves your community.
We are a diverse community, both here online and on the ground in our neighborhood. We’d like to keep that diversity, and treat each other not just with tolerance but with whole-hearted acceptance as fellow humans. This pretty much requires that we leave politics out of the posts and comments here.
For our Buy Nothing Project purposes, here’s what that means: Don’t offer free opportunities to sign petitions or initiatives, send letters, picket, rally, caucus, or otherwise exercise your important rights as a citizen of our democracy. Please do not offer or request ‘political swag’ (marketing items such as bumper stickers, lawn signs, hats, t-shirts, buttons, etc) that endorses or opposes any current political party, candidate, or ballot option. These are vital actions, but the Buy Nothing Project is not the platform for them.
Why is this our rule? Imagine coming here to find a post inviting you to the political rally of your dreams, for your most favorite candidate and cause. You might reasonably feel like you’d found your “tribe,” wouldn’t you? Now imagine that, instead of that post, you see an invitation to a rally for your all-time most hated politician and the cause you find most deeply offensive. I’m guessing you’d feel some very different emotions, none of them particularly positive.
This is why we ask that you keep your politics to your personal page and in-person conversations. We’d like to focus more on what unites us as neighbors than on what may divide us.
Q: Can I post a request for information or advice?
A: If you are looking for information or advice on where to buy something, who to hire for something, where to find something for free, or any other information or advice related to the market economy, that is not allowed here.
If you are looking for information or advice about how to do make something, how to use something, how to repair something yourself, there are ways to do that in our groups.
What we welcome here are offers and requests for Gifts of Self that involve the sharing of expertise, lessons learned, and other helpful conversations between neighbors. That sharing needs to be done away from the group’s page, but the initial connection can be made here.
Here is an example:
This is a request for advice (which is not allowed in our groups):
Q: Does anyone know how to sew on a button?
A: Yes, you pull the needle through the fabric and through the button, then loop around and pull the needle through in the other direction through another hole in the button.
A: No, but there is a great seamstress on Main St.
(Note: this is also a referral, which is not allowed)
A: I don’t, but my mother does. She could sew it on for you.
A: I prefer to use snaps!
A: Here is a link to a youtube video all about sewing: LINK
(Note: this is a link to an outside resource, which is not allowed)
A: Check out this hilarious cat video all about buttons!
This is a Gift of Self:
Q: Is there anyone in the group who would be willing to teach me to sew on a button?
A: I’d be happy to meet up for a quick sewing lesson! PM me and we can coordinate a time to get together!
We don’t allow advice, information, or referrals or links to outside resources, but we do allow gifts of self.
Remember, it’s also not okay to post the advice or information directly to the group. However, you could offer a Gift of Self, like this:
Hello neighbors. I am a social worker and would like to offer an afternoon of my services to my neighbors. Do you need help getting signed up for food assistance, or medical insurance? I can help with that.
In this way, neighbors can share helpful information and advice with one another, without posting it directly to the group or inadvertently bumping up against any of our other rules or guidelines.
Q: Can I post a request for a recipe? I know my neighbors here will have great ideas for dinner!
A: If you’re looking for people to post recipes into their online comments, or to send you links to great recipe sites online, then that belongs in one of the many online discussion groups devoted to food, cooking, and recipes. If you are asking for someone to send you their favorite family recipes via email or private message, or to meet up with a neighbor to share recipe cards or ideas over a cup of tea, then go for it!
Q: I want to tell people about a free community event that’s really wonderful! Can I post that here? It’s free and seems so connected to what we do in this group.
A: That’s a community bulletin board sort of post, and it belongs in a community forum set up for the sharing of that sort of helpful information. The only events we allow posts about in this group are events set up specifically for this group’s members, to build stronger personal connections within this hyper-local gift economy.
Q: My dog is lost! Can I use this group to alert my neighbors?
A: While of course we are concerned that one of our neighbors has lost their dog, our groups are not nearly large enough or broad-reaching enough to be helpful in these situations. Because our groups are set to “Closed”, things shared in our groups cannot be shared elsewhere. Also, due to of the specific focus of our groups, not all of our neighbors are members in the group. Many of our members check our groups only once a day, and sometimes much more infrequently – only when they are looking for something or have something to gift. For these reasons, a “lost dog” post, or any other type of time-sensitive emergency post, would not be seen quickly enough or by enough people to be helpful.
Instead, we recommend that these types of posts be placed in a local bulletin board group or community page, where your post will be seen by both members and non-members and can be shared on personal pages and in other groups.
While posting a lost or found notice isn’t allowed here, we do welcome requests for gifts of self. Once you’ve spread the word elsewhere, the best way to harness the power of this group is to post a request for people to join a search and rescue party at a specific time and place, or to borrow a live trap if you know where your pet might be. These sorts of requests are fine, and we’ve seen them result in the return of more than a few Buy Nothing Project pets.
Q: Can people really give away their pets and livestock here? I think that’s a bad idea!
A: Yes, we let people offer their pets and livestock to their fellow group members. We’re well aware of all of the horrible things that happen to animals when they’re carelessly re-homed or, worse, abandoned. When someone offers their beloved animals to a new home via their Buy Nothing group, they’re able to choose the new home, ask as many questions as they’d like, see where the animal will be living, and stay in touch with the people adopting it.
We trust the connections between the real-life people in our groups to provide a layer of protection not present in anonymous re-homing situations. When you find a new home for an animal in a Buy Nothing group, you’re doing that in full view of your neighbors, who will most definitely be keeping an eye on what’s happening.
Q: Can I offer goods or services from my business?
A: All offers here need to come from a person, not a business. Let’s say you’re a professional fish groomer, and you want to share your skills. You could definitely offer your services, but they’d need to come from you, without any mention of your business name, links to your website, or anything else that might even remotely smack of marketing. You could say something like “Offered: One grooming session for your goldfish. I’m a professional fish groomer and would love to give an hour of my time to help your Goldie look her best. Please let me know if your fish could use a spa day. If there’s a lot of interest, I’ll choose a recipient tomorrow around 8 pm.” As with everything, the offer needs to be completely free, no strings attached, and given with no expectation of any return or reward.
You may not offer free “services” solely for the purpose of marketing or as a means to introduce yourself to prospective clients. Some examples might be: “Free Estimates”, “Comparative Market Analysis”, “Free Consultation”, etc.
Q: Can I mention my business name in my post? I think my neighbors would like to know about my local business, and how generous it is!
A: One of the things this experiment demands as a controlled variable is a shift to new language, including that we find new ways to describe what’s being shared that don’t include business names. Use of business names functions as advertising/marketing for that business, which turns the post from a generous gift into a commodified transaction, all about using the members of this group to increase the social capital of the business and increase the long-term profitability of the business. Those are fine goals for a business, but not for a gift economy. There are plenty of other online and real life places where businesses can advertise and market themselves.
Q: Can I post a request for donations for a fundraiser I’m helping with?
A: Yes and no. There are a whole lot of wonderful causes that need cash, but this isn’t a fundraising group. You may not ask for cash donations in our groups.
If you have a cause that needs tangible goods and services, ask for those here. For instance, you could ask for shoes to take to an orphanage but you can’t post a link to a fundraising page for the orphanage or ask people to give you cash to buy shoes.
You need to tell people that you’re putting together a fundraiser and that you’re looking for donations. The trick is that your post shouldn’t be marketing or advertising for the fundraising event itself. So you can mention the name of the organization you’re collecting things for, but don’t use your post as a sly way of inviting people to the event.
For instance, our rules prohibit a posting like this: Mad Hatter’s Cattery for Lost Kittens is currently doing a benefit fundraiser and is looking for tea cups. Please send donations to The Mad Hatter at 1865 Lewis Carroll Ave, Wonderland, or contact madhatter(at)gmail.com. However, you could say “I’m requesting tea cups to be part of a silent auction to benefit the Mad Hatter’s Cattery for Lost Kittens. If you have any cups collecting dust, I’d be happy to pick them up before this Friday. Thanks!”
Q: Can I resell items that I receive here, for profit or to raise money for something?
A: Yes. We don’t put any limits on what people do with the gifts they’re given here, so long as everything is legal. BUT we do require honesty. For example, if I said “Does anyone have a bike they don’t need? I’m itching to get back on the road on two wheels and would love to give your bike a great new life,” but then turned around to resell (“flipping”) the bike I received, that would be dishonest of me, and I would find myself removed from the group. So yes, reselling is fine as long as it’s disclosed as part of the request, but dishonesty will not be tolerated.
Q: I want to know where to buy something locally or online. Can I post that here, as a request for information?
A: No you cannot. This is the Buy *Nothing* Project, and asking for help buying something is, well, all about buying something. However, you could post a request for the thing you’re thinking about buying. Maybe someone will have just what you want or need, freely given.
Q: I need help finding a plumber (or some other professional). Can I ask for a referral here?
A: You could post a request to the group for a plumber (or other professional) to come over and help you, giving freely of their services. But you can’t post a request for a referral to any good or service you’ll be paying for. That’s just not part of our gift economy mission.
Q: Can I direct people in need to our local food bank and other community resources?
A: That’s a very kindhearted impulse on your part, but we’re all about helping each other person-to-person, not about sending each other to other resources. We’re all very lucky that there are other groups and organizations helping to meet needs, but we’re trying something different here to complement the existing support system.
The traditional charity and community support paradigm in this country tends to split people into “haves” and “have-nots,” and the two aren’t on equal footing. The Buy Nothing Project is not a charity, it’s a network of hyper-local gift economies. Gift economies that are working well can subvert this traditional have-have not relationship. Everyone here is both a “have” with things to give away (whether those are tangible goods or gifts of self), and a “have not” with wants and needs that the group can help fulfill.
We ask people not to direct each other to outside groups to fill the requests that are posted. What we’re focused on here is helping each other whenever and however we can with our own hands, time, stuff, and presence. Our social experiment is about finding ways to strengthen connections between this group of neighbors through giving, receiving, and sharing creatively.
How to Handle Difficult Situations
Q: I am unable to pick up a gift as requested. What should I do?
A: Please reach out to the giver and let them know what is happening with you. In these situations, communication is extremely important. If you will not be able to pick up the item for some time, you may suggest that they choose another recipient.
Givers are not expected to hold onto items for a recipient for any longer than is convenient, but we do hope that all of our members will do what they can to work out any scheduling mishaps.
Q: My neighbor never picked up the item I gifted to them. What should I do?
A: We encourage you to contact your neighbor to try to reschedule or find out what went wrong.
We also encourage you to go back to the post where the item was gifted and add a comment, asking them publicly if they’d still like the item. Be clear about your needs, stating when you would like the item picked up. If they do not respond, or are unable to meet your needs, you may decide to choose another recipient for the gift.
Givers are not expected to hold onto items for a recipient for any longer than is convenient, but we do hope that all of our members will do what they can to work out any scheduling mishaps.
Please keep in mind that failure to pick up an item as requested by a giver is not grounds for removal. The admin of your group probably cannot help you with this situation.
Q: I offered a gift (or posted a request) and received private messages without permission/prior to choosing a recipient. What do I do?
A: Unless you specified in your post that you would like to receive private messages regarding your gift, we hope that you won’t receive any awkward private messages. If you have posted something and a neighbor sends you a message asking to receive that item, your best bet is to simply ask them to comment publicly instead of messaging you. “Thank you for your interest. Could you please add your name to the list in the comments?” is a perfectly reasonable request. If you continue to receive unwanted messages, and you have asked the sender to stop sending messages, you may wish to utilize Facebook’s “message blocking” utility. You may also alert an admin to this behavior, as this violates one of our rules.
Q: I received a private message that I am uncomfortable with. What should I do?
A: If you receive a private message that violates Facebook’s Community Standards (link: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards) you may report that message using Facebook’s reporting feature (link: https://www.facebook.com/help/www/181495968648557). You may also choose to utilize Facebook’s “message blocking” utility.
Q: I noticed a post that I believe is against the rules. What should I do?
A: If you see a post that you feel is not in keeping with the Rules and Standards of the Buy Nothing Project, you may report that post to the Admin using the reporting menu available. An admin will review the post and address any issues that they notice.
Q: I received an item in disrepair, or not as described. What should I do?
A: To avoid receiving items that are not-quite-as-described, we encourage you to examine the item before taking it home. If it isn’t going to work for you, or you aren’t satisfied with its condition, don’t take it home with you. Let the giver know (as politely as possible) that you’ve decided to pass on this item.
If you have already taken the item home and discover that the item won’t work for you, head back to the original post and find out if any of the other interested neighbors would like to take it.
Q: Something is missing from my porch or home. What should I do?
A: If something has gone missing from your porch, and you think you know what has happened to it, we encourage you to go directly to the people involved to resolve the issue. Keep in mind that people make mistakes. Find out if anyone has picked up the missing item by mistake. Remember, however, that by leaving things unattended and unsecured for “porch pick up”, you have accepted the risk that the item(s) may go missing without explanation.
The only way to entirely avoid the risk of things being taken from your porch is to always arrange for in-person pick-ups.
Q: I have a complaint about another member. What should I do?
A: Members are expected to resolve any personal conflicts between themselves. We ask that you handle these issues to the best of your ability with civility and respect. Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, remember that our groups are inclusive and civil at their core. We request that these personal conflicts not spill over into the group.
Q: I believe a member of my group is being dishonest. What should I do?
A: If you feel that a member is being dishonest, you may reach out to the Admin to voice your concerns. Remember, however, that your opinion may not constitute sufficient evidence for the Admin to act on your concerns.
Q: I offered a gift, and someone offered to purchase the item from me. What do I do?
A: First, let your neighbor know that you are not selling the item. Let them know that you are giving away this item freely, per the Buy Nothing Project Rules. Then, let them know that they should feel free to add their name to the list of people who would like to receive the item, via comments in the group (unless you have specified otherwise). Finally, if the person is persistent, or becomes argumentative, ask them to stop. Let them know very clearly that you will not discuss the sale of the item.
If these messages get through, and you are comfortable with the outcome of the conversation you’ve had with this neighbor, you may be satisfied with the results and need to go no further. However, if you notice a pattern of behavior with this particular neighbor, or you believe that this neighbor may not fully understand the rules of our groups, you may reach out to an admin and let them know what has happened.
Q: I believe a member of my group is using a false name or otherwise violating Facebook rules. What should I do?
A: If you feel that another member has violated Facebook’s Terms of Service, you may decide to report that person to Facebook. This is not an area where your Buy Nothing Project Admin can assist.
Q: I believe a member of my group has broken the law. What should I do?
A: If you are concerned that another member may be violating local laws, you may decide to report that member to the local law enforcement. This is not an area where your Buy Nothing Project Admin can assist.
Q: I was the first person to reply to an offer and I didn’t get what I claimed! Why?
A: That’s because we don’t have a first-come, first-served rule here. Givers are always in charge of how they give, and to whom. When you give you can choose the first person or take your time and choose the recipient of your gift however you’d like – Using an online randomizer, drawing from a hat, choosing someone you haven’t met yet, choosing someone you know and really like, all of these are just fine. The giving is what’s most important. Commenting to express interest in an item is never “claiming” it here. You may get what you’ve asked for, you may not. If you’re really in need or want of something specific, the best way to get what you’re looking for is to post your own original requests for it.
Q: I *need* something that another person posted, but they chose someone else. How can that be? Shouldn’t they have to choose my *need* over another person who just *wants* something?
A: We don’t differentiate between wants and needs here in the Buy Nothing Project. All requests are welcome, whether they’re to meet a need or a want, and all offers are in the control of the people doing the giving. Givers are always, always free to choose the recipients of their offers, using whatever standards they desire.
Remember that the giver gets to choose who receives their gift. Don’t ever send a private message to pressure someone into choosing you. Also remember that this isn’t a competition of needs, it’s a gift economy. Attempting to sway a giver in your direction using guilt or pity won’t help you in the long run. Guilt and shame never build robust trust and mutual support between people; joy, humor, honesty, humility, and gratitude are a much better foundation.
If you need or want something and haven’t been chosen to receive it yet, the best way to get what you’re looking for is to write up your own new post requesting it.
We’ve seen over and over again that requests that are genuine, honest, have a bit of personality to them, and even a bit of humor, tend to work much better than posts that seem to have any amount of guilt-trip to them, even if that’s unintended. If you have a need for something, share a bit of your story with your group, but remember that you’re asking for freely-given gifts, and that no one has any obligation to give to you. Build connections by giving, commenting, sharing your appreciation and gratitude, and good things are likely to come your way when you truly do need them.
Q: My post was deleted! Why?
A: Well, that depends. First of all, it may not have been deleted. Things move quickly here, and everything on the main group thread moves around based on comments and “likes.” To verify that your post is truly missing, try searching for it on the Photos tab, where things stay in stable, chronological order.
Assuming it really was deleted, here’s the most likely reason: Something in your post broke one of our rules. If your post contained any marketing, advertising, a personal status update, unsolicited information or advice, politics, activism, community bulletin board sorts of information, buying, selling, trading, bartering, exchanging, incivility, disrespect, or cruelty towards another person, it would certainly be deleted. If you don’t think your post had anything like that in it, send your volunteer admin a polite private message asking if they can give you more information.
Q: I don’t like your group, your rules, and how you do things here. I hate what you’re doing!
A: OK. That’s not really a question, but here’s our answer. We know the Buy Nothing Project isn’t a good fit for everyone. If you’re not happy with our rules, mission, or developing culture, please feel free to find another group that’s a better fit. If you make it clear that the Buy Nothing Project isn’t a good fit for you by attacking the volunteers personally here or elsewhere, or by continued complaints or incivility, we’ll help you find the exit door so you can look for a happier place.
© 2016 Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller All Rights Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the copyright holders, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to Liesl and Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org
~19 February 2017~