Bargains by the Bay: Scoring freebies! – The Mercury News

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It’s not just the ever-present Teslas or Porsches, or the $4.99 tiny carton of artfully arranged figs that signals how filthy rich the Bay Area has become.
Another telltale sign is the staggering amount of stuff available here that generous people are willing to hand over — for free.
You can score enough freebies to outfit a three-bedroom house (not that many of us have the $998,000 it costs to buy or even the $4,000 to rent one of those babies, of course). Just log on to websites like Buy Nothing, Craigslist and freecycle.
But be forewarned: You’re likely to face some pretty tough competition from other bargain hunters, whether the prize is big (that twin sleigh bed in perfect condition) or small (pirate paraphernalia for kids to play with).
I’ve gleaned some hacks that could help after combing through the sites and talking to a few benefactors and recipients.
Let’s say you come across, as I did recently, a cornucopia of things you or someone you know might want: a five-piece set of spotless office furniture, pianos, pool table, lawn mower, Spalding adjustable basketball hoop, dishwasher, barely used patio furniture, huge trampoline, cool-looking parrot cage big enough to stand up, mirrors big and small, and a down-filled luxury-brand sofa.
Yes, I know … all for free!
The key thing is don’t assume like I did that being the first to jump on the offer will do the trick. Polite words like “thanks for considering me,” won’t necessarily melt the so-called gifter’s heart. Sure, some people are desperate to give away that ancient bureau they dragged out to the curb to anyone who comes along. But some online sites advise people to gather a few responses before deciding who to give an item to because there’s no guarantee that the first person in line will actually show up.
Exchanging friendly messages with freebie-hunters can not only reassure the person giving the stuff away that you’ll actually make time to pick up the stuff, but also that you’re not just looking to resell it. (Most of the time, the exchange is conducted privately, via email or the messenger app.)
Practicality aside, however, “picking who you like is ‘half the fun,”’ according to Freecycle’s guidelines.
Hillary Leah of San Jose gave away a laptop bag on Buy Nothing’s site, but only after asking respondents to tell her their favorite places to travel. Recently, she asked anyone interested in her  “brand new electric crepe maker, never used” to send her their favorite weekend breakfast recipe. She can’t remember what the winning dish was, but that’s not the point.
“I’ve just tried to make it a little more creative,” she said.
Competition was fierce recently for another hot commodity — “everything you need for a pirate party, from necklaces to eye patches to a large treasure chest.”  The ”gifter” didn’t request anything in return, but another San Jose resident, Janikke Klem, won after writing “Don’t make ye walk the plank! Have ya made yer decision on who the pirate treasure be going to,” followed by a one-eyed emoji and a promise to share the loot with others.
By the way, it’s only right to follow through and actually pick up the item, even if that means renting a U-haul or taking more elaborate measures.
Consider the fully insulated, weatherproof shed that a Palo Alto resident offered recently on Craigslist. The 8-by-12-foot structure sure looked like it would make a sweet backyard retreat or even an Airbnb rental with a little work.
Not surprisingly, about 70 people leaped on the opportunity, prompting the giver to update the posting to draw attention to the fine print: “Please email back only if you are prepared to have it moved by a professional mover with a very large flat truck.”
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