Alternatives to eBay

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:09 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

What’s better than getting something for really cheap? How about getting it free?

Freecycle is a free e-mail based Internet community where members give away stuff they have lying around the house or in storage. Whether it’s a sink, baby clothes, old tires or information, members of the group simply send e-mails offering what they have to give away.

The main rule is that everything posted must be free, legal and appropriate for all ages.

People who want something can put a request in for items hoping someone wants to get rid of it or knows someone who does.

Jacque Sample has been a member for a couple months and thinks the idea is great.

“I love it,” Sample said. “It feels nice to have a outlet for my ‘stuff.’ I know that it is going to someone who truly wants or needs it. And I don’t have to have a garage sale!”

Greg Baka has been the moderator that oversees FreecycleColumbiaMO since the group started in October 2003.

The group was pretty small at first with about 20 members, Baka said. “It was a slow start until people started telling friends and neighbors about it; then it really took off.”

The Columbia/Boone County area has 2,602 members as of April 12, and it grows every day.

According to, membership worldwide is over 2 million.

Group members have offered and requested a variety of unusual things including dirt, coffee grounds, and even information on a hit and run accident.

“I have seen so many things,” Sample said. “Pieces and parts of all kinds of items. There was a 125-year-old house offered the other day. The coupons crack me up. I never would have thought to offer what I consider junk mail, but they always seem to be taken.”

Group members have said part of the idea is to keep things out of the landfill.

“I consider it a project of the Columbia’s ‘Center for Sustainable Living’,” Baka said, referring to the group that hosts the Columbia Sustainable Living Fair each fall.

Freecycle launched May 2003 to promote waste reduction in downtown Tucson, Ariz., to save desert landscape from being taken over by landfills. The network grew and is now worldwide.

“It does help the environment,” Sample said. “Although I don’t think most people view it that way, versus getting something for free or getting rid of something.”

Other auction sites

eBay does the auction thing so darn well, but check out some of the others vying for your bids.

Hours, nay days, were spent in the research of this piece, and we nearly lost a reporter in the process. The Internet can be highly addictive, and weird things lurk out there. Be careful of where you plop your credit card details and always, always, always read the small print of the auctioning web site.

If you’re not a bargain-hunter at heart, you’ll be happy to learn that Goodwill has moved into the electronic age. The store has organized an online auction site for users who prefer to thrift-shop in their pajamas. With less merchandise volume than eBay or other public online auction sites, it’s easy to browse for items you didn’t even know you needed.

I’ll trade you my thing for your thing, its a simple concept at heart and it wasn’t long until someone put it out there in cyberspace. At SwapThing, they’ve taken the barter system to a new level by allowing users to swap items and services online. Listing an item and proposing a swap are free, but both users are charged a $1 fee for each successful merchandise swap, and $10 for swapping services. They allow multiple items to be traded together and cash may be used to even out the exchange. Be sure to check out their program called ShareThing before another useful item hits the trash can. The site also allows nonprofit companies to post a “wish list” of items and services they need donated.

Dreaming of moving to that castle on a hill? provides an auction platform for real estate agents to sell property and while there may not be a castle on the market at the moment they do deal in Caribbean villas — close enough! Hosting an open auction that allows users to view the bids, Rbuy adds an interesting tweak to the real estate game.

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