Buying stuff online and sometimes getting stuff for free
Friday, September 13, 2019
Whether you’re young or old most likely you’ve heard about this “interwebs” thing. The Internet!
Most people have heard of the Internet and various things about it, both good and bad. While you have to be careful about fraud and screen out obvious scams, a lot of things have gotten safer. For instance, no longer are you inundated with pop-ups as you did in early days of Internet Explorer where you jump on some malicious site and pop up after pop up would appear. But the Net is still rife for scams, phishing, and other bad transactions if not careful.
There are ways to score great to excellent deals. However you have to look for them. Some things that we looked into were sweepstakes, freebies, and so called free sites and seller sites.
In our opinion this is a totally mixed bag and while you can occasionally find good things, the good old days of the Internet wild west are largely gone and there are not the same kinds of freebies, giveaways and innocence as in the original days. The newness of the Internet might have worn off, but the novelty of interconnectedness and live social aspects means you can find some really fascinating and interesting deal worthy sites. Many of the older sites we used to frequent in the early 90’s are indeed outdated or gone. Remember to be diligent when searching online as many sites are probably worth even less of your time if you’re not careful. It’s a trade off of time versus money.
Case in point, many years ago we tried signing up for a software reviewer site. The concept was that in exchange for testimonials and authentic reviews of software and purchases or things we were patrons of, we would occasionally also get free CD’s or hats or even headphones and coupons and other swag. You really have to search around on the Internet to just even find these sites but that was the beauty of the net that these things even existed.
However nowadays, many survey sites are nothing more than clickbait and also information harvesters in this day of social media. A lot of these sites will harvest your data and then you have to be careful as some surveys will require and demand taking more and more surveys or clicking through to other sites till you give up. And a lot of the so called free stuff ends up costing money and shipping. Which, by the time you get to the 50th page in the survey you would end up giving up.
We’re not here to scare you, just be realistic. Most of those sites with pop ups really don’t mean you’ve won an iPad or laptop. They are just clickbait just like those other sites that warn you that your computer needs to have a virus scan. They play on human natures and emotional feelings of fear and desire.
Yet, here are some of the things we were able to successfully get over the years:
- Free magazines
- 3D glasses
- Free snack samples
- Post cards
- Headphone with microphone speaker
- Phone card for free minutes
- Sim card samples
- Coupons which include free cereals or trials.
- Music CD’s with music video demos
- Free software trials such as for language learning
As you can see there weren’t many really great things that we really NEEDED. We probably could have gone through life happily without any of those things but it was nice to have a few of those things actually turn out. Our view is don’t expect to get anything in return or anything worth anything of value or that you could resell.
You can also still find nowadays ads for people selling stuff such as on Craigslist. There’s some free stuff, but mostly junk. Although the old saying is one person’s junk is another’s treasure. Many things were used and second hand. You can find old furniture and meds and equipment and dirt and wood piles or concrete blocks. Nothing that was very valuable to us. It would be nice to have a truck to haul away some of the things and it you do have a good vehicle you might be able to get a lot of odd free stuff. However mostly it seemed to be used junk which you could probably find at a local thrift store.
We did find recently a sell ad for an old laptop that was an AMD for $30 but when we asked the condition the seller said their friend had already got it and then proceeded to ask if there was an interest for clothes and other items they had for sale and even contacted us again to see if we wanted other things even when we didn’t take any other steps to contact them. What a shame. It might have been a good laptop but we will never know.
A lot of old computers likely are still overpriced on these selling sites. Some may go to waste. But after looking around it seems to be that the efficient market hypothesis is taking place in some way. Likely a person will do research and price in several factors before listing it online. Information is freely available and the chances of getting a really great deal probably won’t happen.
You can find also things that are refurbished on many store’s websites. They often have equipment just as good as the original or nearly new. For example, we checked out a few sites like Dellrefurbished for laptops without operating systems (No OS) and also Newegg, Walmart, and various sites including Best Buy. Most places have a bargain hunter bin for these type deals. It’s worth looking in at least with prices continually dropping. Unless you’re a serious power user or doing heavy CAD, 3D work, animation, and motion and video and photography work then an older computer might do the work.
You can check also auctions. We looked at eBay and other auction sites. Now these sites can be hit or miss. You can find some rare or not easy to find items on eBay for instance. The reverse auctions didn’t really interest us because they can be tricky. But the traditional auctions were nice because you could do some research and also use the Buy It Now button to avoid the hassle of an auction. Just be wary of these sites as we have unfortunately know people where a purchased laptop was missing a floppy drive and other accessories even when it was clearly in the listing
Free recycling of items sites.
There are some sites with Freecycle being one of them that do offer yet another way to obtain free items for pickup. The concept is that there are people that are in need of several items and rather than placing it out on the curb for someone to pick up or putting it out for a garage sale or donating it to a thrift store, people can use the internet to find others with similar need in the area that may need something or want something that you no longer use. And so you can pair that together and then you can put it out on your porch for them to pick up or where you can drive over to their location to pick up stuff. We were able to find a few items like flower watering pots, some electronics and such. We even offered up an old 8086 computer with software but the people didn’t want the software just the old computer!
Selling and listing apps
There are sites that list things for through a local app. Examples are Offerup and LetGo but we had not tested these at the time of this article publishing. Perhaps you readers can tell us about these services if you’ve used them.
Also check for other auction listings such as local or gov auctions.
Tips for selling online:
- Post lots of detailed photos that are great quality.
- Be explicit in detail as possible. Someone’s going to ask especially if it’s a computer.
- It would be nice to explain why you’re selling something.
- Note any defects and be honest. You don’t want any bad reviews or ratings for non-disclosure.
- Take down your postings and update them in a timely manner.
- Be courteous.
- Research other listings to compare your listing isn’t overpriced for a comparable item.
- Consider throwing in other items also to sweeten the pot.
Tips for buying online:
- Ask questions
- Read absolutely everything
- Check the fine print
- Don’t necessarily impulse buy
- Do research and cost analysis on a product you’re about to buy for additional resale value and upgradeability.
- Look at any pictures provided for defects
- If something doesn’t seem right there’s always another listing elsewhere.
- Double check any seller ratings or reviews
- See how far the distance is.
- Ask yourself if it’s worth it. I remember one time driving to pick up a TV but it was partly broken and had a reddish hue to it. And it wasn’t really worth it. But I spent time driving to get it and but ended up with a fender bender with another car when when driving to get it and getting partially lost. Car had to got to body shop. Ended up throwing the TV away anyway. Would have been cheaper just to stay at home or order a new TV set. Definitely wasn’t worth it.
- Try to meet somewhere public or during the day. Don’t rush to meet somewhere just to get some cheap item.
See if you can get an item and install upgrades or work yourself. Sometimes it may be cheaper to upgrade or add software yourself later but if you can, but the item with all upgrades already included.
- Try to test the item beforehand.
Garage sales are nice places to get second hand things for cheap. Some items we were able to get:
- Stainless Rice cooker for about 50 cent to $2.
- Wheelchair for $5
Other Free places
As stated above in the Freecycle site there are places to get it if you ask of check forums. We were also able to get 3 crutches of which 2 were wood and 1 was metal, 2 GPS, enema bags, painting, some metal tool, painting. plant watering container, toolbox.
If you’re in college sometimes you can post a want ad to your local religious organization, student association etc if you can demonstrate a need for something for example reading material. We were able to get some old magazines or newspapers for a friend that only knew how to read in foreign languages but didn’t understand the local TV programming.
Some of you may have “dived” for stuff. For example if you were in college often there was a big giveaway weekend. But see below in the next paragraph.
- – Here’s another thing about getting stuff. You need to first off make sure it’s something you want.
- Make sure it’s worth the time.
- Make sure it’s clean you don’t want to be carrying home used stuff like bedding or stuff that may have bugs and stuff or has been outdoor for ants and other bugs to have infested it.
- Usually however small electronics and things that are metal or plastics can be sanitized to safety.
Tips when picking up free stuff or stuff you want to buy
- Meet in a safe location.
- Don’t necessarily go in someone’s house.
- Have them demonstrate the item or thing to you if they are there to make sure it works or you know how it works (example we bought a great old time watch at a festival and didn’t think to ask but the seller showed us how to wind the clock and set the time. Good to know when we just think everything works with batteries nowadays). Or if it’s cheap and disposable then it might be a luck of the draw: it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.
- Most of the time there’s not a lot of resale value so don’t expect to turn a profit or anything.
- Be courteous about your emails and claiming it. Might be something many people want and first dibs or first come first serve is often the policy on the free sites.
Check out the FB market also as well as Craigslist. Not a lot of stuff is good. Most are still overpriced. Cellphones tend to have some damage or cosmetic defects. You might have a device that is still locked or might be illicit so be careful. Perhaps someone bought many laptops also for cheap during Black Friday and is now trying to flip a profit.
Time is money. Often it is nice to own something new and having something new does makes you feel good. Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank fame says when she got her first paycheck at one of her jobs she bought a very nice luxurious outfit that made her feel good and helped her confidence to help make other sales. Don’t forget to get something that will make you feel good using it. If you get a computer that you avoid using or an outfit that you never wear then you might as well get rid of it.
We have bought also refurbished phones off auction sites and also tablets.
Be careful of laptops bought online.
Also when we checked a listing online we thought that a collector’s banknote that looked real was actually just on two separate pieces of paper and fake. But it seems like it was shown in the listing but we just didn’t read the listing well enough.
You might be able to find a lot of fake items or cheaper elsewhere or on foreign sites that are dummied up or cheap knock offs. So look around and be careful.
Check out flea markets and trader’s markets also. They sell all kinds of stuff and sometimes have coupons on special days. For example you can find furniture, books, crystals and gems, coins, metal detection equipment. Sometimes it’s nice because you can also buy food at these locations. You can also become a seller at a flea market and have to pay for the rental space they give you and certain costs. However for some it can be an additional side hustle.
The interesting thing is that Craigslist and Facebook also now show similar items and you might see local listings on both Craigslist and Facebook. Lot of times you can offer a little less and give a best offer although some will have a fixed price. This is also similar to garage sales and so there’s people that are more flexible and others that think “haggling” over price is bad etiquette or in poor taste for something already at a lowered price. You just have to judge on the circumstance yourself.
Another neat section of Craigslist is the barter exchange sections where you might be able to trade items. Beware of stolen or broken goods but it is nice to look around on there.
And lastly another neat section was the collectibles section. You might be able to find some nice items like old collectible dishes and plates, paintings, baseball cards, bobbleheads, trains, and other toys or clocks and coins for your own place. We found pianos, sewing machines, beanie babies and sewing machines on there. It was like taking a trip to the past even seeing old cars.
Although there are more modern new cars with likely better mileage and safety one does get nostalgic to see some of these things and wonder if there’s a way to reuse or settle for these items and preserve and use them for some purpose.
However, money is still money. Many want to get rid of the items because they either got a new item or don’t want to deal with it any more or they are broken so maybe try to use that to your advantage.
In the end, even recently when we had an offer to get a free piano we didn’t take up the offer because it was too heavy, too large, and we had no way to put it, no trucks we could use without renting to haul it. And it would have cost time and money. That’s sort of the era we have right now, a high influx of goods and stuff everywhere and the want to sell, but we keep wanting something new and better and good things end up going to the landfill and we don’t end up using things the amount of time we could.
Right now this was article was written on a computer that’s about 7 years old but who needs the latest greatest computer when you just need a text editor and access to the Internet to do what you need? A lot of good old computers like the 8086 XT’s and 386s and 486s were abandoned and went to thrift stores and all that simply because they were slower and people wanted the latest and greatest tech. And that in itself is both good and sad at the same time because many things: good working cars, clothes etc go to waste as we keep consuming and the landfills keep filling up with more and more things.
Consider buying the latest items every now and then and also have an older backup you can use and not always needing the latest and greatest, folks. Some of the older computers for instance were less vulnerable possibly to Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities also. Different times and ways of thinking.
Someone out there will always need some older or more reliable tech unlike the quick and cheap disposables. For instance the cheap disposable razors versus the safety razors of yesteryear. Give refurbished items a chance. We were able to get a nice Samsung 10.1 tablet a good run for about a year and a half and it still went obsolete after a while any way.
Also note that some drives may not last as long. A Western Digital drive we bought from a local Best Buy lasted not too long after its 30 day warranty when it was factory reconditioned. So just remember there’s a trade off for price and what you buy at all times.
Be smart about your time. Be smart about your money. And don’t spend too much time shopping and tinkering when you can be doing and working and having fun.
Have a good summer SWM readers.