General Question

Stinley's avatar

Is it wrong to sell something that someone has given you for free?

Asked by Stinley (11520points) April 28th, 2011

My baby days are done so I had some stuff I didn’t need any more – little sheets, a fleecy cover, it was all nice stuff…. I thought about ebaying it but I didn’t. So I offered it for free on Freecycle to the first person that replied to me – just wanted it out of the little one’s bedroom as well as giving it to someone who might really need it. A few weeks later I was at a car boot sale (yard sale) and saw it all for sale on someone’s stall. I felt furious that I’d given it away and they were selling it. Furious, but I couldn’t quite understand why. Anyway I went up to the woman and told her I didn’t think it was right. Which is not like unconfrontational me. I’ve been thinking about it for about a year now and still feel furious! But there’s fairly big piece of me that thinks that the fury is unjustified. Opinions please!

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21 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

Once you give it away they can do whatever they want with it. Unless you made it a conditional gift.

yankeetooter's avatar

I go to flea markets all the time and but stitched (needlepoint, x-stitch, etc.) for .25 cents or so, clean them up and sell them for $5—$15 each.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

Morally, I do not like the idea of having someone sell an item they got from me for free as the intent of my ‘gift’ was to assist them. However, I can also see if they put the effort into the yard sale and their need was money my ‘gift’ provided the intended purpose just not in the intended way.

Zaku's avatar

No. You gave it to them. They then own it, and may do anything they want with it, unless you had an agreement with them otherwise.

It sounds like you thought (without consciously thinking about it) there was an unspoken contract of some sort.

marinelife's avatar

If you gave it away, you had no ownership in what happened to it after that. Although I could understand your anger when you were trying to do something nice for someone.

john65pennington's avatar

Like everyone else has stated, once you give it away, its theirs to do what they please with it. I understand your good intentions and you were a good person for doing so.

Its like a yard sale. Its understood that everything sold comes “as is”. Meaning, there no guarantees with the sold item.

You did a good deed and there will be a star for you in heaven.

Coloma's avatar

Right. After a ‘gift’ is given it is the absolute right of the recieving party to do what they wish with it.

I bought my daughter a very nice accoustic guitar a few years ago, she already plays electric.

She recently asked me if I had a problem with her selling it. She is not playing much these days and is saving for other things she needs.

I had no problem with this. Zero issues. I appreciated her asking, but, she can do whatever she wants with it, it became HERS the day I gave it to her. :-)

Seelix's avatar

Legally, there’s nothing wrong with what she did. You might not like it, but there’s not much you can do about it.

lillycoyote's avatar

I understand your feelings, not much you can do about it, but I understand, I’d be pissed too even though I knew that once I gave stuff away, the person could do whatever they wanted with it. Next time give stuff to the Goodwill, or a Woman’s shelter or someplace you know is going to use it for the purpose intended. And I bet that’s pretty common on Freecycle, people looking for stuff to resell.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Once you give something away,the new owner can do what they like.
I did have a neighbor that I gave some hand thrown, porcelain flower pots to that I made.She later told me that she made two hundred dollars off the sale of them.Wth? XD
That was interesting….or was it just bad manners? :)

blueiiznh's avatar

At first glance I might feel a little perturbed. However, once you gave it away, it is up to them to do with.

I declutter by giving to various foundations and once it is in the bag, I detach from it.

I recently helped out someone by offering some wall photo’s/prints for their new office. When they selected a couple of them I simply stated “when you are done with them let me know as I wish to retain them”
If I had not, then it would have been my bad assumption if they got rid of them in some way.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t think it’s wrong to sell something that was given to you. I do think there is something wrong though it this person was taking advantage of the Freecycle system though by just getting things people didn’t want and selling them. Sure, it’s something she could do, but it just feels wrong to me because that stuff could’ve went to someone that would have used it for free instead of someone having to buy it from her.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@Seaofclouds From what I understand, the intent of Freecycle is to keep usable stuff from going into the landfill. So if the person took the stuff and sold it to someone who would use it, it did not violate the intent of that particular system.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I think I understand how you feel. These items had sentimental value, and maybe you thought they would be going to another loving home and not intended to be sold on the market. If this is not the case, and you decided to just give it up for the sake of ease, then it is the risk you took by giving them away to a stranger.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@optimisticpessimist It is to help keep things from ending up in a landfill, I just think it’s taking advantage of the system if you know you are only taking the stuff so you can sell it. I am part of 2 freecycle groups and the stuff goes very quickly. If the first person to responds only intends to sell it, that’s their prerogative, it just keeps the item going to someone who could of used it and had the opportunity to get it for free. It is what it is, it just seems like it could be seen as abuse of the freecycle group if that one person constantly gets things just to sell them.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@Seaofclouds I also belong to freecycle and would prefer things to go to someone who actually wanted to use it rather than re-sell it. That is why a have a little bit of a moral objection to someone only taking it to sell it. Yet, if it keeps usable stuff out of the landfill, that is a good thing.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@optimisticpessimist True. Both of the Freecycles groups I am part of have a no re-selling rule. I doubt they do anything to track it though.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@Seaofclouds Someone can probably report such things like when the OP found out the person was reselling.

bkcunningham's avatar

It goes against the very purpose of Freecycle. I would have reported them to my moderator ASAP. You are angry because you got taken advantage of by offering something for free to someone who pretended to need the item and put it to good use, and they turned around and sold it to make money.

It makes me angry and I wasn’t part of the transaction. I have been a Freecycle member for many, many years and this goes against the whole purpose of a wonderful group. If everyone did what this person did, Freecycle would dissolve.

YARNLADY's avatar

If the item is given with the understanding it will be passed along free, then it is wrong, but the giver doesn’t really have any control over it anymore.

ebandera's avatar

I’d like to play devils advocate here. Sure it’s someone else’s once you give it to them, and sure they can legally do with it what they want. But that’s not really the question. It’s about whether you had a right to feel upset, when they sold your gift, and I would say yes. Here’s why: Gifts can have different meanings, and people are generally expected to know the difference.

Example 1: A father has, say, two boys, aged 8 and 11. The 8 year old is riding around a tricycle which he has outgrown while the other kids are riding dirtbikes. The father notices the 8 year old retreating to the house and playing video games instead of playing with the others, which he finds concerning. So, the father buys the 8 year old a dirtbike. The boy goes to school and trades the bike for the newest video game. Does the father have a right to be upset? Yes!!!

Example 2: You’re walking down the street and notice a homeless man begging. You give him a few dollars. 20 minutes later you see them him with a fresh bottle of rotgut whiskey. Do you have a right to be upset? Yes.

What makes these examples different than, say, a white elephant christmas gift, is that there was purpose and meaning behind those gifts. But these stories were about chidren and a desperate homeless person. But shouldn’t an adult friend know better? In my opinion, they were true gifts. If you offer someone baby clothes because they have a baby, and they no longer fit yours, the other parent should only accept ones they plan to keep. Either that, or ask the gifter if it’s okay to give away or sell the ones that don’t fit or work for your baby.

I felt the need to add this because the underlying assumption seems to be that it is unusual and morally questionable to have “strings attached” to a gift. When, in reality, it is the norm. An engagement ring has strings attached once accepted and people understand that. A Christmas gift given often implies a comparable gift received (depending) – otherwise next year you’re getting a dollar store scented candle. A pet that you can no longer care for, and gifted to another family implies that the animal will be well cared for in the new situation. I can go on and on. These types of personalized gifts have a far different purpose than just keeping the items from a landfill.

It’s not our right really to judge, but let’s face it. That lady will always be the lady that sold your heartfelt gift, and she added that negative aspect to the relationship over a few bucks. And I’d bet my bottom dollar she knew better. In my opinion it’s a slap in the face.

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