case study consumer behavior

 

Read the case “Giving and Receiving on Freecycle.org” on page 363 of your text. Please answer the questions at the end of the case. Incorporate at least two outside sources into your answers, and properly reference them within and at the end of your paper. Remember to use the Case Study Guide in Doc Sharing. Also, requires APA format for papers.

Case Study: GIVING AND RECEIVING ON FREECYCLE.ORG

Like it or not, we live in a disposable society. And it isn’t just paper products and fast-food containers we throw away. We use our televisions, computers, cell phones, furniture, clothing, and other products until something better comes along, and then we toss them. Landfills everywhere reel under the onslaught of the trash we create.

But what if people could find someone to take their old junk off their hands? Or what if individuals could find a needed item that someone else just happens to be throwing away? Freecycle.org meets this need. This Web site came into being as a recycling concept to reduce the strain on landfills and cut down on consumer wastefulness. Freecycle, which uses a bulletin board structure, works so well because it’s so simple. It connects people who have items to give away with others who need them, and vice versa. It’s basically like an “eBay for free.” Indeed, many users call the site by its nickname of “Freebay.”

From its humble beginnings in the Tucson, Arizona, area in 2003, today there are millions of members who constitute thousands of user communities in more than 75 countries; they say they are “changing the world one gift at a time.” Freecycle.org is one of the most popular nonprofit destinations in cyberspace; Time dubbed it “one of the 50 coolest” Web sites. This notoriety comes within a few short years and with no promotion other than word of mouth and plenty of free publicity.

Anyone can join this 24/7 virtual garage sale, and membership is free. In fact, the main rule of Freecycle.org is that you can only offer free items. Givers and receivers contact each other via email and then arrange for delivery. The site’s founder estimates that the average freecycled item weighs 1 pound. That means that the Freecycle movement keeps 400 tons of “garbage” out of landfills every day.

This is certainly a sign of success. But other measures of success have become apparent as well, like the satisfaction of all those involved. What one person doesn’t want, someone else will take off their hands. In this exchange everyone wins. “It’s become a huge gift economy and very life affirming for everyone who has given away something. You can’t help but get a good feeling when you’ve helped another person,” the founder said.

As long as people want to get rid of or acquire an old couch, a six-year-old husky, a storm door, a van that needs a transmission, or even horse manure, Freecycle has a bright future. “When it comes to the Internet and connecting with one another, there are no limitations,” Beal said. “We’ll continue growing and experiencing the goodness that comes from giving.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1

Why do you think Freecycle.org has achieved such high levels of growth in such a short period of time?

2

Freecycle created an alternative disposal option that is rapidly growing. Discuss ways that freecycling might affect the purchase habits of consumers.

3

Should for-profit businesses like eBay get into the freecycling business? Should companies motivate more consumers to give things away that they might otherwise be able to sell or auction? Can they still make a profit while they help to eliminate waste?